Wednesday, 9 August 2017

SHAPING CIVILIAN LEADERSHIP THE MILITARY WAY




A Rising Trend in Energizing Human Resource for Team Performance in Various Sectors

Introduction 

  Recently I watched a Hollywood movie narrating the victory stories of an all-girls college group of vocalists. In the beginning, the group is falling apart because they are not trying anything new/ original but busy singing mash-ups of old classics. Gradually when they do get selected for the World Championships, an alumnus of the group who is now a Corporate Trainer too, decides to give them some lessons about Team Performance. She makes them cross hurdles, climb the rope and other such activities and ends up succeeding in making them sing in Harmony. Surprisingly true, the lessons they draw from this living and singing together help them to plan for the competition and win it too.
I had never thought that Team Dynamics could change an Orchestra! But it did and in a very convincing way. This led me to look around and see the paradigm shift happening in the field of Training the Human Resource in civil streets.

Prevailing Trends in T&D

Training the Human Resource in India as Sharu Rangnekar, a well-known Indian trainer and author of books on Management Skills calls it, was a Tragedy. Employees who wanted to get trained in their job related skills were often treated to be incompetent, casual and less focused towards company’s performance. Also many times the ones who got them registered for a training programme were those who wanted to take a break from hectic projects with their families. Hence the relevance and transfer value of the topics and training methods hardly matter to them. Although some training did take place in case of technical topics for workers, labourers, but when it came to soft skills and the managers, the learning outcomes could not be verified objectively. The maximum that any Trainee Manager did at such programmes was collect a lot of informative Handouts, CDs which s/he never used again at office and ticking the answers in a feedback form.
In fact there weren’t any learning outcomes in reality because of obvious reasons, such as:
1.     Training was never need –based for the employees who attended it. It  was always enforcements/ decision of the Training Mangers which led to it.
2.     There was no correlation between the training imparted and the actual job profile of an Employee.
3.   The planning, conduct and evaluation of training programmes was a mere facade as there was little or no transfer value of such programmes.
4.  Training programmes or performance in them hardly mattered for Appraisals or incentives of the employees.
5.     Management was least interested in what the learning outcomes of the training programmes till the time it was financially viable and not harming the output/profits of the company’s stakeholders.

All of us would have attended those long, too informative and jargonized lectures, speeches delivered by experts during such 1-3 days training programmes. We may not remember a single principle that we used in our offices from such lectures. But what we do remember is how all the participants went shopping and roaming around the city. Some of us found great relief in dozing off on those comfortable sofas/ chairs in the Air conditioned halls of such Seminars, Workshops, Conferences /Symposiums, Whatever you called them.

The Military Way for training Human Resource: Benefits and Limitations

The global difference in work- life environment and practices demanded that the companies worked like one big team irrespective of their physical locations. This could happen only when the whole lot of employees was motivated towards the bigger cause. And most importantly, they needed to be assured that in the success of the company, their success was embedded too. People started going on company picnics, project completion parties and such get together in order to bring the teams closer.  Physical and mentally challenging activities were a must-do at such social gatherings. Employees started enjoying them as they felt it was a good way to know each other outside the office environs. Unknowingly, they were made to learn the Dynamics of TEAM PERFORMANCE. Also, they were conditioned to understand and follow the kind of leadership model their superiors were using.


What is the military Way? 

All employees work together towards one common mission. In order to work as a team:

·       They have a team identity displayed through common team name, ensign, motto and war cry.
·       They decide to wear same uniforms, which help to neutralize many types of discrimination.
·     They live and work in groups which eventually become teams for all reasons.
·       There are certain tasks that the team needs to do. These tasks challenge the mental and physical capabilities of team members. They may be of two types: individual and group tasks.
·       They need to choose one member as a team leader/ mentor, at times, who would take them through the tasks.
·       The teams will compete with each other and the best performing team / leader wins.
·       The activities are supported with pre and post briefings of instructions and feedback.
·   The team members are encouraged to transfer this learning to their workplaces with added reference material.

Benefits of such programmes are plenty. Let’s consider a few:

1.      Learning by Doing: This method of physically doing some activity ensures learning by doing something yourself. A hands-on activity for planning a task or solving a jigsaw puzzle tells you how much time and energy such an activity requires. Mock Basket exercises give you an insight on how to deal with company mail vouchers or bills. This kind of learning is real and its outcome can also be seen.
2.     Longevity of learning: Once you imbibe a habit or a practice, it stays. Similarly once you do an activity, you know how to handle it next time. It means whatever goes into your head i.e. brain stays there longer. You can strengthen it with other reference material, if need be. But what you did, will always stay with you.
3.     Enhances Transfer Value: Soft skills cannot be taught through mere lectures or talks. They need to be supported by action. You don’t learn to shake hands if you haven’t seen someone doing it. Similarly, you can’t learn to tie a knot of a neck-tie if you haven’t seen a demonstration and tried to do it yourself. The same is the case with other managerial skills such as punctuality, decision-making, listening, discussing, sharing, and disagreeing and so on. If you haven’t done it you will not learn.
4.     Brings in Energy and Urgency in actions: Courage is required to fight enemy but more courage is required to stay calm in turbulent times. Managerial jobs make people lazy and slow in action: that is what the Operations and Marketing people say about the HR Managers. Many times it is true because they tend to delay things for worse or better, only they know. Manpower planning needs more courage and fervour than any other job. Physical Training helps you to energise your mundane jobs and create a sense of urgency in the minds of all dealing staff.
5.     Objectivity in evaluating performances: The physical/ action oriented way of training brings in objectivity in evaluating performances of the employees / trainees as the results are evident. This creates a sense of fair and sporty competition among the employees.

Challenges in the way of the military way of training

As discussed before in the article this way of training is effective only when it is delivered for the right cause and by the right trainer. Many times it is not easy to accept defeat due to physical limitations, particularly in case of adult Trainees/ managers. Also, many trainees do not actually learn from such on-hands training sessions if they are not watched by their supervisors/ bosses. They consider it a completely recreational activity. But while doing so they reflect their true inner self but deny acceptance/amendments.
1.     Financial Viability: It is still a niche way of training civilian leadership so it may require hiring of some expensive experts and equipment.
2.     Too much of energy may lead to chaos: Such programmes succeed only when the number of trainees is manageable for the trainer. In case they are used for a large number of employees at the same time, lecture would be more fruitful than this chaos.
3.     Physical superiority may isolate a few: The physical aspect of the training must not hinder the participation of any one of the target group.
4.     Diverting the energy: Sometimes if the training programme is not pitched at the right challenging level it may lead to diverting the energy of those who are good at it in unwanted directions.
5.     Subjectivity of the trainers: The training and evaluation standards of the trainers need to be same otherwise subjectivity of trainers’ actions/ decisions may lead to dilution of learning outcomes.  

Various sectors opting for the military way



1     EDUCATION SECTOR: FACULTY

Faculty Development Programmes are not restricted to podiums and PPT presentations anymore. Training the trainers of an educational institute in the military way is the new norm of the day. Faculty members are made to undergo simple meditation exercises at the beginning of the day before they are given tasks to plan, create and produce new ideas on a given topic. 


2.     EDUCATION SECTOR: STUDENTS

All work and no play make any student dull and lazy. Schools are enforcing physical and extra-curricular activities in groups. Various clubs are formed subject wise and so are sports teams. Students are encouraged to take part in House activities to inculcate a feeling of belonging towards the House as well as the school. The Junior Pro Kabaddi League matches are the best and most recent example of this.

3.     FITNESS INDUSTRY

A country stays united when its population has faced struggles together against any powerful machinery. It is the same story when it comes to losing those extra kilos alone inside the house or the Gym. It becomes difficult for many of us to get motivated to keep fit looking at the walls of a Gym or our houses. Trainers motivate their clients to go for outdoor treks, Zumba and cycling in pairs/ groups and make them compete with each other. This fosters the team spirit as well as creates a bond of togetherness. As a result, we do tend to get fitter bodies when we drive ourselves in a group/ team.


4.     TELEVISION SHOWS

Remember Roadies, Big Boss and Splits villa. They all went from individual tasks to group tasks because maybe they realised it was more interesting and controversial to make the highly competitive participants to stay together and compete. The tasks are varied and can’t be actually called military like but what is important to note is the physical way and the together way they focus on.


5.     CORPORATE COMPANIES 

The way every project team leader grooms his/her team to complete the task, the merrymaking followed by their success and the preparation for the next one just shows what it is to be together. So if one has to perform individually, one needs to be a good team player.

                 TOURISM INDUSTRY

Gone are the days of nuclear families going on vacation to relatives once in a year and visiting places on their own. Everybody goes for packages and that too with the whole family/ a big group of friends. All ladies trips abroad, all couples trips to pilgrimages, Nature Lovers’ Trails, Jungle Safaris and many such exclusive groups are coming forward as potential clients for the tourism industry. Also, many tourists prefer to isolate themselves and relax away from richly populated tourist spots. In such cases, the trip managers provide their clients with ideas such as Eco clubs where Team games and activities in nature’s lap are provided.


Conclusion

Soft Skills Training is not a very well developed branch of Training the Human Resource in India. Although one right step in this direction seems to be the use of experiential learning through tasks/ physical activities. It may not always be necessary to use very sophisticated equipment for such activities. They can be designed with the bare minimum space and equipment. The only idea is to energize the trainees through a common activity involving physical and mental involvement from them. Because, ONLY in a team TOGETHER EVERYBODY ACHIEVES MORE. 



Suggested Reading

1.  Soft Skills in Management by Sharu Rangnekar 2011 edition
2.  In the wonderland of Indian Managers by Sharu Rangnekar 2013
3.  In the world of Corporate Managers by Sharu Rangnekar