Sri Sathya Sai Principles on Business Management – By Prof. U.S. Rao

One may have any number of degrees, held high positions of responsibility in business organizations, but at the Lotus Feet of our beloved Bhagavan, one realizes that he has to reorient management concepts with a new perspective. Bhagavan is all-knowing. All the knowledge - both known and unknown to the world - is at His command. He discusses intricacies of cardiac surgery with cardiac surgeons, nuclear physics with nuclear scientists, and latest management theories with management students and faculty.
Prof. U.S. Rao with Sri Sathya Sai at Brindavan
I still vividly remember the day in 1994 when in Trayee Brindavan, Bhagavan explained the concept of Reengineering, its importance and how it can be applied, at a time when the first book on the subject had just entered Western markets. In another session, He explained the subject of TQM (Total Quality Management) and how it is different from traditional Quality Control. His explanations are lucid, simple and direct. For example, He explained that the quintessence of TQM is ensuring harmony between Thought, Word and Deed (i.e., Intention or Plan, Instructions or Procedures and Action or Implementation). The unity in Thought, Word and Deed when applied at a personal level can make a person noble and when applied at the Organization level, can build the corporate image and win the trust and loyalty of customers and all other stakeholders.

Bhagavan also goes to the root of the problems facing business organizations, and gives practical advice to managers to excel in their profession and remedy the current drawbacks. Unfortunately today in India, business models and practices are directly taken from the West without considering their suitability and adaptability to Indian culture and conditions. Bhagavan says: “In America, the management pattern is based on competitive and profit-oriented system. The relations between management and workers are based on ‘hiring and firing’. Money and profits are more important than Human Values. By copying the American management model in India we are having difficulties and are not reaping the benefits we expected.” In Japan, the management pattern is different. The workers have a high sense of discipline. Even when they have grievances, they do not resort to strikes which affect production. The relations between management and workers are generally cordial and harmonious. It is this quality that has helped Japan to advance industrially and economically.”

On various occasions Bhagavan has given His pearls of wisdom on the following aspects of management which can help managers progress professionally as well as spiritually: 

• Importance of Character in Business
• Characteristics of an Effective Manager
• Harmony in the Organization
• Balance for Success
• Spirit of Work
• Man Management
• Spiritual Progress through Work

These pearls of wisdom have been compiled from Bhagavan’s discourses to His management students and faculty, to enable managers to excel in their profession and benefit from the same.

Importance of Character in Business

• “Right conduct is the royal road for man to achieve the highest state in life. When morality declines in a man, society, or nation, that man, society or nation faces destruction. The loss of morality may even result in the destruction of an entire civilization built up over centuries. Without morality, people perish. Morality is the life-breath of humanity. It is because of the decline of morals that humanity today is decadent.”
• “The long term performance of an organization depends on the competence and individual character of its Managers. It is not enough if they discharge their assigned responsibilities effectively, but their ‘off the job – job related as well as non-job related’ behaviour should be stainless. Character connotes verbal transactions, actions, daily conduct etc. A manager is required to communicate with subordinates in an affable manner and influence them positively. He will be able to evoke positive response from subordinates only when he conducts himself in an exemplary manner in their presence. Labour unrest in organizations today is because of the inapt personal conduct of managers. A manager should correct the subordinates if they happen to be on the wrong path, and can be firm with them for their own good. The workers then would be willing to look up to their managers as their role models.”

• “Character is very important for managerial excellence, but it is being ignored in today’s society. In Japan, a bank went into bankruptcy because of one characterless individual, who resorted to gambling and endangered the bank’s very survival. The people at the helm of affairs in the bank, who were supposed to monitor deviations, could not sense the impending catastrophe because they did not pay attention to the importance of character in business. If the character of the people working in an organization is good, even an organization faring poorly can be transformed into a successful organization.”

Characteristics of an Effective Manager

• “Those who are keen on shaping themselves as good managers should be good at Man-Management. People can become effective in Man-Management only if they possess good character. The manager can make work as the means to achieve material as well as non-material objectives, while working in an organization. The manager should regard work in an organization as an offering to GOD, and this will give maximum satisfaction to his own conscience. Managers should conduct themselves complying with the dictates of their conscience, understand the purpose of business, and thereby satisfy customers and community. Selfish people are not leaders. Only those who are selfless and do not transgress the codes of morality and integrity are leaders.”

• “One should cultivate heart to heart communication and good behaviour. One should practise everything that he expects others to implement in their day-to-day lives, and only then preach the same to others.”

• “People in general today are ignoring the present, and are brooding over the past or are worried about the future. For past as well as future, the present is very important and if we are careful about the present, even the future is safeguarded.”

Harmony in the Organization

• “There should be perfect co-ordination among employees of an organization, just like that among the organs of perception and action in a human being. When the eye spots a fruit on a tree, the back bends, and the fingers pick up a stone. The hand throws the stone aimed at the fruit and strikes it down. The fruit thus collected will be passed on to the stomach through the mouth. If one evaluates the whole process to rate the relative importance of different organs: eye, hand, fingers and teeth, it is not possible to arrive at the relative ranking as all are working in perfect co-ordination for the overall progress of the person, and all tasks are equally important. For the survival and prosperity of an organization, there should be perfect cooperation among all its employees. Confidence or trust is an important aspect for such cooperation to be achieved among personnel of an organization.”

• “The relationship between management and workers should be similar to the relationship between a mother and the children, based on mutual love and understanding. It is desirable to start the day in every factory or workshop with a silent, common prayer in which managers and workers join. When such prayers are held, the workers will be able to experience harmony in the factory.”

· “Suprabhatam actually refers to the awakening of goodness in oneself. In the morning Brahmamuhurta time, all good feelings emerge. They have to be kindled. One has to awaken the spirit of divinity within oneself. If one gets up with good feelings willingly, the heart gets sanctified. Yad Bhaavam Tad Bhavati. With whatever feelings one gets up, the day is spent with the same feelings. So, if one gets up with good feelings, his whole day will be fine. If not, one will unnecessarily quarrel during the day. So, as soon as one gets up, one has to awaken the conscience so that it can be merged with the consciousness. So, students must have the ‘spirit of work’, follow discipline, and discharge their duties properly.”

Balance for Success
• “What man needs is balance. Man may be proud of his knowledge but only when it is used properly does he get the balance. It should be borne in mind that balance is attained only by a dynamic synthesis between knowledge and skill. It means that an individual achieves equilibrium only when he learns to transform the knowledge into skill. Today, one pays more attention to knowledge than to balance. But life is based more on balance. Even business is based on balance. If attention is paid to all aspects of business, only then the business can be successful. Man faces a lot of difficulties   and problems, and in their midst, he must have balance. If he faces sorrow, he has to courageously accept it knowing that there is some good even in it.”

• “Business has five life forces. They are Production, Marketing, Warehousing & Distribution, ensuring safety and security of all resources (Risk Management) and Direction. If there are lacunae in any one of these, business will suffer. All the five are equally important and concentration on only one or a few of them will not be effective. For business, Production is the engine and Direction is the guard. In between them, the other three aspects lie. These are the keys to success in management. These five life breaths of the business have to be in tune with the nature, traditions and culture of the nation. As business has become international, even management should possess international orientation with a cross-cultural perspective.”

Spirit of Work

• “The Japanese have patriotic feelings and they work for the development of their nation. The unique feature in Japanese workers is that they have the ‘spirit of work’. They are more concerned about it. Today in India, the spirit of work has declined. Workers work less but demand more wages and so, the prices are soaring. As a manager, one should not give importance only to one’s own interests. Instead, one should concentrate on the spirit of work, and on the methods for improving the factory. Everyone should work and be a worker. Then only will one’s value go up. Japan learnt everything from America, but it has surpassed even America because the Japanese concentrated on the spirit of work. In Japan, if workers start a job, they do not go home until they finish it, even if it becomes late in the night. Japanese do their duty sincerely. That type of working gives them Self-satisfaction. It satisfies their conscience. This satisfaction is essential.

• “In today’s world, the industrial and business organizations are in a state of chaos. The reason for this is that neither managers nor workers volunteer to take up any responsibilities, but only crave for rights. However, it should be remembered that only those who accept responsibilities with enthusiasm would be endowed with rights.” 

Man Management

• “Management means knowing mankind. First is having the ‘mind of man’; ‘I Have a problem, and I suffer for it. Similarly, if another person has a problem, he also would suffer like me.’ ‘If someone troubles me, I feel hurt. Similarly, if I trouble another person, he would also feel hurt like me.’ This is the meaning of having the ‘mind of man’. Thinking that my problem is mine and his problem is his, is the nature of animal mind. If your boss abuses you, you feel hurt. Similarly, the worker will feel hurt if you abuse him. As such, one should use one’s authority in relation to work and not to the individuals. This is possible only if one has ‘Awareness of Atma’. Everything is encompassed and realized by this awareness. So, one must understand that the same Atma resides in all beings. Qualities or Gunas may be different, but Atma is the same.”

• “One should be able to take good from everything and gradually view everything as Good. If a worker in the organization commits a mistake, he should be called privately and counseled to mend his ways. One should look for ways and means that win, and not trigger agitation among workers.”

• “The problem of overstaffing arises because of the recruitment policy of an organization. Recruitment should be need-based and the number recruited should be limited. With a small number of dedicated members, more work is accomplished by effectively utilizing the resources. If you employ more and later attempt downsizing, it becomes a problem as it evokes stiff resistance from unions. Therefore, the number of people to be taken into the organization should be restricted at the stage of recruitment itself.”

Spiritual Progress through Work

• “It is quite easy to practise ‘oneness’ while working in an organization. This can be achieved by concentrating one’s attention on the work one is doing. If one regards work as Divine, then that work will be transformed into worship. If one considers his work as an offering to God, he will also be able to attain excellence in work, and the results will be favourable. One should identify oneself with one’s own work and should get merged in it.” 
• “Atma is the conscience residing inside. Whatever activity one does, it must please the conscience. One’s conscience tells the mistake made. One may cover up one’s defects and argue with others, but if his conscience tells, “Yes there are defects”, then argumentation and covering up is futile. Conscience always speaks the truth. This is the inner voice, internal talk and internal connection.”

• “The essence of all Values is Love, which is the very basis of all other values. One should be able to love everybody selflessly. One will not be attracted by anything if he is bereft of love. There can be no Righteousness, Truth, Peace and Nonviolence without Love. Love is Life. If Selfless Love is there, there will be perfect harmony. There is nothing which cannot be achieved through selfless love. One should continue to fill oneself with more and more Love till one merges with the Universal Consciousness.”

• “One should earn wealth based on Dharma. The wealth has to be used for righteous purposes. Only then will the wealth be sanctified. Desires have to be fulfilled in tune with Dharma and Artha. Dharma, Artha and Kama are really life breaths of Man leading to the final goal of Moksha.” 

Managers with Integrity and Character - Need of the hour
Considering the need of the nation for managers and leaders with integrity and character, Bhagavan started a specially designed management programme (MBA) in Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Prasanthi Nilayam on the 21st August 1986. During the inauguration, He declared the objectives of the programme in the following words:

“We need today leaders with integrity and character. Therefore, the aim of management institutes should be to produce such leaders. Their courses should be based on Indian culture and values. Along with other courses in remaining aspects of management viz., production, accounts, finance and personnel, we should have a strong base in ‘Indian ethos and values.’ We should concentrate on meeting the basic needs of our country. Our programs should be based on our resources and on our practical ability to achieve the goals. We have also to combine morality with spirituality in business and other spheres. In our Institute, we should turn out Masters in Man Management (MMM). Our students should develop a broad outlook and prepare themselves to serve the society with sincerity and dedication. They must set an example in morality and bring credit to the country by their work and their contribution to the development of the nation.”

- Prof. U. S. Rao
Dean (1988-2009), School of Business Management
Principal (1995-2011), Prasanthi Nilayam Campus
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning

Source: Vidyagiri: Divine Vision

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