Ramayana, Mahabharata and Project Management
The controversy over the ban on the Bhagvad Gita by Russia was ludicrous and uncalled for. Terming the “Bhagvad Gita” as violent was another misnomer. Violence has been raising its ugly head in the globe in the form of numerous terrorist attacks. The alleged violence in the Bhagvad Gita was nothing but a strategy intended to root out evil and signal the triumph of good.
Epics such as Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagvad Gita are as precious to the Hindus as the Bible is to the Christians. It is a great relief that the ban has been revoked. This controversy has provided rich fodder to the media to fill in the pages; however it is also interesting to note that our epics teach us valuable lessons in management. A management book that extols the virtues of Chanakya’s philosophy has proved to be a best seller. This shows that age old concepts are as relevant today as they were centuries ago. Notwithstanding the negative publicity surrounding the Bhagvad Gita, Indians have to be really proud of their rich cultural heritage and the great epics.
Delhi Metro chief Mr Sreedaran swears by the Bhagvad Gita. He says that there are so many lessons to be learnt and imbibed from it. Many individuals have immensely benefitted from the holy book of the Hindus and the Vishnu Sahasranama (the 1000 names of Lord Vishnu).
Interestingly, if you observe carefully, the Ramayana and Mahabharata are epics that teach us something about project management. Today there is lot of frenzy about project management coaching and education. Degrees in Project Management are being widely advertised and touted as the next best thing. There was no Internet during those times, no computers, no coaching institutes; no textbooks, no MS office projects ... yet the teams then accomplished their mission successfully.
In simple terms, project management can be defined as the philosophy that uses logic and plain common sense to achieve the desired objectives after overcoming the obstacles. Project management has evolved as a discipline by itself and provides tools to manage projects effectively.
Does the Ramayana portray anything that is different? Lord Ram assumes SPA (Single point accountability) for achieving his mission to kill the demon Ravana and win back his beloved consort Seeta. Look at the number of people who helped Lord Ram achieve his mission.
The Ramayana essentially highlights that team work is important for achieving the project objective. The team struggles at all times to win against all odds. They use out-of-box thinking to build bridges to Lanka. Lord Hanuman can be called as an expert in risk management. He takes great risks to support the mission. All the team members including the monkey brigade pledge their loyalty to Lord Ram. They have unflinching faith in their project leader.
When one team member suffers (Lakshman – Lord Ram’s brother), the entire team rallies around Lakshman to resuscitate him back to life. In a bold move, Lord Hanuman carries the “sanjeevani hill” to the camp when he is unable to identify the correct herb that can cure Lakshman. When Hanuman tells Lord Ram that he will lift Seeta from Lanka, Lord Ram politely reminds him that he has to follow the ethical route to win back his beloved. Look at the splendid manner in which Lord Ram kills the evil Vali, the Vanara King to help Sugreeva, another Vanara king. The strategy employed by Lord Ram is a winning strategy. By helping Sugreeva, Ram ensured that he had all the human resources to fight the war against Lanka.
What a great leader Lord Ram is! Compassionate, kind and flexible and strict when the situation demands it. A project manager needs to display such skills to win over his team. Look at the beauty of delegation in the execution of the plan. Lord Ram always chooses his trusted lieutenant Lord Hanuman to accomplish the most challenging tasks because he knows that Lord Hanuman is the right man for the job! Lord Hanuman is intrepid, fearless and physically strong. So, Lord Ram decides the correct tasks that can be allocated to him.
Despite the challenges, risks, insecurities, Lord Ram coaxes the team to think positive and adopt a winning stance. Did someone say power of positive visualization? The team members carry on their tasks enthusiastically but do not fail to sound off Lord Ram when there is a challenge that can disrupt their mission. Decisions on complex matters are taken through a consensus. Lord Ram understands the importance of each team member. This strengthens the team as their energy is buoyed by the fact that their leader has immense faith in them and they should not disappoint him.
Single-minded pursuit of the goal is reflected at all times in the activities of the team so much so that the demon king Ravana’s brother Kumbhakarna also pleads with him to avoid war. But who can overrule destiny? Ravana’s fall was pre ordained.
Motivation and energising of the team, coaching, conflict management, communication strategies, overcoming bottlenecks, risk management, planning and scheduling, execution strategies, allocation of the appropriate resource for a particular task , decision making, out-of-box thinking to solve problems... the Ramayana scores on every point that a modern project management model would advocate.
Every successful project deserves celebration and rewarding of the team behind the splendid effort. Lord Ram is extremely particular that all the team members are rewarded for their effort .Look at the reward that he gives to Lord Hanuman. He gives Hanuman place in his heart, but that is not necessary at all. Why? As Lord Ram and Seeta are already in Hanuman’s heart, there is not much that Lord Ram can do.
Lord Hanuman’s immense devotion to Lord Ram notwithstanding, is it also not clear that Lord Ram made the best use of Lord Hanuman’s skills and competence? A project manager has to make the most of his team member’s capabilities by effective delegation.
Coming to the Mahabharata, we can safely say that this great epic has actually taught us about strategy, team work, conflict management, emotional intelligence, planning and execution. Lord Krishna who is at the helm of the affairs is truly a SPA (single point accountable) person. He is dependable, confident, and cherubic and inspires confidence in the Pandavas even when the chips are down for them. Look at the astute planning. Look at the flawless execution. Look at the fantastic delegation of responsibilities. Isn’t this inspiring?
Ponder at the brilliant manner in which Lord Krishna prepared the project feasibility study. Look at the manner in which he did not succumb to emotions and advised Arjuna (one of the Pandavas) to be focussed on the mission at hand and not get swayed by emotions. Every mistake that the Pandavas make actually enriches them as Lord Krishna beseeches them to learn from each experience.
Ramayana, Mahabharata are the epics which are actually treasure troves of invaluable information regarding managing a project successfully. Can I dare to interpret the reason why Lord Krishna chose to drive Arjuna’s chariot? Arjuna was a great warrior but he was also emotional. He needed that kind of intensive coaching from Janardana (other name of Lord Krishna). As Lord Krishna knew that the (physically) strongest member of the team was also the (mentally) weakest, he rallied around his protégé.
As a child, Arjuna’s prowess in archery was astounding. Master Dronacharya pointed towards the parrot toy on the tree and asked his students to shoot their arrow at the parrot’s eye. As the students came one by one, he asked each of his students, ‘What do you see?’ It was only Arjuna who gave the correct answer as “I cannot see anything but the parrot’s eye”.
Arjuna was extremely focussed and a brilliant student of Dronacharya. This incident gives us crucial insights into the capabilities of Arjuna even at such a young age. He personifies diligence, dedication and sincerity. These qualities enable him to grow up as a great warrior and fight the war against his cousins.
To sum it up
Project management has become a discipline by itself today. This is a good sign. India stands tall bearing the unique status of being a forerunner for encouraging all the modern management fundas and principles that are in vogue today. India is a land of unity in diversity embellished by the rich cultural heritage. Our great epics can teach us invaluable lessons if we try to study and analyse them carefully. The time is right and ripe for Indians to be proud of their history and legacy.
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