Thursday, October 1, 2009

Performance Management System

Managing Human Resource has been a challenge from the time immemorial as the legends and stories from our epics and literature tell us. We are presenting here a quaint tale from the stories of Akbar and Birbal to illustrate an ubiquitous HR concept.
Today all organizations big or small, new or seasoned are working rigorously on Performance Management System as the strong leverage tool for achieving the business results and in this regard every employees focus is going through a paradigm shift to Key Results Areas ( KRAs) and this is becoming an integral part of the performance evaluating process.
However only a very few are aware that the Man who conceived this idea and brought lots of laurels to this concept to the larger world, is some one from India !

Akbar the Great, the well known Mughal Emperor needs no introduction to any student of history.

One fine day Akbar summoned all his ministers to his chambers for a crucial meeting.

“I would like each of you to spell out your Key Results Areas for the year with specific period objectives on how the results are going to be achieved, “ he declared to the august assembly.

That set the entire team of ministers who decorated his cabinet to think and ponder. They knew that when Akbar demands there is no option but to deliver. Soon each of them made out their KRAs spelling out elaborate plans of action.

The only soul just not showing any excitement was Birbal. He seemed the least interested in the exercise that had set the mid night lamps to burn all over the palace. Birbal was a special decoration to Akbars Court and it was well known how the entire kingdom had benefited out of his wit and wisdom. However Birbals lackadaisical attitude to the new plans of Akbar did not amuse the emperor.

The place was idyllic, the time the morning hours, when Akbar was on a lazy ride with his pride of possession ”the black horse” that he met Birbal and enquired about his KRAs. Birbal did not have even the faintest idea of what he was going to deliver but not to be out done in this new exercise and as if suddenly he declared “I have finalized my KRA for the year !” He looked at the black horse near him and said, “ I will make this horse fly.”

Akbar could not resist the temptation to laugh it off but knowing Birbal he controlled himself and said, “ If that’s what you intent to deliver it’s perfectly Ok with me.”

Days passed into weeks and weeks into months and much to the concern and worry of the other ministers there was no sign of the black horse flying. The ministers knew that Akbar was quite serious about the new system that he had introduced and that he would just not spare anyone for non-performance.
One fine day when it was almost the end of the year the ministers met Birbal and enquired, “ You seem to be blissfully unaware that the year is coming to close shortly and your promise of the making the emperors horse to fly just does not seem to take off.” The chorus of their common concern could not be missed out in their comments.

Birbal was his usual unperturbed self. “ Look my dear friends, between now and the year end quite a few things could happen which makes me feel least worried” he said with his usual gay abandon. He further went on to explain in his own style the secrets of his confidence “ As I see things , I am not too worried. You see there are quite a few probabilities in my favor. Well, to just spell it out: before the year ends I could die all too suddenly! Or may be the black horse could contact some disease and die ! Or our emperor who is not getting any younger by the day could pass off peacefully! And even if nothing like any of these happens there is another possibility. He stopped for a while and staring straight at the other ministers and came out with the punch line “ Who knows ! By the end of the year that black horse may actually fly !!!”

The ministers were shocked and frozen to silence. Knowing Birbal they did not venture into an argument with him and left him alone with his theorem of probabilities.

History is not clear which of the probability worked in favor of Birbal. Anyway that should hardly matter to us. The very thought of such risky probabilities immediately brings to light the need to look into our own lot and start thinking.

Can we be as lucky as Birbal to shoot off the cuff ‘ a phantom like promise’ and rest be assured that something from somewhere will somehow save us at the end of the day ? Have we made some commitments to deliver, which like the flying horse seem to be almost impossible to meet ? What will happen if we survive in the organization till the fateful day (appraisal meeting) and have to face the immediate superior to discuss results ? What will happen if our boss is not going to be leaving the organization as we suspected and is definitely going to confront us at the end of the day? Will some of our KRAs turn out to become so obsolete that it would make no business sense by the end of the year and our achieving or not achieving will go unnoticed? And finally can horses really fly at a future date ? A host of such thoughts crop up in our mind and cause that uncomfortable churns in our stomach.

The basic fear that grips us could be strong possibilities of some impossible promises which we would have made meant to impress and not implement. Some of us would almost feel like leaving the story here and rushing to our desk to quickly check and review in case we too have by the slip of our pen inked in the “ Birbal like KRAs”

A wise man said “ Honesty to admittance of mistakes pay rich dividends especially when we show this quality not when our chips are down but when there is scope to make amends.” How true! It will not be a bad idea at all to get across the table of our boss right away and admit to those Birbal Brand of bad promises and substitute it with those ‘ Smart ‘ Ones that can seldom fail as long we are willing to sweat it out to succeed !