Friday, November 13, 2009

Neyveli Lignite chief does some plain speaking, talks about 'actionable intelligence', 'family engineering'

Coming shortly after that brilliant Subroto Bagchi speech to IIM Bangalore students, a copy of which a colleague had sent me, here comes another thought-provoking one – from Neyveli Lignite Corporation’s chairman and managing director, A. R. Ansari. I was given a CD that contained his special address to the company’s workforce in Neyveli on ‘Combating Climate Change with Engineering Solutions’ on Engineers Day (to mark the birth anniversary of that remarkable engineer, Sir M Visweswaraiah). And I must say that he made some very pertinent points, least of which was that NLC employees had simply “passed away” time the past five decades, doing very little to grow the company. He also wondered whether the company would survive after 30 years if no diversification were made. I’ll not resort to reported speech. It somehow takes away the energy from what has been said. So, let me reproduce some interesting nuggets from his speech. It is also interesting to note that though the subject was ‘engineering solutions’, Ansari said engineers didn’t really need a speech on that at all and instead chose to focus on what he called ‘family engineering’. Another term he constantly referred to was ‘actionable intelligence’, possibly taken from a book he referred to (Acrobat of Change), but which made immense sense in the end. Read on:

We are not tuned to accepting change. It’s a human problem. It’s a huge inertia. There is huge inertia in every individual, which does not allow you to change your thinking.

I will briefly dwell on certain areas that require our attention, and if you have ‘actionable intelligence’ you can overcome any change that is likely to come your way. A small example: during November 2008 we did not generate (power) because we could not supply lignite. We did not prepare ourselves to face the vagaries of God. It is a change. You must accept. It needed actionable intelligence, we should have anticipated. We did not prepare many things, did not take preventive measures. How many of us are taking steps to correct errors? Where is our actionable intelligence? If we have certain things we must maintain them. We must have things to meet future exigencies. Many examples I can quote – social engineering, ecological engineering… but have we done family engineering?

That is most important - if you can really see the change in your own house. Teenagers you cannot control. It is not possible. Did you anticipate it? What are you going to do for them? This is where your actionable intelligence has to work. If this is happening in your own house, the engineering solution has to be adopted there. It is a period to serve the children, not fire them. The same teenager when he comes out – if the parents had anticipated and served him well – becomes the best citizen. It depends on the parents. That is an area we have to look at seriously. If the correction has taken place properly, the child will become a good citizen. We feel we don’t have time; parents don’t have time, neither the mother nor the father. We don’t pay attention to the child.

Today’s scenario – youngsters – what is happening? The highest rate of divorce is taking place among young couples. That change we have not anticipated. When your earning is very high at a young age and both (husband and wife) have high earnings, they have not seen the bad days. They don’t know how to manage. They become arrogant with the money coming in quickly; they are very determined, there is no flexibility. That causes separation. Those days, this sort of thing did not exist.

You are supposed to play a model role for your children. How many of us are doing that? Please put your hand on your heart – how many of us are doing justice to our children, our family members? That can be a wonderful engineering solution if we do. That is how society is built. I am not talking about social engineering here, only what is needed for good society. These changes will continue to come.

What is the growth of NLL in the last six decades. Nil. We have only lived, but not lived like a roaring tiger. Today, with the capacity of engineers in Neyveli, we still produce less than NTPC, our profits are only 10-20% of theirs. We have never taken (the help of) actionable intelligence. Most of us wanted to pass away the time in the past five decades. Such a lovely area, such high potential. We have not tapped the potential of the engineers. People at the top have failed. Think big, something will happen. Let people laugh. Can we survive with lignite-based thermal stations and lignite mines. It (company) will die in 30 years.

Think of later generations. Had we thought of diversification one decade ago we could have been a giant organisation, on par with NTPC. Our actionable intelligence was missing totally. We must keep thinking how to get such growth even in the worst conditions. Forget small problems that will happen in any industry. Think how to make life more comfortable for the people who are working, for their families. What will happen to the next generation? If you think along those lines, you will definitely think about the growth of your company. Thinking should never be stopped. The moment you stop thinking, the company, house, or family will stop growing. As human beings we are all selfish, but that selfishness has to be very limited. First priority must be towards the organisation.

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