During my MBA at IIMK, I had been fortunate to do a Summer Training at Rajashree Cement Plant in Gulbarga, Karnataka. Though the project was about IT systems, my friend, Amitabh and I also got exposed to all aspects of the business. One interesting concept was the Marwari system of accounting called Partha. Essentially, it gave a single-page P&L snapshot on a daily basis. To put it in one sentence, it meant answering the question "Aaj Kitna Pada" or "How much did it cost to produce 1 unit of cement at a plant?". This deceptively simple-looking number sums up everything that goes on in a manufacturing setup.
Over the years of a completely unrelated work experience, this learning has somehow stayed with me. And I tend to deploy it in my own personal and professional life. Here's how you could do it too:
- Didn't earn my "dehaadi" (daily wages) syndrome- At the end of some days, do you feel that you haven't earned what you are getting paid for? These days just go off doing useless stuff like incessant meetings that everyone knows will not deliver. When I feel like this, I seek out a piece of work that's been pending or something that could improve an unrelated business process. The same thing could happen at home too. If I can't do my share of dishes due to some meetings, I try to make it up before the day ends by doing something else :)
- "Kitna pada?" or How many resources did I use to work today?- This is a measure of the efficiency to do your work. Sometimes, you feel you took much more time that usual to do something and it could be because of various factors like tiredness, disinterest or non-cooperative colleagues. A critical self-analysis of the situation gives you scope for continuous improvement. I love to see how I can improve my timing to do a repetitive task and that gives me important helicopter-view to be shared with my team.
- Staying grounded- Using a simple Indian system of accounting like Parta instead of the much-marketed internationally acclaimed systems speaks volumes about an organization's core values. As an individual, you can view your daily routine and separate the glamorous activities from the simple tasks. I believe it is important for you to do the non-glamorous stuff at least once a day to stay grounded irrespective of your stature in the organization. I have heard stories of CEOs like Tony Fernandes of Air Asia doing his staff's work once a month. Besides keeping you grounded, it spreads the most motivating message to the team.
- Identify Bad News early- In the Partha system, individual business unit owners send a daily report that is analyzed for deviations from the normal. By keeping a keen watch on the deviations, the leadership is able to identify bad news before it's too late. In your professional and personal life too, you need to develop an eye for identifying small deviations. A sudden and unexplained absence of a key employee who is otherwise diligent or a sudden trend of losing sleep and feeling lethargic should raise an alarm in your mind.
I have become richer by trying to use these in my life. Traditional systems of management have much to learn from and today's managers would do good to know more about them.