Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dabawalas: Lessons for building lasting success based on values

DABAWALAS: Lessons for building lasting success based on values by Shrinivas Pandit (Tata McGraw-Hill Publishing Co Ltd, New Delhi, 2007) p 105.

This book is unique in its approach, convincing in its delivery and interesting in its style.  A true testimony of the values that bind Dabawalas for more than 120 years by Shrinivas Pandit.  The author follows a narrative in an interview form through the team of four - two dabawallas (Raghunath Megde, 48 and Gangaram Talekar, 55), one business journalist (Anita Dalal, 40) and he himself. The book is divided in 12 chapters and every chapter is closed with one message and take aways (current practice and current opportunity). It makes a good case of Dabawalas for anyone who is interested to know their functioning, operations, supply-chain, value system, priorities, adaptiveness to change, structure, empowerment, decision-making, team-work, commitment, service quality, total quality management processes, standardization, contentment, etc etc. Though the book is small in size (just 100 pages) but the message it conveys is huge in size. There are very many examples which established multi-national corporations and big corporate houses could follow. It reminds me of a saying which says that if one has an attitude to learn, one could even learn a lot from beggars and poor people living in the society. Mind it, Dabawalas are not small in size, there are around 5000 (semi-literate) of them, working on a simple mission of delivering home-made food to the people (in Mumbai) from their respective houses to the workplaces within 3 hours.  And this mission helps them earn their living which is not at all commensurate with the kind of efforts they put in order to reach out to more than 2 lac clients. Interestingly as the book reveals, there seems to be no issue on that as well. They are quite satisfied and contended with around Rs 200/300 which they charge per person, per month.

Dabawalas are the perfect example of best quality service with six sigma performance as their error rate is one in 16 million transactions...despite having no technological backup and their turnover is around 500 million indian rupees.  Every dabawala is a shareholder in Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Charity Trust. Every one wears a Gandhi cap during working hours and carry an identity card and no alcohal during duty hours is allowed.  Unlike many successful MNCs and other organizations this organization does not believe in internal competition as no dabawala is allowed to undercut or outsmart his colleague. They have a Governming council of 13 members having President, Vice President, General Secretary, Treasurer and nine directors.  There are around 120 groups, each having some 25-30 dabawalas, which are led by a Mukadam (group leader).  Each group works as a Strategic Business Unit The problems, complaints and grievances are initially resolved by Mukadam, however if they are not able to resolve issues it is taken up with the President or Vice President. If there are any disputes about the overall functioning they are resovled by the governing council. 

They follow competitive collaboration which drives them to deliver the daba (tiffin box) within stipulated time and the synergy in the efforts of individuals towards making the group as well as the chain effective is excellent.  The cardinal principle is that the daba has got to be delivered on time, the race has to be won in three hours every day, no excuses.  It is the sacred duty to ensure that the customer does not go without his home food. Team work is the quintessence of our success (p11).  Hatachi pachuch bote hajaro kame kartal; karan tyanchyat aeekya aste (five fingers of a palm can do a thousand things becasue they have unity).  They believe in leaderless teams, which seems to me as an experimental model of Engagement as the group depending on their abilities and capacities chooses a leader (Mukadam) who takes up this role as an additional responsiblity.

The book successfully narrates the functioning, principles, values, and practices followed by dabawalas in a very simple language.  Though it is a very traditional organisation which does not have technological exposure, it teaches very many lessons to the big corporate houses.  Shrinivas Pandit and Anita deserve a kudos for this venture of theirs.  Well done both of you.  As I flip through the last pages and sentences, I end up with a feeling as if there is still much more to come and much more to be further learnt from these great individuals carrying dabas with full dedication and commitment to make sure none of their client goes without home made food.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Good to Great by Jim Collins

GOOD TO GREAT: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't, by James C Collins (Jim Collins), 2001, published by Collins (an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers), USA. p 300

Generally as we read about business organizations and their transformations, it becomes obvious to see some of them doing good, some doing better than others and some not reaching to their targeted goals.  There are many factors which play their respective roles to make the organizations as they are and one of the most important factor is the kind of leader it has and the kind of leadership he/she follows in order to direct the efforts of the organization to achieve its established targets and to carry on with the journey of transforming organizations.

Jim Collins, who co-authored (with Jerry Porras) a business classic entitled Build to Last concentrating on organizational transformation, brought out this great book (based on US Corporations) with robust data and methodology to convince the readers of its relevance through defending the cause of great leadership as the most important parameter to transform a good corporation into a great one.  The creativity in putting the arguments and deriving basic principles of modern day leadership is the acumen of Jim who along with his dedicated team of researchers could filter out 11 American companies which were selected into good-to-great set.

The book is divided in 9 chapters, appended with research notes.  In fact around one third part of the book is devoted to the research notes and references which makes the book very rich, authenticated and authoritative.  The first chapter starts with its caption Good is the enemy of great and outlines the motivation of this work and further explains the basis of selection of 11 companies.  The performance of the companies through the stock returns is the primary basis of selection though a precondition that the company must have appeared in Fortune 500 companies of 1995 is followed.  The methodology follows 4 cuts to eliminate the companies at different levels.  At Cut 1 level 1435 companies are selected out of Frotune 500 companies, on the basis of their performance between 1965-1995 (30 years), then at Cut 2 level, out of 1435, 126 companies are filtered on the basis of CRSP (Univeristy of Chicago Centrer for Research on Security Prices) data based on 4 tests and then at Cut 3, 19 companies are selected on the basis of cumulative stock returns of each candidate company as per CRSP data set, and then out of this 11 companies were selected which made a transition.  This is what made them Good-to-Great companies.  The selection process is fully described in the Appendix A.  The 11 companies thus selected are compared with another company (known as director comaparison company).  These companies are : Abbott Vs Upjohn (which was taken over by Pfizer in 2002), Circuit City Vs Silo, Fannie Mae Vs Great Western, Gillette Vs Warner-Lambert, Kimberly-Clark Vs Scott Paper, Kroger Vs A&P, Nucor Vs Bethlehem Steel, Philip Morris Vs RJ Reynolds, Phitney Bowes Vs Addressograph, Walgreens Vs Eckerd, and Wells Fargo Vs Bank of America.  The direct comparison companies are selected on the basis of there operation in the same industry with same opportunities and similar resources at the time of transition.  However there are some companies (Burroughs, Chrysler, Harris, Hasbro, Rubbermaid and Teledyne) which made a short term shift from good to great but failed to maintain the trajectory - to address the question of sustainability.   Thus in total 28 companies are studied to find out the commonalites (and What's Different) which make transform a good company into a great company.

In general, in contrast with the general assumptions they found out interesting facts (dogs that did not bark syndrome) as:
  • Larger-than-life, celebrity leders who ride in from the outside are negativley correlated with taking a company from good to great.  Ten of eleven good to great CEOs came from inside the company, whereas the comparison companies tried outside CEOs six tims more often.
  • No systematic patter linking specific forms of executive compensation to the process of goin from good to great.
  • Strategy per se did not separate the good to great companies from the comparison companies.
  • Good-to-Great companies did not focus on what to do to become great, they focused equally on what not to do and what to stop doing.
  • Technology can accelerate a transformation but it cannot cause a transformation.
  • No relation and impact of merger/acquisitions.
  • Good-to-Great companies paid scant attention to managing change, motivating people, or creating alignment.  
  • Good-to-Great companies had no name, tag line, launch event, or program to signify their transformations.
  • Good-to-Great companies were not, by and large, in great industries, and some were in terrible industries.  
The book advocates for Level 5 Leadership driven out of the readings, data, narratives and the contributions of great leaders in the good-to-great companies.  The personal characteristics of the leaders, their competence level, commitment to the cause, integrity and honest intentions are some such common features found in the leaders of great organizations.  The transformations of the organizations during the tenure of their visionary leaders is well placed in the book (George Cain at Abott, Alan Wurtzel at Circuit City,  David Maxwell at Fennie Mae, Darwin Smith at Kimberley-Clark, Colman Mockler at Gillette, Jim Herring at Kroger, Lyle Everingham at Nucor, Joe Cullman at Philip Morris, Fred Allen at Pitney Bowes, Charles Walgreen at Walgreen Pharm, and Carl Reichardt at Wells Fargo). The robust database and collections of articles, press reports etc from different journals, magazines etc are the base for the arguments for Good-to-Great organizations.

Professional Will and Personal Humility are portrayed as two sides of Level 5 Leadership which refers to a five level hierarchy of executive capabilities, level 5 leaders are ambitious, to be sure, but ambitious first and foremost for the company, not themselves, they set up their successors for even greater success in the next generation, display a compelling modesty, are self-effacing and understated, are fanatically driven, infected with an incurable need to produce sustained results, display a workmanlike diligence, look out the window to attribute success to factors other than themselves.  Generally we tend to overstate the role of money or compensation with the performance.  Quite the contrary Good-to-great companies do not support such an argument.  This is even otherwise proved in the context of any individual which is popularly known as Easterlin Paradox in happiness literature. Another general perception that 'people are most important asset' is questioned by Collins and he says 'people are not your most important asset. The right people are'.  In fact there have been a concern raised on this issue by the management academicians.  I remember one of the very prominent paper by Peter Drucker where he argues that People (Employees) are not assets, rather they are Liabilities.  Collins view that right people are real asset for organization is well defended in the book.  While making comparisons with the counterpart companies the differences in the practices are explained and the key is found to be the right kind of people at the right place.  Chapter three ends with a very good sentence - The people we interviewed from the good-to-great companies clearly loved what they did, largely because they loved who they did it with.  This sentence says it all.

The companies in order to succeed must confront with the brutal facts of their current reality. And such confrontation must be with all positivity and honest intentions. The truth must be heard and the corporations must develop a culture of this kind through leading with questions and not answers, through employee engagement, through conducting autopsies without blame and through building such mechanisms which does not allow you to ignore crucial information.  The learning of the adversity and successfully managing it is a strong feature of good-to-great companies and such lessons can be learnt from Stockdale Paradox which is based on a simple thinking that - retain absolute faith that you can and will prevail int eh end, regardless of the difficulties.  Unlike general assumption, Jim experiences that in good-to-great companies, charisma can be as much a liability as an asset, as the strength of your leadership personality can deter people from bringing you the brutal facts.

Three intersecting circles (What you are deeply passionate about, what you can be the best in the world at, what drives your economic engine) of Hedgehog concept are really great convincing factors. Jim says that good-to-great companies are the best in the world at circle of the Hedgehog concept and this he explains through the practical example of all the 11 such companies.  The culture of discipline has to be developed to transform an organization into a great organization.  The freedom or autonomy has to be commissioned to the people within a set framework.  The discipline of working within the system and structure and allowing people to use their freedom in decision making within it makes one a great organization.  It is not just the disciplined action which is important, equally important is to get disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and who then take disciplined action.  The organizations have to get habituated to stay within three circles which shall allow them to explore further opportunities for growth.  The stop doing list has to be prepared cautiously and such activities needs to be ignored for capitalising on potential growth opportunities.

Good-to-Great companies showed consistent use of technology as accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it. The flywheel model (tremendous power exists in the fact of continued improvement and the delivery of results) as suggested by Jim proved that the great organizations followed it in one or the other way as compared to comparison companies which followed the doom loop.  It also included maintaining proper returns through their performance at the Wall Street.

Earlier work of Jim Collins in the shape of Built to Last concentrated on what does it take to start and build an enduring great company from the ground up.  While he took up the project on studying Good-To-Great companies, Built to last was there at the back of the mind of his team.  As mentioned - Looking back on the built to last study, it appears that the enduring great companies did in fact go through a process of buildup to breakthroughs following the good to great framework during their formative years, though the organizations studied were all different, however an overlapping in the approach on looking at them was observed.  Some of the frameworks proposed in this book were seen to have been followed by the organizations which were under study in Built to Last like in the case of role of Sam Walton in the evolution of Walmart, who followed Fly Wheel model.  This chapter 9 (last chapter) of the book compares these two books (Built to last and Good to Great) through suggested models and how they were practiced by them.  As suggested in the Built to Last, preserving core values and purpose is important for enduring corporations and they have to preserve the creative culture of the the organization, however in Good-to-Great, which is primarily focused on developing the base for Level 5 Leadership, the concentration is on the leaders role and his/her sense of personal humility.

As individuals we aspire to be great, we always think (ideally) that we must leave behind such contributions for which we are remembered, this is was drives us to think of something great.  Similarly organizations also need to think of achieving greatness.  And this is where Jim Collins through this work tries to convince the readers of the practices that great business leaders follow to transform their organization into a great organization.  Mind it unquestionably who would not be interested in achieving greatness. Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOUR – A South Asian Perspective, by Nelson, Quick and Khandelwal (2011) Cengage Learning, Delhi (p 392 + xii)

ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOUR – A South Asian Perspective, by Nelson, Quick and Khandelwal (2011) Cengage Learning, Delhi (p 392 + xii)

Management of people in organizations has always been a great challenge for management.  As the organizational structures are getting flatter, this challenge is becoming more acute.  The study of organizational behavior in this context has also become very common especially for the students of business and commerce.  Before twenty odd years, there was a lack of availability of good text on organizational behavior in India which focused on Indian conditions.  Last ten years have seen publication of good relevant literature in India in this area.  As business education has spread across length and breadth of the country, the emergence of good business books which include relevant literature developed in Indian settings has been witnessed.  In this backdrop I would like to introduce the readers to this recently published book authored by Debra L Nelson, James Campbell Quick and Preetam Khandelwal, and published by Cengage Learning, India.

The book is divided in four parts (Introduction, Individual Processes and Behaviour, Interpersonal Processes and Behaviour, and Organizational Processes and Structure) consisting of 17 chapters.  These chapters cover all the constituents of organizational behavior like individual behavior, group behavior and organizational structure.   Nelson and Quick’s OB book was there present in the Indian market even before but it lacked the content on Indian firms, individuals and conditions.  The present book has Khandelwal as one of the other author as well whose contribution looks quite visible in the book where lot of Indian snippets are placed at their respective places.  The earlier book was more exhaustive and had global appeal which did not just targeted the text students but even the researchers.  This present book is designed and published under 4LTR series which is a Cengage Learning product, and is a widely acclaimed concept of learning with a simple approach – creating an innovative teaching and learning solution build around today’s learners and teachers.  The idea behind brining out this series of books is to introduce students and teachers in South Asia to an innovative concept in management studies which is based on the inputs from discipline-specific focus groups, conversations, and surveys. 

Every chapter outlines the learning outcomes before one proceeds through the chapter and the contents of each chapter are explained through these learning outcomes, which is quite impressive, thoughtful and focused.  Small side boxes with important keywords used in the text and their brief description leaves the reader with clear understanding of the terms used.  The book is full of colorful pictures, relevant figures, tables, statements, did you know?, hot trends, and to the point notes.  The fast facts and by the numbers boxes engages the reader and provides appropriate defense for the text it supports. All chapters end with their respective In Review and What about You?, which very succinctly summarizes the whole chapter and helps the reader to practically evaluate oneself.  It is a good reminder of all that one reads in the chapter.  The pictures used in the chapter are put on one page at the end of the chapter which visually reminds, engages and involves the reader with all the contents that one has read.  This format of the book is excellent. 

The book is fully updated, sourced and referenced, (with web addresses) for the benefit of its readers. However it is felt that as the book has South-Asian Perspective, it should have included some cases or notes on other countries in the region apart from India.   The small stories on Indian firms like Bajaj Auto Limited, The Dabbawalas, Biocon, ICICI Bank, Wipro (for its values), NTPC (for its People before PLF – plant load factor), Indian Bank (for turnaround) etc are well placed.  In fact there are not many books which illustrate Indian cases in such a way and many a times while a teacher is teaching a course on OB, with a book having global perspective, the students find it difficult to correlate.  But this book through its Indian content makes it easier for the Indian students to relate the theory with the practices and tries bridging that gap quite convincingly.  The examples of individuals with Indian origin are very well put in the text wherever applicable.  On commitment it is Mahatma Gandhi, father of the nation, who has been put and captioned as a karma yogi par excellence, on communication, the contribution of one of the most popular presidents of India in the Indian history of independent India, APJ Abdul Kalam, who has been communicating with the children all across the country, is quoted.  We have witnessed a great transformation in the telecom sector in the last 20 years which was conceived and initially led by Sam Pitroda.  His example on the chapter on Leadership is very apt.  In the chapter on Personality, former Indian police officer, Kiran Bedi, who has been quite active in raising the issues of social concern, winner of many prizes for social service including Ramon Magsaysay Award, has been put.  These people have made a great impact on the lives of common people in India and their examples are well placed which helps indian readers to understand various concepts and models better.  Small stories related to the business leaders such as Indra Nooyi, captioned as Iron woman of PepsiCo, on motivation, Azim Premji, captioned as a strategic leader, on Leadership, Dr Vijay Mallaya, on Personality, and E Sreedharan, the managing director of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation on job satisfaction, commitment and Power and Political behaviour, make good sense. 

Conflict is one of the important parts of management and organizational behavior literature.  The chapter on conflict and negotiation (p 254-275) discusses different aspects of conflicts and explains the existing conflicts in Indian family businesses.  The conflict in Ambani family is explained through a box borrowed from the times of india news, which is quite relevant.  In my view there would not have been a better model to resolve conflict other than Gandhian approach which is very aptly put in the chapter. 

After going through all 17 chapters, I firmly appreciate and commend the work of the authors for 4 chapters (Motivation at work – p 94-110, Power and Political Behaviour – p 211 - 228, Leadership and Followership – p 229 – 252, and Conflict and Negotiation – p 253 – 274) and would like to specially recommend these chapters.  The models are explained nicely and briefly with excellent colorful graphical presentation.  The notes at the end of the book help the reader to dig out further on the sources and references if one wants to get to the original paper. 

Though the format of book is excellent but at times and places it become very loud in colors, pictures and different types of boxes.  The book could have been further better if the amount of text was put little more.  It is a concise book on OB. Having gone through the book and looking at all its aspects, I feel the presentation of book is very engrossing and whoever goes through it shall not regret having chosen it.  I strongly recommend it to the students and teachers involved in the teaching of text on OB.

[published in Invertis Journal of Management, Vol 3 No 2, 2011, Pp 99-101]

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results

Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results by Stephen C Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen (Hodder and Stoughton, Great Britain, 2000)

While I got the book Destination Work, published in India by Westland in 2010, by Harry Paul & Ross Reck few weeks back, I learnt Harry Paul has written another book titled Fish earlier and that book was there in my wishlist as well as in my reading list, however I had not read it fully.  So I thought before Destination Work, I should finish Fish and then go to destination work, so I took Fish and finished it in two long sittings.  My review of this book is here.

The book starts with its dedication to millions of workers who relish the thought of having a more playfully productive atmosphere at work and a foreword by none other than Ken Blanchard (of The One Minute Manager fame). It is a story of an organization called First Guarantee Financial situated at Seattle. Mary Jane loses her husband (Dan) who was working in another organization, she has two children, a son and a daughter, the workplace which has been termed as The Toxic Energy Dump (TTED) situated at the Third Floor. There is an indication that if they do not improve their work, they might lose their work to an outsider agency.  The security of the people working there is at stake and they are just carrying on the activities without any motivation and with no mindset to take initiative to change the working pattern, system and methods. Mary has started getting frustrated ("Does my staff know that the security they cherish might be just an illusion? Do they realize the extent to which market forces are reshaping this industry? Do they understand that we will all need to change in order for this company to compete in a rapidly consolidating financial services market? Are they aware that if we do'nt change we will eventually find ourselves looking for other employment?"p 23) till one day when she visits the world famous Pike Place Fish market (PPFM), where she learns the basic lessons of dealing with people and processes and it boosts her morale to take initiative and to introduce her colleagues and subordinates to a totally new work environment. She maintains a journal where she keeps jotting down her thinking and learning which gets consolidated at the end of the book apart from its mention in pieces here and there.

She is convinced about the view that everyone in the organization has to put extra effort in order to impress leadership about their competence, however the energy level and the morale of the employees in the department is touching all time low. Her boss has termed the department as TTED and when she communicates this to others, they feel further demotivated and they have lost all enthusiasm to perform better and are planning for a better place to work elsewhere.

One day Mary visits the work famous PPFM, which changes all her opinions, views and thinking which motivates her to transform the third floor and to convert TTED into a great work place where everybody enjoys working. She is able to find a huge set of energy, enthusiasm, involvement and engagement at the fish market where the shopkeepers are adding lot of fun to there work and enjoying every bit of what they are doing. These reflections drives her to the fish market many times and one day she gets successful in bringing all her team members to this market amidst individuals who, much against their will, are visiting the market. At the end she succeeds in using her learning at the fish market at the third floor which transforms everybody there and the workplace becomes a great sharing space for everybody.

Some of the take-aways from the book:
  • Choose your attitude: There is always a choice about the way you do your work, even if there is not a choice about the work itself. (p 37)
  • Speak from the heart. 
  • Find a message that communicates the notion of choosing your attitude in a way that everyone will understand and personalize.
  • Provide motivation.
  • Persist with faith. (b-e p 54) 
  • Play. (p 62): Benefits of play: Happy people treat others well, fun leads to creativity, the time passes quickly, having a good time is healthy, and work becomes a reward and not just a way to rewards. (p 88) 
  • Make their Day. (p 64)
  • Be present. (p 67)

The book ends with a small paragraph which reads as follows:

As you enter this place of work please choose to make today a great day. Your colleagues, customers, team members, and you yourself will be thankful. Find ways to play. We can be serious about our work without being serious about ourselves. Stay focused in order to be present when your customers and team members most need you. And should you feel your energy lapsing, try this surefire remedy.  Find someone who needs a helping hand, a word of support or a good ear - and make their day. (p 107)

I suggest this book for each one of them who get disheartened at the workplace by looking at the highly demotivated workforce, for each one of them who think small things do not matter in big organizations, for each one of them who believes that the thought of positivity throws away all negativities, for each one of them who has strong faith and belief in oneself.  I know I made a better choice by reading Fish before Destination work on which I jump now.

(published in IJM, Vol 4 No 1, 2012)

Monday, March 7, 2011


SIX THINKING HATS by Edward de Bono (1985, Penguin Books)

An interesting book for decision makers. Edward de Bono makes a great statement through the technique of 6 Thinking Hats which is quite practical for all decision makers at different levels. Edward as a founder of the school of Lateral Thinking provides solutions for many of the problems managers face in their day-to-day decisions and take lot of time in deciding.  This book is a must read for them as it helps reduce time and encourages participation of all members in the process.

The colors of different hats signify their importance and relevance and it becomes easier to remember and use them alternatively. The caution that these hats must not be used at one time by one person rather at one time only one hat should be used by all and then they should switch over to other hats accordingly which convinces the practitioners as it reduces confusion and brings out clarity.  People can give their feedback on creativity (green hat), information and data (white), result and benefit (yellow), emotion (red), negative impact (black) and summarize (blue) the inputs and take necessary actions.

Apart from using these hats in meetings for decision making, the technique is also useful for an individual as one can look at an issue from these 6 angles separately and then analyse and make decision.  I suggest this book to all the students of management, to the decision makers and other managers. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Tao of Loyalty

THE TAO OF LOYALTY - WINNING WITH EMPLOYEES by Ajit Rao (2006), Response Books, SAGE, New Delhi, India, Pages 257
Few years back when Philip Kotler visited India, he was asked by a business reporter, if he has to add 5th P into 4Ps of Marketing (Product, Place, Price and Promotion) what that P would be.  Kotler's reply was very apt, PEOPLE.  People in different roles have become very important for all types of organizations and it has somehow given a direction to them to redesign their HR and Marketing policies, more so for their internal marketing.  In these changing times a book got published in 2006, entitled 'The Tao of Loyalty - Winning with Employees' authored by Ajit Rao who through his research portrayed the importance of Loyalty in organizations and its different dimensions.
Steven F Walker, an accomplished scholar and CEO of Walker Information, while putting his foreword to the book applauds the work done by Ajit and mentions that -Many corporations today do not ponder enough on the value that employees bring to their business.  This book helps to bring focus on the very important role that employees have in maintaining and growing customer loyalty that will yield improved financial success.  
The book has 12 chapters (The 5th P of Marketing, Emotional Loyalty, Loyalty Segmentation, Eleven Factors that Matter, The Managerial Grid: Task and People, The Task Factors, The People Factors, Communication, The Three Levers, The Role of Leadership, The Role of HR, and The Role of the Boss) in all and is designed in such a way that as one turns the pages, one keeps discovering new concerns of loyalty and the ways to deal them.  The book is based on the results of a questionnaire survey conducted on the basis of statements designed from the input by Walker Information Inc. and CSSM (Customer Satisfaction Management and Measurement) under IMRB International, who have been partners of Walker Information in India.   
The book starts with the first chapter on the 5th P, i.e., People.  It discusses the important role of people in the organizations justifying that the degree of employees’ loyalty determines the degree of service quality.  As he quotes Howard Shultz (Chairman and CEO of Starbucks and one of the authors of bestseller Pour Your Heart Into It) who use to think marketing as the most critical function and later realized that it was the people who were key to delivering great experiences in a sustained manner. Ajit explains the concept of Tao which is based on the Chinese philosophy where life is considered to be full of contradictions and successful individuals are those who are able to understand it and manage it better than others.
He mentions in the first chapter (p 29) ‘The management of employees in any organization can apply this concept of contradictions to building a team of highly loyal employees.  In this book the Tao question is to find out the way in which an organization manages its employees which results in having a productive group of people as well as this productivity is sustained for future.  This is just one Tao and the book keeps unfolding different contradictions throughout along with the ways to deal with them, though the author keeps repeating at number of places that this is not a book on Hows but on Whys. The book identifies measures and suggests the dimensions of employees’ loyalty and its impact on their willingness to leave or stay with one organization. 
Two dimensions of Loyalty, viz., Emotional and Behavioral are discussed through examples and the author, through the data, successfully explains the impact of emotional loyalty on the behavior of employees.  Ultimately it is the ‘feel-good’ employee who shows better loyalty to the organization as compared to a person who thinks that his/her potential is being exploited by the organization.  It is more important an issue while we look at attrition rate of employees and their willingness to leave an organization for better salary package.  The contribution of highly loyal employees is reflected through a very good example of Reliance when in 1989, their Patalganga complex was fully flooded and the consultants said that it would take atleast 100 days to clear up the mess, Reliance employees cleared the whole plant in just 3 weeks time.  Such reflection of loyalty towards one’s organization is what makes an organization win its employees and sustain growth. 
Every organization is unique and has its own “threshold level” of loyalty.  When an organization’s loyalty level drops below this threshold level, the behavioral scores of the organization drastically change. This statement mentioned at p 51 underlines the flexibility the organizations have as well as the result of loyalty on the behavior of the employees which finally in turn get reflected in the organizational performance.  Intention to continue with the same organization also is measured to find out the loyalty levels.  Ajit feels that emotional loyalty is more powerful way to look at employees than employee engagement. 
The employees are classified in four categories (chapter 3) as The Truly Loyals (46%), The Accessibles (5%), The Trappeds (19%) and The High Risk Employees (29%). This chapter explains the basic concept of emotional and behavioral loyalty through these four types of employees and how it can be measured and how an organization can identify ideal loyalty scores.  The fourth chapter clearly outlines and suggests eleven key factors to be followed by the organizations in order to increase the size of Truly Loyal employees. These factors are Job Satisfaction, Role Outcomes, Resources, Sense of Accomplishment, Buy-into-Vision/Mission, Fairness, Care, Trust, Appreciation, Involvement, and Quality of Communication.  These are validated through many studies taken up by Walker Information Inc in last two decades and are also been considered while conducting Great Places to Work surveys.  Ajit suggests that the scores on these 11 factors can be averaged to provide one single score, which can be called the Tao Score (p 81).
As students of management we have grown with the Managerial Grid as propounded by Blake and Mouton in 1957.  Though this grid has been under scrutiny, yet its importance and relevance is not questionable at all.  This grid has been under change after its formal publication and at present also stays as Leadership Grid.  Ajit discusses this grid and relates it to the loyalty by bracketing the 10 factors into Task bucket (Job Satisfaction, Role Clarity, Buy-into-Vision/Mission/Values, Resources and Accomplishment) and People bucket (Fairness, Care and Concern, Trust, Being Valued and Appreciation) and keeping Communication as a common factor as foundation.  Chapter 5 discusses these issues in details through related figures and diagrams which present the argument very convincingly.  These factors are not to be taken independently rather they should be taken as complementary to each other as they depend on each other and have their influence on other as well. 
The Task factors are separately discussed in chapter 6 where the examples from Starbucks and the Built to Last corporations are put in such a way that the reader can get to the grip of these 5 task factors, their inter-relationship and inter-dependence and their role in building great organizations.  As explained an employee’s engagement is gauged through the scores on these factors, a high score shall show high engagement thereby leading it to having better loyalty levels as well.  Similarly chapter 7 discusses People factors in deep through various examples.  It makes a good case for defending the interests of employees through the policies and action of the leaders and organizations as to being fair to its employees, showing care, concern and trust for them, acknowledging their contribution and providing enough space for their participation in the interest of the organization.  The individuals having high scores on people factors are those who can create highly nurturing environment. 
While one looks at the Managerial Grid, one tends to follow such path which leads him/her to follow team management by balancing people and task related issues.  Here too such balance is required though task factors seem more objective, tangible and visible as compared to people factors which look more subjective, intangible and invisible.  Whatever if the organizations focus on these two type of factors with proper balancing, they would surely be successful in increasing the size of truly loyal employees which in turn shall be translated into their better contribution for organizational growth. 
Communication is put as a foundation for both types of factors, viz., Task and People, and it is discussed briefly in chapter 8.  Undoubtedly it is one of the most important activities of the management for smooth coordination of its functions across different functional areas.  At times it is the communication which is blamed for big disastrous decisions in the organization, so whether the organization concentrates on Task or People, it has to first make sure that it is able to properly communicate all its policies, programs and decisions. 
Chapter 9 briefly identifies three levers that are responsible for systematically concentrating on eleven factors that are outlined for leading a team of truly loyal employees.  These three levers are: the leadership, the HR and the boss.  This chapter of 3 small stanzas just provides the justification for choosing these three levers and the nature of the relationship that is required to be built for focusing on all the factors.  In the next three chapters, their role is illustrated separately and clearly.  These three chapters suggest Leadership Scorecard, HR Scorecard and Boss/Supervisor Scorecard.
While the Leadership Scorecard is based on the issues related to mission, vision, values, customer focus, organizational priorities, faith, innovation, communication etc., the HR Scorecard deals with finding talented people, proper performance evaluation systems, job suitability and comparability, training opportunities for improving knowledge, skills and abilities, career growth, welfare benefits, policy alignment, effective reward systems, and fairness.  The Boss/Supervisor Scorecard is developed on the basis of 5 Task factors, 5 People factors and Communication as a common factor. The scores are derived on the basis of team, unit/department, company average and best team score in the company which helps the decision makers to accordingly prioritize.  
The author puts a summary after all the chapters where he strongly writes that Employee loyalty must form an important part of marketing strategy as the final delivery is through people. …One important point we’d like to make is that there are perhaps some more factors (apart from 11 factors that are explained in the book) that may impact loyalty of which we are not aware.  This is simply the start of a journey to explore how the loyalty levels can be measured and managed. …It is only when all the three roles (leadership, HR and boss) play their parts well, will the Truly Loyal levels be sustainable.  There are four appendixes which are attached towards the end of the book explaining the methodology (Appendix A and D), a note on the reward penalty analysis (Appendix B), and the points to ponder for all the factors (Appendix C).  A small bibliography at the end leaves the reader with a better reading list on the related issues.
The book is written in a very simple language and the illustrations given in different chapters make the book lovable, convincing and clear.  This is a small book with great work, mission and message (Loyalty) which not only is relevant for business organizations but for all types of organizations which are surrounded by people.  Though the book was written around four years back, I strongly feel its relevance which guides the researcher to take up such ventures in future to further explore the spectrum of Employee Loyalty and may be to suggest measures to deal with the yin and yang (contradictions) within and beyond organizations.  I strongly recommend this book to all management scholars and especially to those who deal in HR area.

[published in IJM, Vol 3 (1), Jan 2011, p 101-105]