The Passive Participants

About Devang Desai

An accountant's journey of 40 years gathering non- financial insights about people , their relationships & their environment . Learning from the experiences of the many who have travelled before and trying to create enjoyable readings from words , ideas and self-realizations .

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Phir yeh kya hua (What happened then)?” Jaya asks Vijay Anand
at the end of the movie “Kora Kagaz” when things go cascadingly wrong and they become silent, disturbed participants.

That was the discussion Debasish had with his erstwhile superior, who he bumped into after a decade, about the wrong things that happened in their organization as they remained silent onlookers.

The clock wound back as he saw himself beginning his career with a respectable organization that believed in its people and cared for their wellbeing.

“I never forget the final interview by our Chief; first he apologized for making me wait and then was only interested in my favorite sport – not any background quizzes or heavy management diggings.”

“Yes, he built a totally approachable senior team, trusting, experimenting and getting the best out of them.”

And both recalled the unfortunate succession vacuum due to his sudden death; the imposed recruitment of an outsider to head the organization and the serious disruptions that followed due to latter’s style and delayed corrective action by the owners.

“Over the years I wondered, were we all not equally guilty of what transpired? The aftermath was continuing with the downslide and ultimately sell-off!! How could a 75 + year old company end-up this way??”

“You had just joined; but there were so many seniors like me who just looked-on or found their own ways of non-confrontational exits – we all witnessed a Duryodhana repeat.”

“Indeed, there was learning throughout. Initially, freedom to experiment and manage through mistakes and then intense lessons of corporate shake outs with feelings of fear, distrust and silo-workings.”

“I remember how the new CEO loved to quote Darwin’s – survival of fittest, Schumpeter’s – creative destruction and Groove’s – only paranoids survive!!!”

“I was chosen to work closely with him – for a while; I learnt so much about human mind in those few months that it would last me a lifetime. In hindsight, he too was insecure, building destructive pressures that messed up home-life and ended up collecting sycophants around him.”

“For him, most of the existing team was incompetent – he also was not happy with giving credit for the past good – and so the complete churning of all senior team members. There was also the “Hitler-bias” – and I’m being over-dramatic but the mistakes were as glaring!”

“All waited – like the Poles, Austrians, French, Russians, British and the Americans –  under the false illusion they will be spared. In our case each department head too waited, hoping he was too important to be dragged away.”

“And the Bhisma & Drona looked away as did our confused top-management. The jargon of “new blood – fresh ideas – outside edge” became their justifications to do away tried and tested approaches.”

“At times I felt the new CEO might do well – our accommodative, over tolerant, status quo attitudes needed at least a good relook – and maybe, a more persuasive person would have instilled the much – desired competitive awakenings in all of us.”

“In the midst of so much uncertainty, like the British and others, it was then easy to usurp authority and erode the institutional structures of an Ottoman or a Mughal. And now, the many voices of Nationalists rendering ineffective, established legacies and balances…”

“What is wrong, can never be right; the collapse was inevitable but the choice of onlookers would have mattered – resistance has always crumbled the tyrant’s authority. We created and built and then let-go.”

And the two survivors parted wondering whether all human creations had these inevitable self-destructive impulses? The curse of repetitiveness, boredom, over familiarity, unimaginativeness, finally ending with the once treasured creation.


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