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THE MADE-IN-INDIA PROJECT MANAGER
DR. RANJAN BANERJEE
Project management was once seen as the preserve of certain industries. Companies engaged in real estate, power, or telecommunications had to manage large projects, and delays and quality issues could adversely impact the company’s future. This scenario has changed.
With the weakening of functional silos and an increased presence of business across boundaries, transversal projects are seen in every sector. Hence, the imperatives for tomorrow’s project manager have changed significantly:
a) Managing across silos: A significant number of people on a project team do not belong to the same function or country as the leader. This implies that goal alignment is a significant challenge, and often individual key result areas and project goals may be misaligned. This implies that managers need to build the ability to create new coalitions, and ‘influence without power’.
b) Due to greater diversity in teams and tasks and a more unpredictable environment, the context and goals within a project are more dynamic. The ability to manage ambiguity, adapt, and learn become critical.
In our book,
The Made in India Manager
, R Gopalakrishnan and I argue that being brought up and educated in India creates some unique strengths. We go on to understand these strengths and the relevance of these strengths to the challenges project managers face.
WE CITE ONLY FOUR HERE:
a) Competitive intensity:
We have survived a high level of competition to get where we are, and this has taught us focus, self-analysis and the importance of practice, and the experience that difficult-looking odds can be overcome.
b) Diversity and inclusion:
It is not unusual in schools to share lunch with people from different states — a vast variety of cuisine is shared, understood, and appreciated. Similarly, it is not unusual to sing Christian hymns at school and pray to a Hindu god at night. Diversity and inclusion are internalized early by many, and this stands us in good stead later.
c) Dealing with ambiguity:
We learn to deal with a lot of things that are uncertain — from the vagaries of the weather, to the unreliability of infrastructure — and we develop the ability to quickly assess situations and help ourselves without waiting for the system to help us.
d) Family values:
The percentage of Indian-made leaders citing a family member as an influential role model is significantly higher than for their Western counterparts. The formative role of the family in shaping values through demonstration, stressing the value of education, and proving an 'always there' support provides a strong value core which builds resilience.
These factors, along with the ability to 'think in English' have led to the emergence of a new breed of 'made in India' managers, who, if they are able to leverage these strengths and unlearn some habits, are uniquely prepared to succeed on a global stage. It is our belief that these factors apply to today’s project manager who has to interact with multiple stakeholders, work across boundaries, influence actions without hierarchical power, and navigate rapidly changing situations under time pressure.
In order to become successful project managers on a global stage, our project managers, who are already very strong technically, can build on this foundation.
First of all, reflect on and understand the strengths that you have on account of being 'made in India'. We are too quick to criticize ourselves. We must learn to value ideas on merit, and not on the labels or country of origin of the source.
Secondly, many new managers have grown up in an environment where parenting has been far less hierarchical. Do not assume hierarchy will not exist in your workplaces or projects. Be a little more patient with your bosses. If you like the culture and like the work, do not leave a job for money or because of the boss alone. Research suggests that between five performing managers in a company, staying power (or the ability to survive a bad boss) makes a big difference. Avoid a sense of ‘entitlement'. It can be your downfall.
Travel if you get the chance. Learn at least one new language (ideally, one European language andChinese).
The ability to ask questions, listen well, clarify expectations frequently, and look beyond the stated problem will help project managers succeed. Finally, keep the child in you alive. The curiosity and willingness to accept ignorance (his/her own) sets the child apart. Every child is a natural learner. Project managers of tomorrow must keep the child in them alive to be lifelong learners.
DR. RANJAN BANERJEE
Dean, SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai
Dr. Ranjan Banerjee has led the premier management school as its dean since June 2015.
Dr. Banerjee earlier taught at leading business schools such as the Carlson School, University of Minnesota; Singapore Management University; Indian Institute of Management - Calcutta; European Business School, Germany; and Macquarie University, Australia.
He has worked for leading consumer products companies like Asian Paints, Vadilal and Hindustan Unilever, and was the Group COO of Insta Worldwide.
He holds a BTech degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, and an MBA and a PhD in management from the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota, USA.
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