It was the night of our alumni meet. Probably taking a decision on selling one of our overseas business units was less stressful than deciding whether to attend this alumni meet or not. I do not recall how exactly I went about making this decision; but there I was. It wasn’t all that bad. The open air bar overlooking the Arabian Sea was quite charming. I tried to avoid the so called ‘networking’ session of the evening. However, you can’t do much when you are confined in a 1000 sq ft area with 45 people. I had always loved the sea; the sound of the waves crashing into the shore, and that unique whiff of sultry breeze. Sipping my White Russian, I was thoroughly enjoying the moment.
‘Beautiful, isn’t it?’ quipped Sandeep.
‘Yeah, I can stand here and gaze at this for eternity’, I confessed.
Sandeep is one of the few batch mates with whom I was in touch. We used to be roommates back when we were studying engineering. Currently, he is the sales head of a consumer durables company. I have always admired him for his ability to simplify any situation. He is a great combination of monk like demeanor and business pragmatism. I really don’t know what made me open up to Sandeep that night,
‘Mind, if I talk shop Sandeep? Something is eating my head’, I confessed.
‘Sure, I’m listening.’
‘In the last six years, I have noticed that you have achieved your targets and in turn the revenue of your company with elegance and ease. Even with ever changing external dynamics, seems like you have figured the way to move ahead.’
‘Well, I don’t know what to say. But thanks anyways. What’s bothering you?’
‘In the last three years, the business unit I am heading is not only failing to meet the envisaged target but the general morale in my team has also hit the rock bottom. I have tried everything. I’ve even got consultants on board for the goal setting exercise and subsequent quarterly reviews. I’ve tried both incentive and punitive measures. But…’ I sighed.
‘Hmmm. Tell me one thing. Your targets…’
Hoping some solution in sight, I was hanging onto every word Sandeep is uttering.
‘What about the targets Sandeep?’
‘Are they just numbers or a function of your destination?’
‘Am sorry? What do you mean by that?’
Sandeep paused for a while. Then gazed at the sea and pointed to a ship sailing at the distance.
‘Look at that ship. Is it heading towards any particular destination or the captain’s goal is to cover some 5000 odd nautical miles in any direction? What do you think?’
‘Of course they have a destination in mind.’ I answered curiously and awaited Sandeep’s response.
‘The defined destination is what gives clarity, direction, and measures to the captain. The destination is a critical factor in the decisions captain takes during the course of the journey. Nautical miles are just one of the byproducts. The destination also helps crew and people to decide whether to be on board or not.’
I pondered over Sandeep’s views. It seemed simple yet distinct. He continued.
‘Most of us do get caught in the numbers game. They are important but not as important as the destination. Six years ago I decided that revenue numbers help me to assess situations but they cannot be the only goals. The destination is what motivates me and my team. This doesn’t mean that people haven’t left me. They have left me with the clarity that the destination that they seek is different from where we are headed. This year our destination is to be the number one brand in after sales service. This may not sound all that glamorous. But we pegged this destination after a lot of home work.’
Suddenly, it occurred to me, how I was complicating a simple journey by trying to find right answers to wrong questions. Sandeep seemed to get it right, once again. While on his way for a refill, he looked back and said,
‘As a captain, you be clear where you headed. Answers will emerge.’