Recently, I spent three days among Army-men in a cantonment in North India, meeting old friends, either retired or serving Army officers, one of them a serving Lieutenant General. Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Arora, a key architect of our victory in 1971, was one of my heroes as a 14-year-old. I remember meeting General Arora well after his retirement and telling him he was my hero. His autograph, on the back of his card, is one of my most treasured possessions. I am no longer a school going youngster and General Arora has passed on, but the army continues to produce people we can all be proud of, and look up to as heroes. They win Sena Medals, Shaurya Chakras and Ashok Chakras. They speak of the ‘charm of serving in the army and the special forces’. Their families proudly say – “All gave some and Some gave all!”
Every day, on multiple occasions during the day, almost every time I met a uniformed man, I saw a consistent expression of commitment to their mission. The jawan would come to attention, take up his arm in the regulated format, salute and loudly say “Jai Hind!”. By the first evening, as I saw the officers I was with react in like manner, I was myself pulling my stomach in, rolling back my shoulders, stiffening my spine and responding “Jai Hind!” As easily as they breathe, our soldiers reiterate their commitment to their promise – “Jai Hind!” The calm and committed passion (I learnt that there can be such a thing in these three days) with which they say “Jai Hind!” confirms their commitment to themselves so clearly, it becomes second nature to them. Putting their lives on the line, going into harm’s way, are not in any manner strange or difficult activities for these young and middle-aged men and women. They are clearly ready, able and totally clearly willing to even lay down their lives to protect their nation, which includes the likes of most of us, who would find it inconceivable to even think of accepting injury on behalf of someone else, leave alone laying down our lives for them.
Once when we were dining at this serving Colonel’s home away from the front, he received a call from his deputy, and his entire demeanour suddenly changed. When asked to explain his sudden loss of humour, he told us that he had lost one of his ‘boys’ to sniper fire from across the border. When he had calmed down, he explained to me the big difference between their managerial problems and ours – “We lose people in body bags, and you guys lose them to some other organization…”
Why is all this relevant in the context of Governance? In the last post, we started discussing “Performance to Promise”. The Armed forces, which gave us such basic managerial concepts as Strategy & Tactics and Staff & Line, are probably the best example of a large scale success on the front of Performance to Promise. They commit – Jai Hind! – day in and day out, and then they deliver as they promise. When our corporate teams are able to bring to being, even a small fraction of the commitment, Governance can become a lot easier. Ethics and transparency will not be a hard sell…