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Winning: The Answers — answers that winners give
Jack and Suzy Welch’s Winning: The Answers is a book which deals with 74 questions and their answers, which help you master the art of business and also think like a winner. A highly recommended read.
WINNING: THE ANSWERS by Jack and Suzy Welch is a remarkable book in the best tradition of a Socratic dialogue. It is easy to read, extremely well-focused, incisive questions and profound answers .It is not necessary to read it cover to cover - you can open any page and start with any question you feel like, you can read the Q/A’s many times over, and still enjoy them for each is connected to the other in a certain, yet subtle manner.
 
However for the sake of convenience – both of the readers, (and the reviewers!), the 74 questions have been placed in six sections: Global Competition, Leadership, management principles and practices, Careers and Winning and Losing.
 
Global competition addresses questions on the brave new world. Shakespeare’s ‘all the world’s a stage comes to the fore as they discuss the irreversible logic of global outsourcing, and the competitive nature of global economies. The political economies of China, India, Russia, Europe and Japan have been placed in perspective. The US of course has the advantage of being perpetually young: it accepts diversity and immigration – but both these have been affected by 9/11 and its aftermath. But one has to sound the note of caution - the book is about the success of enterprises in the short to medium run, say over the next three to five years. It does not talk about the implications of such major phenomenon like climate change, nuclear proliferation, terrorism   and rogue states and the potential threat from AIDS. In a way the authors are right. These are issues in the domain of politics and are not the concern of successful entrepreneurs while they are still winning. It is only after they have won that they can focus beyond their immediate frontiers.
 
Leadership, in the practical sense, is about being a better boss; inspiring people and making them believe in their own self worth and competencies and aligning their goals to those of the organization. This is easier said than done, because there are always conflicting interests - work and family, competition with peers, team work and individual recognition, overcoming resistance to change when the successful formula is becoming an icon. Then there are questions of the leadership mindset, values, change management, efficiency, effectiveness and morale.
 
The response to these is best given in this quote: “the first essential trait of leadership is positive energy – the capacity to ‘go-go-go’ with healthy vigour and an upbeat attitude through times good and bad. The second is the ability to energize others, releasing their positive energy, to take any hill. The third trait is edge – the ability to make tough calls, to say yes or no, not maybe. The fourth trait is the talent to execute – very simply, get things done. Fifthly and finally, leaders have passions. They care deeply. They sweat; they believe.”
 
It is important to note here that these qualities of leadership are not confined to business or corporate leadership alone. Leadership plays an important role in every domain of life – from politics to sports to church and family. There is however one crucial difference – you cannot chose your   family or your team or even your support base in a political system, but when hiring for your firm, or evolving their training strategy, your options are far more flexible. Exercise them.
 
The third section ‘management principles and practices’ has those practical tips and suggestions on running a business to win, which are not covered in the Harvard Business School case studies, with their emphasis on data and formal strategy. This is all about getting and retaining the best people, ensuring that the organization structure remains lean and functional, and that a clear distinction is made between personal and corporate goals. Successful organizations must also rise to the challenge of accepting that perhaps there are lessons to be learnt from the success and failures of competitions, that while gut instinct must not be ignored and can take you up to a point it needs to be reinforced by empirical situation and data.
 
In the fourth section, we move on to the existential plane - why do we work? Does man live by bread alone? How do you perform well in life? Is motivation totally internal or do positive strokes impact performance? And most importantly – are you listening – not just to the loud noises that are so clear and apparent, but also to the subtle hint, the quiet voice, which has the soft whisper of wisdom, but not the arrogance of certitude. My personal favourite in this section is the conversation on mentoring. One does not have to go by big names who just have a fleeting acquaintance with you or your work situation. True mentoring comes only from a person who knows you, your organization and the policy environment in which you work, and has time and concern both for you and your organization. And mentors are not godfathers; they are professionally competent people who find a value in mentorship. One must also learn to graduate to a mentoring role. Leadership is also the ability to live not just for yourself, but also encourage others in their quest for perfection.
 
Many, if not most of the big names in business started out as small, individual business enterprises. Bill Gates started out from a garage; Dhirubhai Amabani from one petrol station; Hero Honda from a retail outlet for cycles and so on. Many families, who owned and controlled firms, graduate into big league, some move into specialist niche areas, and others take a conscious call to restrict their area of interest or operation to suit their size and core competence. Working for these private firms has its pros and cons – decision-making is direct and prompt, but many Board level decisions are also taken because of family intrigue and politics. It is however important to remember that working with these firms hones your skills to become an entrepreneur yourself; the perspective on risk taking changes and the exposure to a range of functional skills is much higher than in a firm with rigid hierarchies.
  
The last set of questions - on why business is good’ is a nuanced defence of markets and business, and the ability of enterprise and entrepreneurs to overcome the challenges from technology, terrorism, corporate fraud and overextended regulation. The best thing about business is that it does not have to accept the Genghis Khan credo ‘It is not sufficient that I succeed. Everything else must fail’.
 
Most successful entrepreneurs love to compete and regard it as essential to make everyone more efficient. The other important point about winning is that there are no external measures or yardsticks to tell us if someone has won or not. Winning is essentially about doing what you want to do, and doing it well, and enjoying it. In the process you also enrich the world around you to make it a win-win situation.

[Sanjeev Chopra is Secretary, Industries and Information Technology,
Government of Uttaranchal
]





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