DVE’s remarks at CEO Forum – Leading & Managing Growing Companies, World Chinese Economic Forum
Nov 4, 2011
Our management philosophy has been very simple. I believe that it is people who succeed, not companies. Hence, building leadership within is important. While it may seem radical to some, but a key management principle we use at QI is based on Sun Tzu’s Art of War. Its called Confront before you Conflict.
Confrontation may not be the approach most people would take in dealing with colleagues but it can be the pre-emptive step to thwart conflicts in an organization. I believe that leaders in a company need to be open to the idea of confronting and being confronted in order for everyone to arrive on the same page at the end.
Although this strategy takes a longer time to arrive at decisions, in the long run, we are helping build leaders. Such an approach requires that our managers have multiple discussions at different levels, which can often be a frustrating process. But this also means that all voices are being heard and the results of such a practice help develop a team of people who are capable of speaking out and standing up for their opinions.
Before I turned entrepreneur, I have worked in several traditional organisations where leaders were not supposed to challenge existing practices. Just because something has been in place for a long time doesn’t mean it has to be continued.
Our position is to challenge. Why do things a certain way? Why not try a different way. We allow the challenging because it is an important part of the growth process.
When we began 13 years ago, we were a group of 12 people doing everything by ourselves. I played multiple roles from CEO to CFO to CMO to the receptionist and the janitor if the occasion called for it. As the company grew, we knew it was impossible for us to be everywhere, all the time. The choices were clear – be a missionary or a mercenary.
Our approach is to build missionaries right from the onset. We have allowed that to develop into a unique form of leadership by consensus management.
Let me illustrate my point with a short story.
A group of scientists placed 5 monkeys in a cage and in the middle, a ladder with bananas on the top.
Now, the moment monkeys saw the banana on top, they tried to climb up the ladder and grab the banana. But what the scientists did was, the moment any monkey tried going up the ladder, they would shower freezing cold water on the rest of the four monkeys.
After a few cold showers, the monkeys understood that they are subjected to the cold showers only when any of them tries to go up the ladder. So the next time any monkey tried going up the ladder, the rest of them would beat him black and blue!
After several beatings, every monkey gave up trying to go up the ladder.
Now the scientists brought a change in the setup. A monkey from the set of five was replaced with a new monkey. This new monkey, the moment he saw the bunch of bananas, tried to go up the ladder and grab it! Upon this, as per the usual practice, the rest of the four monkeys gave him a severe beating! After several such beatings, the new monkey also gave up trying to go up the ladder without ever knowing why he was being beaten.
Now the scientists made more changes and replaced another of the original monkeys with a new one. The entire scenario repeated itself. The scientists kept replacing each of the original monkeys and soon there were a group of 5 monkeys in that cage, who had never experienced the cold shower and yet every time a monkey tried to go up the ladder, the rest would beat him up.
After several beatings, any new member learned not to climb the ladder even though they never knew why! If it was possible to ask the monkeys why they beat up all those who attempted to go up the ladder…I bet you the answer would be:
“I DON’T KNOW – THAT’S HOW THINGS ARE DONE AROUND HERE”
Human nature is really not that different. We have to learn to ask why. We have to challenge the status quo.