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The Principles of Management
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This article explores the relevance and application of Principles and Strategies discussed in the 3rd Century BC treatise, Kautilya’s Arthashastra, in Today’s Corporate World.

All Management theories and concepts are based on certain principles. These essentials are the basic foundations on which we evaluate if the manager has been efficient, the organisation productive and the objectives achieved. Today management is not just a subject but also considered a science and also an art.

But what exactly is management? How does one define management? Various voluminous books are available to answer this question. However Kautilya has given the most refined view of management in a single verse in as short as five pointers in verse 42 of Chapter 15 of Book one of the Arthashastra.

Kautilya says, the basic elements of management are:

1. THE MEANS OF STARTING UNDERTAKINGS (ASSIGNMENTS/ PROJECTS)

When we say we have to manage, the question is what to manage? We need some project or an assignment in order to start acting upon. Without a project or an assignment one cannot be called a manager. However, the best manager is the one who not only takes up a project given by his boss but instead ‘creates’ projects on his own. Stephen Covey in his book, ‘The seven Habits of highly effective people’, describes this as ‘proactive ness’- the highest quality of a good leader.

2. THE EXCELLENCE OF MEN AND MATERIALS

A manager has some resources at his discretion to be used in order to accomplish his tasks. They are the men who work under his direction and the tools that are used by him and these men. Hence other quality of a good manager is to make his men highly productive and optimum utilisation of materials like machinery, space, budgets etc given to him in order to reach his objectives.

3. DECIDING SUITABLE PLACE AND TIME

Management is all about deciding the right place and the right time to make our moves. Like in warfare, the timing is very crucial. When to attack the enemy is not a question to answer. It requires careful planning, analysis and also patience. This sense of the right ‘timing’ comes from ones own experience, knowledge and also guidance from other sources.

4. PROVISION AGAINST FAILURE

Every move has to be carefully planned taking into consideration two alternatives - The best case scenario of success and the worst situation of total failure. Therefore a backup is required in each move. One needs to have alternative solutions ready in case of failures. A business man was once asked his reason for success, for which he replied, “I take into consideration maximum failures at each stage. I plan the alternative moves even before I start the venture”. It’s like having Plan A, Plan B, Plan C in place.

5. ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE WORK

Finally, management is all about getting ‘results’. All said and done at the end the achievement of results is what finally counts. It is every important to set a parameter to check if we have actually achieved what we set out for. That takes us to the first aspect of management – starting a project. Every project is started with a certain objective in mind. The process gets evolved and refined. But finally the target has to be achieved even if the route taken to reach there is different.

Contributed by - Radhakrishnan Pillai


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