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How the Army learns management
Samyukta Bhowmick |
September 12, 2005
Discipline, self-reliance, single-minded dedication to a goal -- these are some of the 'life skills' you pick up in the Armed Forces. And if field strategy is your specialisation, there are skills of command too: say, how to coordinate a force of goal-oriented individuals to achieve excellent results.
Except that it's the field of business that rewards such skills most handsomely, thanks to market forces, and it's this field of business that former armed forces personnel are getting more and more attracted to.
What they need is a formal business education. Sensing an opportunity, both Gurgaon's Management Development Institute and the Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow, offer business courses designed exclusively for men and women from the armed forces.
The students are very enthusiastic. "There are many similarities," says Captain Ashim Saha, who has enrolled at MDI, "between the Army and the corporate world. For instance, you have to set yourself a target in both, and work towards achieving it; also, neither leave room for failure. We've already got the broad skills; we need to pick up the technicalities."
"There are definitely similarities," says Lt Commander Seema Verma. "But there are important differences as well. For instance, our approach to management would be one of strict leadership; we'd probably benefit from softer managerial courses. Also, while the target is still the achievement of a goal, it's not as simplistic in business as it is in the armed forces. You can't just look at your profits without looking at your costs."
The armed forces, for their part, are quite pleased to see their forces redeployed in the civilian theatre of business. Says Air Commodore JS Kalra, "Some of these men leave the armed forces at the age of 35 or 40 -- it's a huge national waste if these talented men retire so early."
No wonder these young people are finding it hard to resist the bait of MDI's six-month course, which costs Rs 1,20,000.
According to Ashok Panjwani, programme director, this year has seen as many as 52 enrolments, up from 30 last year. "We don't offer any guarantee of placement though," Panjwani admits and blames it on the 'mix' of students. "Some have 10 years' experience in the Army, some are engineers, some are clerks and some are from the infantry," he says. Not everyone from the armed forces makes a good management student. Several hopefuls have discovered, much to their dismay, that it's about market strategy and not shouting orders. And a strategy, generally speaking, that involves no unilateral offensive, but the maximisation of the win-win value.