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Arati Menon Carroll |
July 23, 2005
The setting for the play is the office of an advertising agency. The actors -- business development, sales and delivery teams at Hughes Software.
The plot -- management has introduced a new business development group to help sales teams sell and delivery teams deliver. There is an impasse between teams.
The plot thickens but just in time everybody realises the significant role each has to play in mutual interest. A happy ending.
This is how Vijay Nair, of Still Waters (a theatre group based in Bangalore), intervened when Hughes Software Systems enlisted his human resource services to address their need for team building exercises.
Nair used a theatre script to drive home the desired results. Does that sound too facile to be effective? It's not. Theatre interventions are being used by more and more organisations as a serious organisation-building tool.
As Deepak Mittal, executive business development director, Hughes Software says, "We were working in a matrix organisation and needed to work together to achieve optimal results. But frequently, we'd get lost in a downward spiral of interpersonal and intergroup distrust. The idea was to allow folks to introspect using theatre as a medium."
Says Nair, "At first glance, the structured world of management seems to have nothing in common with the creative and amorphous universe of theatre but in reality, there are several human processes in common. For example, more and more corporate leaders operate in a context of high-pressure and scarce resources -- a theatre director is expert at managing both".
Theatre is perceived as fun, creative and informal -- and by some as frivolous. So does it have a place in a solemn corporate setting?
"People today are exposed to so much training that standard methods are losing effectiveness. Theatre gets employees to look at themselves differently," points out Abhay Phadnis, chief operating officer-consulting services at Mafoi Management Consultants where Still Waters conducted interventions to drive customer consciousness and team building.
It's not always a skit that is staged. Sometimes, it is experiential learning based on the framework of an actor's workshop with sessions on organisational linkages. A workshop for team building may include working with masks and make-up for self-discovery, trust and bonding exercises, and role plays to build on team communication.
Nair, a soon-to-be-published writer, is a trained process worker with stints as human resource manager in British Oxygen and Berger Paints between 1990-1995.
Ironically, it took a nervous breakdown and the subsequent inability to return to his job with a multinational that led to him resurrecting his lifelong love for theatre.
After a month-long playwriting workshop with Sahitya Akademi winner Mahesh Dattani, he had written his first play, Shadows on the Wall.
Nair's resource fee ranges from Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 a day, depending on group size and number of facilitators.
And even though Still Waters' turnover of Rs 12 lakh (Rs 1.2 million) is a mere drop in the ocean, the concept is catching on. Companies like Citigroup are calling Nair back for repeat performances.Theatre seemingly cured Vijay Nair of his occupational malaise, and he in turn is using theatre to cure organisations of their ills -- and hoping some of the corporate goodwill he earns will translate into support for theatre.