Published in Corporate Dossier, Economic Times on Oct 3, 2008.
When Alpesh took over as the manager of a huge multiplex in a Tier 2 Indian town, he suddenly found himself heading a team of forty people. Some he liked instantly. Some he did not. Some he found positively repulsive. But he did not have the luxury of firing anyone. He had to work with all of them. And he wondered how? And strangely he found his answer in astrology. Not in the content of astrology – but in the structure of astrology.
As a child he was taught that in Hindu mythology Devas are good and Asuras are bad. But whenever his mother made him visit the shrine dedicated to the Nava-Grahas, the nine gods of Indian astrology, he found there not only Devas and their guru, Brihaspati, but also two Asuras, namely Rahu and Ketu, and their guru, Shukra. In all prayers and rituals, the two `demons’ are acknowledged and included as equals. He was told that all Grahas matter. Good or bad, they formed a team and none could be excluded. It dawned on Alpesh that before him were his Nava-Grahas (not nine but forty) and he had to find a way to work with all of them. Exclusion was not an option.
Alpesh knew that each Graha had a particular characteristic and this could not be changed. Like the Grahas, every member of his team had a peculiar characteristic that did not change no matter how many times they were counselled or trained. Some were like Surya, the sun, radiant, glorious, and attention grabbing. Some were like the moon or Chandra, highly emotional, with moods constantly waxing and waning. Some were aggressive like Mars or Mangal. Some were sharp, intelligent, good in communication, but slippery like Mercury or Budh. The Jupiters or Brihaspatis were rational, scientific, evidence driven and boring. The Venus or Shukras were sensual, creative, intuitive, creative and crazy. The Saturns or Shanis were exasperating – brilliant but cynical, hence lacking sense of urgency, testing Alpesh’s patience. Alpesh did not like the Rahus of his team, who hid things, blocked ideas, created darkness and spread confusion. He did not like the restless and nervous Ketus either because they had no sense of direction. Like Grahas, Alpesh had to work with the traits of his people – either enhance them or neutralize them as the situation demanded.
Alpesh began to see his organization as the sky. Just as the sky is divided into lunar houses (Nakshatras) and solar houses (Rashis or the Zodiac), his organization was divided into departments. The finance, HR, marketing, sales, research, service, housekeeping departments were just starry constellations inhabited by his Grahas. Just as a Graha exerts its influence on the house it occupies, and by doing so influences a person’s fate, Alpesh’s team members exerted their influence on their respective departments and thereby affected the overall working of the organization. If his cashier was a Brihaspati then everything was done systematically and rationally, if he was a Shurka then the work was associated with great ingenuity. A Shani cashier never did things on time while a Ketu cashier was always nervous and restless.
The question that naturally emerged in his mind was – which Graha was good for a job. He found no answer because it all depended on the outcome he desired and the role a department had to play. There were times he needed a Rahu heading the Human Resource department to hide the actual goings on and there were times he needed a very transparent Surya. Initially he wanted his promotions to be managed by an aggressive Mangal who could get things done. Later he needed a more sensitive Chandra, who understood the needs of the consumer. Situations, Alpesh realized, made a Graha good or bad. He stopped judging people. He focused on analyzing situations and fitting people to the problem at hand.
In astrology, great value is given to the relative position of Grahas to each other. Sometimes a Graha can enhance the power of another Graha and sometimes they can negate each other and sometimes the entire combination had an overall positive or negative effect. This is called yog, an understanding of which helped Alpesh in designing teams. Homogeneity was out of the question. A team full of creative Shukras or full of detached Shanis led to disaster. Heterogenicity was critical but careful attention had to paid to inter-team dynamics. Keeping an aggressive Mangal with a restless Ketu was nothing short of a prescription for disaster. For ideas, Alpesh needed creative Shukras but for implementation he needed organized Brihaspatis. For vendor negotiations, the intelligent and sweet talking Budh helped and for crowd management teams he relied only on powerful Mangals.
Success then was a combination of several factors. First, the nature of the Graha. Secondly, the house that was occupied by the Graha. Thirdly, the relative position of the Grahas. Finally, and most importantly, the problem at hand and the outcome desired. No team could solve all problems. The team that could handle the weekend rush was unable to cope with the weekday monotony. The team with came up with innovative ways to solve the water crisis in the multiplex was unable to solve the problem of irate customers.
Alpesh noticed that much of his success depended on his power of observation – his sense of people, relationships and situation. Without knowing it, he was becoming Indra, the god of the sky, the one with a hundred eyes. His observations helped him determine the role and responsibility of each person. It helped him determine team composition. It helped him take calls – know who had to be leader and when. He realized there was no great perfect horoscope with the perfect placement of Grahas. It was all contextual and it was all ever changing. Sometimes, despite all cautious moves, things went wrong. At those times, he found someone always came up with an Upaay, that trick astrologers always have up their sleeve to counter the malevolent influence of any Graha to resolve any crisis.
Thanks to this visualization of his organization as the sky with fixed stars and floating Grahas, Alpesh stopped getting annoyed with the Shanis or Mangals or Ketus of his team. He found value in each one. Demons in one situation were gods in another. It made sense to worship the collective and celebrate diversity.