By Suresh Mathew and Dilip Patel
Management trainer Dilip Patel was startled when, waiting at a traffic light, a stranger tapped on his car window and enthusiastically started telling how his family and work life had improved dramatically because of a three-day course Patel and a team from Initiatives of Change (IofC) had conducted in Bangalore’s power supply industry. The same response came from a crew in green uniforms, working to clear tree branches from overhead electricity lines. When they recognized Patel, they rushed towards him, talking about their gains from the Parivarthana Dhaare (‘A process of transformation’) training programme they had gone through months before.
They were among the 12,000 workers, supervisors and senior managers of the Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM) who have received IofC training in the past year. And who, right now, are going through a second phase of one-day refresher courses, addressing public accountability and safety issues.
BESCOM, a public sector undertaking, is the main electricity distribution company for the State of Karnataka in south India. This ‘process of transformation’ was initiated by its Managing Director, Tushar Girinath. A senior bureaucrat from the elite IAS corps (Indian Administrative Services, in 2006 he had attended one of the ‘Ethics in Public Governance’ programmes held at Asia Plateau, the IofC centre in western India.
It had a profound impact on him. Known as a tough efficient director, it transformed him into a calmer reflective person, bringing a change in his family life as well. Tushar was so convinced by the experience that he was set out to offer this experience of change to all his colleagues and staff in BESCOM.
Sarosh Ghandy, director of IofC’s Centre for Training in Ethical Leadership, and local IofC activists, Dilip Patel, Saju Kurian and Suresh Mathew, were called for a preliminary discussion where he outlined his vision for a two-tier thrust to bring a positive difference to his organization.
Tushar was keen that we have three-day workshops where issues of personal challenges, behavioral dynamics and wholesome lifestyles be given in order to initiate a cultural shift in the mindsets of his employees.
He was aware that organizations in the public sector domain have no real competition, with assured job security for employees and a wafer thin layer of accountability. The net effect resulting in half-hearted customer service, poor ethical behavior and ineffectiveness in the discharge of professional responsibilities.
He brought on board his General Manager HRD, Sathya Prem Kumar, who took on this task with great personal zeal.
Senior staff consisting of Chief Engineers, Executive Officers, Senior Accounts and HR Managers, and trade union leaders were nominated for training at Asia Plateau. While middle level officers (Deputy Mangers, Supervisors, and Accounts officers) were offered a similar module at the Ecumenical Christian Center campus in Bangalore. Over a two-year period from 2007, 90 senior executives and 300 Assistant Managers were covered.
The change in the working atmosphere was palpable.
Girinath then set out to offer the same experience of change to over 11,700 of his junior staff which included line men, meter readers and junior assistants.
The participants were to be employees at the bottom of the pyramid, making up 92% of BESCOM’S workforce. They had virtually no formal education, and had never been to any training programme of this kind. They knew only the vernacular language and had little motivation for change.
IofC had no previous history of conducting workshops of this magnitude.
The programme was designed over the basic desires of every human being to be healthier, happier and more successful in their life (not just the work place alone). This shifted their perspectives and they all participated enthusiastically, realizing their possibilities for better health, happiness and success.
The facilitators included doctors, industrialists, professors of management and retired senior bank officers. All had a passion to make a difference.
An intensive training began.
Over a nine-month period, the entire work force went through the uniquely designed Parivarthana Dhaare programme, each trained for three days right at their geographical locations. BESCOM’s management approached schools, colleges, community facilities and clubs to be used as training venues. Batches were formed so that there was minimum dislocation of work.
At any given period three-to-six classrooms were occupied, each with about 60 participants. They covered seven districts in Bangalore urban and rural jurisdictions.
The results were truly amazing. IofC inputs of listening to the inner voice, looking at purity, honesty, unselfishness and love were presented in a most practical way inspiring them to choose a better way of living. Hundreds gave up smoking and drinking habits. Thousands chose to take charge of their health, and begin exercises/walking/playing sports.
Within the context of finding health, happiness and success - the deepest desires we nurture at every stage of our lives - the participants were sensitized to the positive benefits of changing their lifestyles. They were taught that the responsibility was in their own hands.
Interactive processes were developed, games were created; the last half a day was designed to connect them back with their superiors through meaningful dialogues.
Anger-management techniques evoked huge interest, as did acupressure for minor ailments.
Sathya Prem Kumar, General Manager for HR, attended the opening and closing ceremonies of over 80 % of the 170 workshops. The management intentionally set out to hear from employees about deficiencies or errors of the company in the areas of materials, safety and procedures. They directly addressed 19 of 23 major issues that surfaced, increasing the trust level of the work force.
But the larger intangible outcome has been in the lives of those employees and managers attending – like the linesmen enthusiastically telling Patel what had changed. Or ‘Raju’, a lineman who entered the classroom on the first day under the influence of alcohol. Three days later he was completely off alcohol. Four months later he has become an efficient lineman at work, and has saved enough from not spending on alcohol to buy a colour TV and a new bed needed in his home.
Now BESCOM has asked IoFC to once again engage all their employees, to take a one-day refresher course - this time to share with the facilitators their past year’s gains in their personal and work life, and to address safety and service issues.