Sundarrajk's Weblog

King and his Courtiers – Getting the Right Information (Based on Excerpts from Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar)

Posted on: December 13, 2012


The book Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar is about Rana Sangha and his son who was married to Meera Bai. The son is portrayed as an atypical Rajput prince. In one place he is shown musing these thoughts.

“Its such an elementary rule. I wonder why almost nobody follows it. If you want to find out how a department is functioning or how the work is progressing on a project, go unannounced. It has nothing to do with catching the people with their pants down or with their hands on the till. It is simply that that is the only way you can see them as they are, normal people. Normally efficient or normally sloppy. Give them notice and they’ll get the red carpet and put on a big show. But if all you want is to feel important, call them over. It is less trouble; your managers or ministers will be only too happy to take the day off and doctor the facts efficiently and you will never have to deal with unpleasant or intractable problems ever again. Sycophants are king’s first line of defence. They protect him from the truth and build a fine mesh around him which filters out all information. Its not just that bad news stays out. Often good news and good people too are disallowed entry. Because what you hear and see is what they want you to hear and see. When the end comes and the chair is pulled away from under you, take heart, your free fall will be swift and irreversible.” 

He further muses “The problem, of course, is how to keep all your channels of information open without being overwhelmed by them. Is there any way to institutionalize sources of criticism? But even if there was it wouldn’t help much because human beings are so adept at ignoring any point of view or opinion we don’t care for. Nobody can help you keep your communication systems open. You have go to work at them yourself, reach out and most of all, listen.”
What a wonderful observation about management. Every word is true. Do we not see it happening around us? Why do we not take the suggestion offered and go unannounced and listen. The second part is very important “You have go to work at them yourself, reach out and most of all, listen.”. 
Expanding on the theme of listening
Listening does not come to humans easily. What with one’s egos, position, equation with so and so and what not. But unless we listen, hear with an open mind and listen to what the people are saying it is difficult to be successful as managers and as a result a successful company.
English a complex language with subtleties possibly not present in other languages. There is a big difference between hear and listen. When one hears the horn of a vehicle one only hears it, one does not act on it. When one listens to the horn of a vehicle, one understands and one acts on it. Similarly when one “hears-out” an associate, one only hears what is being told. When one listens to another associate, one understands and one acts on it. It is important to LISTEN to others while being ready to voice one’s opinions without fear. 
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