Principles of Management in Tirrukkural

All professionals, whether in public or private sector, or in government institutions, are involved in some type of managerial activity or the other. While imparting training to the new recruits in branches such as planning, organising, staffing, coordinating, reviewing and budgeting, the organization that employs them ensures that they are adequately trained and made fit for the job for which they have been chosen. Today there are certain special management institutions and business schools, like the IIMs in India, and the leading business schools of America, like Harvard and Wharton, which are coveted by young graduates to equip themselves in managerial skills.

It is surprising to know that nearly one thousand and eight hundred years back, when Tirrukkural was written, certain chapters were devoted for functions of management. Unfortunately, not much is known about Tiruvalluvar, who had authored the Kural. He had composed 1330 kurals in 133 chapters. These chapters were divided into three broad categories: On virtue, On wealth and On love. His wife, Vasuki, was very devoted to him and carried out his commands faithfully. Historians have not been able to determine the religion or the caste of Tiruvalluvar. His kurals do not show any religious allegiance. That is perhaps the reason for the eminent English scholar, Dr. G.U. Pope, to call Tiruvalluvar as the bard of universal man.

Since many of our kith and kin havenít had the pleasure of reading the original Kural, I thought it fit to give them a glimpse of a few couplets that have beautiful aphorisms. Each kural consists only of seven words and the ideas in them give a pointer to run the organization and define the principles that would suite all types of management activities.

I cite below a few examples Ė

Vinai-titpam enpatu oruvan mana-titpam
Matrai ellam pira. (K: 661)

Translation: Efficiency in action springs from resoluteness of mind. All the rest come only later.

There is a popular quotation, which can be paraphrased as people who strongly desire something often get it. It is the job of the manager to conceive the goals to be achieved for his group or department and remain resolute in achieving them. When such discipline is shown, the overall efficiency in action of the organisation will improve immediately. Tiruvalluvar believes that this is the most important thing to keep in mind. All other things are only secondary.

Porul-karuvi kaalam vinai-idanodu aindum
Irrul-theera enni- cheyal. (K: 675)

Translation: Resources, means, time, action plan and place are the five factors that need to be considered before embarking on a project.

In this modern technological world, any person who ventures into a project will readily agree with this simple statement.

Mudivum idaiyurum mutriyanku eytum
Padu-payanum partu cheyal. (K: 676)

Translation: Before commencing any action, it is wise to consider in depth the objective, obstacles as well as benefits on completion.

Present day management principles speak about MBO (Management by Objectives) theory and SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat) analysis to be considered before initiating a project. Tiruvalluvar has spoken of these very same points.

While sanctioning any project plan, it is necessary for a manager to ensure that the team has clearly defined the final result, considered the potential risks and evaluated the cost benefit and time for payback. The project network analysis needs to highlight these essentials before commencement of the project.

Seyvinai seyvaan seyal-murai avvinai
Ull-arivan ullam kolal. (K: 677)

Translation: The person responsible for a particular job should take the view of the expert on the subject.

In management meetings, different views are expressed which sometimes go off on a tangent. This is wastage of time. The manager has to evaluate for himself if there is a subject matter expert whose input is sufficient to get a particular job done. If so, he should take the services of the expert and avoid unwanted meetings.

Nattarku nalla seyalin viraintate
Ottarai ottik kolal. (K: 679)

Translation: Even more urgent than rewarding friends is the need for making friends with your enemies.

This pragmatic, Machiavellian sounding kural, speaks to the ambitious manager who is focused on his career. It is a very competitive world in which we live. A personís promotion often elicits adverse response from his peers. So this tactical approach will help a person distinguish himself from others and at the same time achieve his career ambition.

Vinnaikkan vinaikedal ombal vinaikkurai
Tirntarin tirntandru ulaku. (K: 612)

Translation: Beware of leaving any work unfinished; for the world does not care for a person who fails to complete his allotted task.

Commenting on this kural, Rajaji has said that only through action a man can achieve his purpose in life. Bhagavad Gita also cautions one to guard against inaction or incomplete action. From my own personal experience, as one who has put in thirty-four years of service in Central Government, I can say with confidence that the things that give me the most satisfaction are those which I could complete as per plan.

I have so far given only a glimpse of a few of the kurals on management. My objective here is to evoke some interest among the readers to further pursue the Kurals and find other sage advice. I would recommend Tirukkural: with English Translation and Explanation by Dr. S.M. Diaz, I.P.S., Ph.D. Both C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) and V.V.S. Iyer have also published their own interpretations of Tirukkural in English.

Hope you have an enjoyable time reading the Kural!

January 2006

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