12 / 1993
Management in the 90s has become a highly specialised and formal science requiring years of study and administrative degrees. Its secrets are revealed in a plethora of manuals which reduce it to a mathematically precise formula. There are often intimidating and inflexible rules. But the acid test is how far these regimented techniques have produced successful businesses and satisfied people.
In the Puttalam district on the west coast of Sri Lanka IRED runs many development interventions. What emerges is that management is the art of getting on with people. It is not a rigid science but a highly skilled art, an emotion fraught drama with frequent changes of mood and response. All those taking part in the activities, the actors must respond sensitively with feeling to what is happening around them. It is a mixture of artistry, empathy and psychological awareness to every moment of the plot. This cannot be spelled out in a handbook. It must come with spontaneous realisation of the situation and circumstances in which a particular event occurs. In the Puttalam district where several new ventures have been introduced and supported, this sensitivity is specially important. The villagers are uneducated and work through time tested skills. Maintenance of standards, quality control, punctuality are ideas beyond their ken. When you live by the seasons, or a natural cycle like sunrise and sunset what use are calendars and clocks. Habit dies hard so their supervisors should be one of them, experienced in their work and in their traditions. A foreigner is an alien and has no place.
In the same way money is made to be spent for immediate consumption and domestic needs, why savce, why re-invest it, food and shelter are more urgent than re-investment. Banking and credit are against which one can re-borrow. These ideas have to be gradually introduced in a manner acceptable to their way of life and thought.
Management then is the finely honed skill of getting on with people. It means being tuned to their needs, hopes and fears so that you can inspire their confidence and cooperation. The manager is like the conductor of a talented and temperamental orchestra. To interact well with them you have to be aware of the many instruments they are dealing with. Each must be in tune with the other as well as with themselves to produce harmony. Management in short means getting the best out of people.
IRED Asie (Development Support Service) - 562/3 Nawala Road - Rajagiriya - Sri Lanka Tel : 94 1 695 481 - Fax : 94 1 - 688 368