Management Case Studies: Hoodwinking by a Large Company

Hoodwinking by a Large Company

Shahane, the corporate HR chief of one of the largest companies of the country was teleconferencing with Winnekar, one of the most reputed management gurus of the same country.

Shahane suggested, “Why don’t you drop in at our corporate office one of these days? We need to discuss with you our latest ambitious project of training a new lot of some 1000 field officers in various soft skills. It’s meant for our newly formed subsidiary in retail business called “My Store”. We can’t think of anyone other than you to accomplish this goal. I know you are the busiest management consultant of our country. Yet may I request your time?”

Winnekar grunted a bit hesitatingly. It did not convey any great enthusiasm, rather it conveyed a good degree of disinterest. He was already quite busy with other assignments. He would find it difficult to squeeze in one more assignment. Winnekar’s reluctance did not go un-noticed by Shahane at the other end of the telephone line.

Shahane quickly supported his request by adding, “Sir, I will make all your travel and stay arrangements. My company will foot the bill. And it will be a matter of just half a day. Our corporate chief of management services Mr Bhatti- my boss hasn’t met you earlier. So he desires to have a person to person meeting with you. He is quite aware of your reputation. He mentioned to me that he would not settle for any other management consultant for this vital assignment. So Sir, for my sake please accept my request for an early meeting.”

Winnekar being a bit of a soft person finally gave in. He replied, “Shahane, if you insist I cannot say no to you because of our long association. Since I never met your Bhatti earlier, this gives me an opportunity to meet him too. How come he comes into the picture this particular time? You were in-charge of all the decisions on training matters all along?”

Shahane said, “Mr Bhatti is on the board of “My Store”- this new subsidiary company of our group where this training is required. As its director he is personally responsible for all the aspects of the new project. That’s why he is taking quite a lot of interest in the training of the new recruits- it’s a people intensive company. Will the coming Monday be OK with you?”

Winnekar consulted his diary of engagements and confirmed, “Monday suits me. Ask your driver to report me sharp at 8 AM.”

Shahane was extremely happy with Winnekar’s yielding. This would make Mr Bhatti very happy. He had scored a point in the eyes of Bhatti. It was very important to keep Mr Bhatti pleased all the time. He was one of the most important persons in the top hierarchy of the group and he was the kingmaker. Displeasing him meant stunted growth in the company.

On Monday the three met in Bhatti’s palatial office. Meeting lasted just about a few minutes. During that time Bhatti looked after Winnekar very well. He treated him with utmost respect that a management guru of Winnekar’s calibre deserved.While departing, Bhatti shook hands with Winnekar in the warmest possible manner and requested  “Sir, I am personally grateful to you for accepting this training assignment. Our boys are now in safe hands.”

Then he turned towards Shahane and ordered, “Now I expect you not to lose a minute in preparing the necessary paper work. Kickstart the training at the earliest.”

Shahane nodded in agreement. Shahane discussed the commercial terms with Winnekar. Winnekar gave his quote based on training 1000 officers.

As soon as the meeting was dismissed and Winnekar was dispatched, Bhatti got into a secret meeting with Chatterjee, the new HR chief of another subsidiary company of the group. This newly formed subsidiary “Universal Training and Consultations Corporation” was formed to grab the newly flourishing market of corporate training and consultancy. This new market had tremendous potential and “Universal Training and Consultations Corporation” was supposed to capture some 35% share of business.

Bhatti advised Chatterjee, “I know that it’s a tall order to capture 35% share of business in the very first year. Particularly you will have tough competition from the likes of Winnekar- the reputed management gurus. Most companies like to get their employees trained by Winnekar and such others. But we have an advantage. We are a big corporation and we can hire the upcoming management trainers and train them as very effective trainers in no time. To start with I want you and the other trainer Kapur you have recently recruited to attend the soft skills training programs of Winneker. These are soon to start for the field officers of our retail company “My Store”. Then you two will train the others whom we will be recruiting soon. Is that clear? Attend the first two training programs of Winnekar and learn all the tricks of the trade. No one else can give you the way Winnekar will give you.”

Chatterjee had no option but to say “yes” to the dominating boss like Bhatti.

Winnekar and his co-faculty Kirti soon started their first training workshop spanning six days for the first batch of the field officers of “My Store”. The batch consisted of eighteen field officers of “My Store” and  two faculty members, Chatterjee and Kapur of “Universal Training and Consultations Corporation”. Winnerkar and Kirti had no reason to doubt that two impostors were planted in their program to learn the tricks of the trade. Chatterjee was seated in the second row and Kapur was the backbencher.

As the day proceeded, it did not go unnoticed by Winnekar that Chatterjee and Kapur were the most sincere participants in taking down the notes. Their pencils never stopped. Their heads were bent down all the time and they kept filling notepads after notepads. They also enthusiastically took part in various games and exercises that were conducted as the part of the training. He brought it to the notice of Kirti- his co-faculty. Winnekar and Kirti did not hesitate to point out the sincerity of Chatterjee and Kapur to other participants.

The first program concluded very successfully after six days.

Chatterjee and Kapur reported to Bhatti, “We picked up a lot. But there is so much more to learn from the experts like Winnekar and Kirti.”

Bhatti scolded, “What’s your problem? Attend the second program too.”

Chatterjee took courage and spoke, “But sir….”

Bhatti almost shouted, “Don’t but sir. Make any excuse that is convincing for attending the program the second time. Or do you want me to dictate to you that too?”

Chatterjee and Kapur submitted in unison, “Sir we will attend the second program too. It will be highly beneficial for our organization.”

The second program started in the right earnest. Winnekar and Kirti welcomed the next batch of twenty field officers. This time Chatterjee and Kapur sat in such a manner that they were practically hidden behind the other participants. It was difficult to notice them easily. But twenty is not a big number where two persons can easily get lost. Towards the end of the first day Kirti spotted them while they took part in a management game.

As the participants were busy carrying out the management exercise, Kirti almost whispered in the ears of Winnekar, “Did you see something unusual? Those two guys are Chatterjee and Kapur.”

Winnekar looked at Kirti quizzically, “So what?”

Kirti answered, “These are the same persons who attended our first workshop. Why are they repeating? They were already the best trainees.”

Now Winnekar too got a bit suspicious. “Yes, why are they  repeating the training? Tomorrow we will keep a keen observation on them and see what are they up to?”

Next day Winnekar and Kirti kept a close watch on the activities and movements of Chatterjee and Kapur. During the lunch time when all the participants went out of the conference hall to eat their lunch, Wnnekar and Kirti remained behind in the conference hall.

Winnekar went to look into the writing pads of Chatterjee while Kirti went to scrutinize to see what Kapur had so hectically scribbled in his notepad. Both got stunned by what they saw. Chatterjee and Kapur wrote verbatim what Winnekar and Kirti had been speaking in their workshop- not a single word was missed. They had even noted down the pauses and the gestures and the grunts made by the faculty duo. It was just like the video recording of the proceedings of the entire workshop.

Winnekar and Kirti quipped at the same time, “Are they spying on us? Or are they the trainers in the making? Or something else?” Both could not come to any conclusion. They decided to probe Chatterjee and Kapur.

And during the tea/coffee time towards the evening they asked upfront, “Why are you repeating the training program? You have absorbed all the knowledge in our first program. We had declared you as our ideal trainees.”

Chatterjee and Kapur had rehearsed their excuses. Chaterjee took the lead and spoke, “Both of us joined the organization very recently and till date we haven’t been allocated to any particular department. And therefore our management advised us to remain deputed in the training to kill our time gainfully. After all we are learning in-depth whatever you are teaching and surely we will benefit by it. We are sure that our management must have already told you about it.”

Winnekar said, “No, we have not been informed so far. We will check up after the program is over. Or may be we will hear from them earlier.”

After this conversation Winnekar and Kirti got very busy with the conduct of the rest of the program. The program was concluded on the sixth day and they went to their office situated in another city.

Winnekar decided to talk about Chaterjee and Kapur with Shahane at the next occasion of meeting with Shahane.

Presently Winnekar was expecting the schedule for the third and subsequent programs to train the rest of 960 officers. Days passed. Then a week passed. Finally Winnekar shot out an email to Shahane about it.

In reply he got this email from Shahane, it read, “Due to unforeseen circumstances beyond our control our management is constrained to shelve the entire training project until a further decision is taken. We regret this. We place on record the outstanding work you did for our forty officers in your first two programs. Since we are not in a position to continue with the programs we promised, as a professional gesture our management has decided to compensate your design and development efforts for the programs. In addition to sending your invoice for conducting the two programs kindly send one supplementary invoice towards your design and development charges not exceeding the professional charges of conducting one program. We look forward to our long term professional association.”

A few days later Winnekar received one more email- this time from a participant of the first batch of training program. He wrote, “This is to thank you and Kirti madam. I am writing it on behalf of all the participants of the first batch program. All of us got benefitted tremendously from your teachings. However our rest of the 960 friends from the third batch onwards are missing your guidance already. Rest of the field officers are now being trained by our internal faculty drawn from our sister concern “Universal Training and Consultations Corporation”. Their training programs are far inferior to your programs in contents, quality and style. That way we were mighty lucky to have been trained by the enlightened gurus like you. Our best regards to both of you.”

In days to come a grapevine reached Winnekar. Shahane was transferred to an inconsequential assignment in group’s loss-making company in a remote place as a punishment for arguing out a controversial case in favor of one of his training vendors with his all powerful boss Bhatti. Bhatti did not care about the ethical aspect of that particular case Shahane was trying to put forth to Bhatti. Bhatti’s   oft-repeated line was, “Everything is fair in business.”

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About Shyam Bhatawdekar

35 years’ industrial/business experience as a top executive & 35 years’ parallel academic/consultancy experience in general management, behavioral sciences & technology. Areas: general management, production, human resources, industrial engineering, systems, MIS, computers, corporate planning, audit, sales/marketing. Penchant for information technology & behavioral sciences; integrated with conventional technology makes him unique thought leader. Conversant with academic theories & realities of business, fuses the two into practical approaches. Was associated with Tata Motors, Hindustan Motors, Hindustan Aeronautics & ThyssenKrupp; held top positions as highflier executive. Presently Chairman & Managing Director, Prodcons Group associating with 250 organizations; providing management & I T consultations & conducting seminars/workshops. Been a faculty for IIM’s, TMTC, Railway & HAL Staff Colleges, Symbiosis. Speaker with 35000 hours’ experience benefitting more than 100,000 people. Published 35 articles in Economic Times, Indian Management & Computers Today. Authored 27 books. Invited as key speaker in seminars by AIMA, HRD Network, NIPM, QCFI, CSI, NPC. Widely traveled. Education: Engineering & Management.
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