Post- Crisis Blues


Prof. Subas KC, Kathmandu University School of Management


At the time of major national crises, we have been witnessing two regular trends – almost always. The first one is the emergence of inevitable tidal wave of “nationalism”, which is good to see happening (even though it recedes as fast as it rises, true to the nature of a tide!). The other one is much stronger and long enduring avalanche of “prolific profiteerism” that hits most of us harder than the crisis itself and washes away much of what we try to preserve after the trauma (again as avalanche faithfully does!).

What is surprising is the scale of both enterprises. There is always wider participation in them from multiple sections of the society, and surely there is always the much stretched “creative ingenuity” that is visible in their design and delivery. One would not expect the magnitude, intensity and novelty with which they emerge in the immediate aftermath of catastrophes that interrupt the rhythm of life and often threaten life itself. But they do emerge and exceed expectations (or fears).

Similarities between them, though, end here. If the “nationalism” helps little except perhaps some feel-good effect, it does not harm much either. I have little problem with it, though I wish our emotional arousal at such times resulted in a slightly more productive actions from each one of us contributing to the nation in whose name we go on our psychedelic rampage. I also wish it did not ebb out so quickly! It is in the very nature of a psychological escape route that it changes little of the reality but it does not make it worse either. Our nationalism is our psychological coping mechanism, an instrument that helps us redeem from collective guilt conscience. To that extent, I welcome the eruption of ‘in-crisis nationalism’.

I cannot, though, say the same about the other ‘inevitable’ of crisis that wrecks life and makes it wretched. It works with a wicked design, even worse than the crisis itself. Profiteerism perfects its art in our land at the time of national crisis, as we are witnessing now and as we did not so long ago. This indeed happens with almost religious rituality -and regularity!

What is happening now is no exception, or perhaps a better (or rather bitter?) version of the regularity. When a large number of people are reeling under acute scarcity of life-sustaining materials and over-supply of political bullyism along and across the border, the usual – and not-so-usual – “profit-multiplying” enterprises have sprung up more swiftly and severely than the onslaught of the crisis. One is astounded as much by the intensity of this entrepreneurial zeal as by the extension of its scope. It seems profiteerism is currently the most inclusive ideology and instrument allowing wider partnership and engagement of diverse individuals and institutions across regions, communities, religions, cultures, social hierarchies, and intellectual labels. A model of “successful inclusion” indeed! Diversity of shapes and sizes of the actors, but the unity of purpose! The single motivation is making money out of misery. Misery of millions but Millions for few!

I would have almost inclined to forget, if not forgive, this ‘evil enterprise’, consoling myself, though painfully, that it is the extreme extension of greed psychology some people always give in to, if it was not for the absolute absence of shame in running it. The art of shamelessness – and meanness – has perfected in their acts. No moral qualms whatsoever, no guilt feeling however little, and not even a faded trace of apologetic attitude! The money machine and the mean motivation are on a long over-drive without any feeling of repent or regret but, on the contrary, with a sense of rightful action. This is seriously objectionable. Right to reject others’ rights is as much preposterous in its logic as it is dangerous. And we know history has always been darkened when some people did exercise their rights to reject the rights of others. And this is exactly what we are witnessing in full version. Many, many rights of many, many people are being wrongly – and wrongfully – written off. No one has this right; no one should have.

In its proliferation drive, profiteerism has grown out of its individual enterprise status into a state of institutionalized ideology. It has always been there in some way but what we have seen lately is an unprecedented upsurge of the psychology and the corresponding practices of private gain at the cost of public pain by those who are there to protect people from such wicked designs. A case of the protector being a perpetrator himself! Indulgence in insatiable greed by public institutions, particularly at the time of crises, is an evidence of how much frail is our society in its constitution and how much uncivilized are we in our conducts. This is a risk from within, and this is a proof of social shallowness and hollowness. Borrowing from V. S. Naipaul, I would say ours is a “wounded civilization”. How else one can explain the gleeful gratification by one member of society in sucking the blood of another fellow sharing the same fate down to the last drop in the name of profit, be it economic, social, political or psychological?

And the mother of all wonders is our meek-to-enthusiastic participation in profiteerism by letting its entrepreneurs exploit us to their capacity and inclination. It takes place under various pretexts – from necessity to compulsion, and from optionlessness to helplessness. We are prepared to pay the highest price, even beyond our means, but not to accept even the lowest pain by avoiding the consumption of the “merchandises” of profiteers. By not being prepared for suffering a little – or even a lot, if it comes to that – with less than what we are used to in our consumption of the merchandises in the profit-multiplying markets at the time of crisis, we are becoming good partners of bad profiteerism. And this way we are giving legitimization to it.

I am not talking here about those among us who see their “social power and prestige” multiplied many times over and think their “psychological aggrandizement” is infinitely intensified by showing their “purchasing power and prowess” in becoming more than willing consumers and the highest bidders of in the market of profiteerism. To me, this is sheer vulgarism and third-degree vanity but, for reasons I cannot understand let alone explain, they perceive it as their verve or even virtue. May God bless their lost souls! But even most commoners like us fall prey to this temptation of giving in to the profiteers’ ill-designs but not to give up our consumption. Unless we are prepared to suffer a little now we will continue suffering a lot for ever. Sooner we understand this reality, the better off we will be.

A crisis shakes us all; it is in its very nature. But it becomes worse when a crisis also brings out the worst in us. It is a painful irony. One would naturally expect that we garner our best at these times of troubles but some or many of us seem to give our worst. In-crisis nationalism diverts us from facing the real issue, and proliferated profiteerism makes the real issue really bad rendering life to more miseries than by the crisis itself. We would do well to understand them for their worth (or rather lack of it!) and find alternative psychological and practical approaches to coping with post-crisis situation. A crisis always inflicts wound to us all, like it has done recently, but let us not make ourselves a “wounded civilization” by our own post-crisis actions.

 

 

MANAGEMENT RESEARCH: MYTHS versus REALITIES


Lecturer Roshee Lamichhane Bhusal, Kathmandu University School of Management


First, let me delve into some of the myths and stereotypes that surround research before I share my reflections on the realities of research.

The first myth—‘research qualification invariably brings quality into individuals’— is one that generally takes rounds in academic circles meaning thereby that those who possess or acquire research degree, by default, become better educators and purveyors of knowledge than those who do not have research qualifications and are regarded as such.

Another misnomer, which has the potential to negate the very primary purpose of research, is that research degrees sling shot one’s academic or corporate career into higher positions through promotions.

It is at this juncture, we need to pause for a while and examine these myths and misconceptions and question them through some serious introspection and reflection.

Let me begin by saying that Universities are the real epitome of knowledge, wisdom, research, extension, training, and consulting that convert the human ‘potential’ into “reality”. They should help facilitate individual, team, and organizational learning through interactions, listening, and self-examining processes. As seats of highest possible learning, they stand tall at the exalted pedestal for the growth and development of human resources. However, a reality check would make us realize the fact that they, of late, are turning out ‘Management Graduates’ but not ‘Managers’ and ‘Engineering Graduates’ but not ‘Engineers’. In the same breath, and going by the current status and trends in management research, one may be tempted to argue that they are producing research degree holders but not real ‘researchers’ in the real sense of the term.

A stigma that is already attached to the academicians in general is that they are engaging themselves actively in transmitting information from the textbooks to the notebooks of the students while producing nothing new or productive. Undoubtedly, this is only a reproduction of the old concepts and thoughts as well as a reiteration of the existing models and theories. Educators end up outliving their utility as they are mostly guilty of imitating others when they are expected to be upgrading their knowledge and updating their skill sets.

Little do we realize that the purpose of research should be to add something tangible to the existing body of knowledge. Often times, it may entail challenging the concepts and theories requiring either replacing with newer ones or reversing them altogether. However, we rarely witness such enlightening and path breaking research being produced.

In short, a major emphasis of research contribution has to be on real addition to the existing body of knowledge, opportunity for self-directed personal growth of the researcher, and increased effectiveness for individuals, groups, and organizations of a civilized society.

It is no denying the fact that research programs do succeed in inculcating some useful academic and professional values into the educator-research scholars. However, we shall reap the real gains only when we start questioning the very rationale and continued validity, relevance, and utility of some of theories that we, as educators have been monotonously lecturing on and discussing in our class rooms.

Research—especially in management discipline—is empirical in nature and action-orientated by character. Of course, it has to be suitably supported by the much needed rigors of theoretical back up. It has to drive people with a research bent of mind to increase their powers of creativity and become more analytical and critical in their respective domains.

It is worth mentioning here that there are two schools of thought that underlie management research. The first one calls for management actions to be based on evidence-based diagnostic research, the action-should-follow-research paradigm. The second approach argues that management research-should-follow-action to build a cumulative body of knowledge based on the analysis of real-business problems. Only when management researchers systematically do research on and evaluate business decisions can we know the real effects of these actions. And only when management researchers succeed in systematically building a body of knowledge can we build better business designs, models, and theories.

We should always keep in mind that the very purpose of research of any kind should be tangible and substantial and not superficial. Research scholars are believed to belong to a special creed and breed and made of different material. It is high time that both practitioners and other professionals in the field started viewing outputs and the outcomes of management research as a real value add for the resources they expend and the money they spend. To make this a reality, research has got to be carried out in the way it ought to be done. Or else, despite being called as privileged individuals, researchers would be attracting criticism from all quarters for making a mockery of the research activity. Promotions-driven and career-centric research by academicians is no serious research at all and it is never worth the name and the game.

The real paradox is that while Universities are manufacturing graduates and scholars in large quantities, they are not able to produce quality research. At a macro level also, the bane of the situation is that our public policies are poorly crafted while they are woefully implemented.

There is yet another problem with us: our mindset! We start off with a set mind and we rarely attempt to discover the ‘Truth’; we try to simply redesign it. We become oblivious to the fundamental tenet that our society itself is a product of ‘research’ as corroborated by our ancient Vedas, Puranas, and other age old scriptures. We also do not realize that research, after all, is a trainable, developable, promotable skill just as management discipline itself is identifiable, measurable, and transferable.

Viewing any kind of money spent on research as ‘cost’ rather than as an ‘investment’ is tantamount to degrading its imperativeness and utility. Research gains and retains credibility only when it is carried out by researchers who consider themselves to be truly empowered individuals having the needed freedom and autonomy. Research is never ‘cost free’ as it is resource consuming activity.

In the modern era, ‘Hunger for knowledge’ is grossly insufficient and passé. The new mantra ‘anger and intolerance for ignorance’ alone would keep us in good stead. Attempting to build institutions rather than simply carrying out instructions is the order of the day. We are tested for abilities to produce purposeful outputs to the institutions we work for and also positive outcomes to the society that we live in through our professional, social, and ethical means. It is only by involving ourselves in research, we will find the purpose of our education.

Any research activity should not be reduced it to the status of a hurried through ‘survey’ only to churn out some report to be submitted to sponsoring governmental organizations or fund giving donor agencies..

In conclusion, one can say research should be rich for its meaningfulness and affirmative societal contribution. It becomes meaningless if it just succeeds in making you rich! We need to remember that we are not resource poor but choose to remain to be research poor.

Face of Political Leadership: A Theory-based Analysis


Prof. Subas KC, Kathmandu University School of Management


I draw out below some quick inferences from the analysis of the emergence and effectiveness of political leadership based on case studies of some real time politicians in Nepal.  In doing so, I’ve made theory-based meta-analysis of the findings of the target leaders covered in the case studies and tried to identify a few implications for leadership emergence and effectiveness.

Theory-based Inferences

  1. Possession of certain ‘situationally appropriate’ personal traits and their ‘exploitative utilization’ explains their emergence as political leaders.
  2. Their effectiveness as leaders is generally low and, in majority cases, is fast declining – their ‘emergence traits’ are not helping much to ensure ‘effectiveness’.  ‘Effectiveness traits’ are in short supply or even completely missing
  3. Low or no observed effectiveness is partly a result of the process of ‘leadership derailment’ the process of which has already set in and is clearly visible in majority cases as one can establish by looking at the behavioral and situational characteristics associated with political leaders.
  4. Charisma explains leadership emergence in Nepali politics but fails to account for leadership effectiveness the reason for which appears to be the availability of – and obsession with – ‘personalized charisma’ among political leaders but lack of ‘socialized charisma’ associated with most of them as a result of which they are not able to pursue larger social mission in mobilizing and inspiring large number of people for social movement and actions.
  5. Some isolated cases suggest traces of ‘inspirational and socialized charisma’ but it is too little to have substantial and visible impact on the life of the nation. Such leaders are not in ‘position’ and ‘power’ to make much difference, and considering the fact that ‘position power’ is the main source of both perceived power and used power in our society, they have little clout for making changes.  Within their own parties they are ‘marginalized’ and they don’t have mass following.  Charisma coupled with power often results in major social transformation, but there is no such convergence here.  Even these leaders don’t have a strong ‘moral power’ base; hence their socialized charisma has produced little result.  This explains low leadership effectiveness of these leaders.
  6. The reason why despite little demonstrated leadership effectiveness many political leaders hold attention of people (positively or negatively) can be explained in psycho-dynamic terms.  They have a personality characteristic of a ‘marketer’, who has a high level of adaptability, self-promotability, and aligning capability.
  7. High expectations of people from some political leaders at one stage of their political career can be explained in terms of the personality characteristic of a ‘productive narcissist’, who is a self-centered visionary with a high desire for self-admiration. As they have embodied more of the weak characteristics of a productive narcissist such as little social connectedness and high self-importance rather than the strengths, they have failed to translate their self-generated or text-book vision into social results.
  8. Analysis of personality structures of political leaders indicate the presence of  a little ‘Rebel Child’ ego state among some of them that pushes them from time to time to revolt, break out and challenge the establishment and status quo, and for this reasons their actions are noted by people and they are admired.  However, this is not symbiotically linked with the ‘Adult’ (rational part of personality embodying thoughts and determination) and ‘Natural Child’ (emotional part of personality fueled with energy, zeal and novelty) ego states, which explains why the energy, risk-taking and change-orientation properties of their personality are largely under-utilized without producing profound changes.  It is a case of wasted potential.
  9. There are heavy dose of ‘Critical Parent’ ego state in the personality of many political leaders that explains their ‘authoritarian supremacy’ mindset and behaviors.
  10. Interestingly, even those political leaders who were academic high performers during their student life have not evolved into thought leaders and are not able to lead by creative and appealing ideas and communicating them in way that make them personally meaningful to the mass.  Thought leadership is not a defining characteristic of our contemporary political leadership.  So is authentic leadership; political leaders have not been able to establish themselves authentically as pro-people leaders earning their complete faith, admiration, hope and presenting role models.
  11. In behavioral terms, the styles with which political leaders relate themselves with the led are not in step with the development and responsiveness levels of the various categories of people.  Most groups of people have moved along their consciousness continuum, the political leaders have not.  There is an obsession with old authoritative and directive styles with little evidence of supportive, participatory and achievement-oriented behaviors.  Quality of relationship with people, except with a limited group of the leader’s coterie, is generally low.  There is little evidence that suggests political leaders behave in a way that helps people set goals for themselves and remove obstacles on their way to the goals; on the contrary, leaders may have, knowingly or unknowingly, created more obstacles.
  12. Some success examples of a few leaders at some stages of their political career suggest their capability to lead a narrow functional domain or campaign or movement for a certain period of time.  The successful functional leadership is not, however, positively correlated with their success as a general or overall leader.  Availability of ‘general leadership’ is even more in short supply in our politics.  This substantiates the proposition of ‘leadership deficit’ in our society.

Implications for Leadership Emergence and Effectiveness

  1. Our society will continue to experience a paradoxical situation of ‘abundance of leaders’ with ‘leadership deficit’ in politics – and by extension in other fields of national life.  Emergence of leaders is made easy by the rather generous supply of certain personal traits that are quickly acknowledged by political parties as essentials for recognizing and rewarding individuals as leaders.  What is needed is to develop better understanding of – and greater recognition for – effectiveness traits as evaluation criteria for making leaders.
  2. We will see more derailed leaders in politics, creating further erosion in people’s faith in leadership and dilution of and deviations from the national goals.  ‘Personalized charisma’ will continue to be main currency in politics and the roles of politicians will be either that of a ‘marketer’ or one of ‘weak productive narcissist’.  Psychological makeup of political leaders seems to provide more explanation to the low observed and demonstrated effectiveness of political leaders rather than the situational factors which, if not fully supportive, are not unmanageably adverse either, for the exercise of effective political leadership.   It would be immensely interesting and useful to psycho-dynamically analyze and understand political leaders and how their psychological strengths and deficiencies are affecting the way they are exercising leadership. Research studies would be required for this purpose.
  3. Both dysfunctional mind-sets and behaviors of political leaders as outlined above are not likely to change any sooner, and they will continue to spoil leadership effectiveness in politics.  The socialized charisma, though weak in potency, of some youth leaders will attract more similar youth into politics but as they will have little clout to influence major change, they will abandon the field and take up other vocations for living or will adopt the mainstream style of leadership for personal growth within the party structure.  This will further fuel people’s disappointment and disenchantment with political leaders.
  4. Leaders will continue to emerge without emergence of leadership and with little leadership effectiveness in sight.   Leadership development will be required to correct this situation for which the nation needs to make huge social investment over a period of time in terms of changing social values and norms associated with leadership, creating institutions and role models for training, developing and mentoring leaders, and establishing regulatory and normative frameworks for evaluating and rewarding leaders based on performance.  Leadership, in politics as much as in any other field, just doesn’t happen; the society has to make it.  We cannot wait till the social situation deteriorates so much that a new avatar appears to provide the leadership we need.
  5. The most critical implication of the quick analysis is that ‘replacement’ of current set of political leaders will have to be the priority agenda of the nation for the time being.  In the long run, there is no option.

 

I acknowledge the contributions by the EMBA Participants of the School’s for their field works, based on which this analysis has been done, as part of their Leadership and Change Management course I taught them.

From QUAKE to TAKE-OFF: Nepal’s Needs beyond Roadblocks


Lecturer Roshee Lamichhane Bhusal, Kathmandu University School of Management


Five months past the onset of the killer quakes, Nepali business is raring to go despite the challenges. With the motto of resurrecting and building back their badly battered sinews of economy into a better shape and strength, Nepali people from all walks of life got united post April 25. They also did what could be possible to help themselves to get back their self-belief that got thoroughly shaken. The help from the non-resident Nepalis has been tremendous. Had the Government of Nepal utilized the grants-in-aid that it received both in cash and kind from nations and people everywhere in an efficient manner, restoration and rehabilitation issues would have been handled more easily and at a much quicker pace. The gross inefficiency and ineptness in handling and managing the logistics by the State was shameful, to say the least. Hence, sadly, most of the donors have largely backed out in the donors’ meet in committing the amount of money they had initially wanted to offer and give to the needy nation.

The unprecedented recent destruction is all about decline, death, debility, and debris. GDP per capita has decreased by 23 USD after the earth quake while 8,500 people are dead, 23000 injured, and 0.5 million houses destroyed. Total need for reconstruction and rehabilitation is estimated at 6.7 billion USD (i.e., 33% of GDP) as the ill-fated earthquake has struck in the tenth month of the fiscal year (World Bank Report, 2015.)

Having gone through a disastrous earthquake with all its concomitant consequences of Himalayan proportions, Nepal, at this point in time, urgently needs to devise ways to bounce back. For instance, the growth projected by ADB for the current year is pegged at 3.04 percent as compared to an estimated 4.58 percent for ‘before the earthquake scenario’. Nepal can’t choose to remain aid-dependent forever. A self-sustaining mechanism needs to be devised to put Nepal back on the growth path in a better and stronger manner.

Combatting Foreign Aid Dependency

Nepal has not been able to unleash its full potential yet and problems such as “rent seeking behavior” still largely persists. Its dependency on foreign aid continues as ever. Corruption, inequality, and injustice abound as anywhere else in the world. Nepal and Nepali economy can hope to thrive only when burning issues like these are resolved and entrepreneurship is widely encouraged.

In fact, Nepali government should devise in near future a modus operandi of how it will be able to pay back the aid that it received immediately after quake. Our neighbors, India and Bangladesh, are equally prone to natural disasters. We as Nepali should think that we should also give back what we got in whatever small ways we can.

Primacy of Resettlement

Nepali government, to a large extent, has been able to provide immediate relief to the earthquake victims. But for cases of resettlement, the government has not been able to do it well. Victims of hilly areas cannot be just brought to Terai areas. The technicalities and other social aspects of such resettlement need to be duly taken into account.

The total loss of assets and loss of income equals one-third of GDP. Despite the loss, government was able to manage the initial crisis well. More than 3000 people have been airlifted and reconstruction is aimed to be completed within five years of time. Hence, disaster management in resettlement seems to be of prime importance in the wake of the current disaster.

Impact on Tourism

The other sector badly affected by earth quake is the tourism. Having made a short visit to Pokhara and Bandipur few weeks after the quake, I personally have seen the impact of the cancellation of hotel bookings. Alternate trekking route needs to be devised for areas deemed unfit to travel. Those areas marked safe should be marketed well.

Reviving Construction

Another area that is largely and directly affected is construction sector. Development has taken set back at the moment. Budget for development will be utilized for reconstruction and rebuilding damaged buildings.

The need of laborers in the coming two years is going to be massive. It is estimated that reconstruction work requires roughly 60 lacs workers for two years (assuming that if 6 people work to build a house). Apart from just reconstruction, the tunnel project and other development projects have been in pipeline for a long time. These require people and we need to identify ways to bring our migrant workers back to our country. Nepali migrant laborers need to be called back and the State should devise ways and means for providing high paying jobs to prevent Reverse Remittance (World Bank data puts it at USD 700 million). Unfortunately, much of the skilled labor force of Nepal stays abroad for the kind of benefits they get abroad and the country has faced acute labor shortage post-earthquake. Now, Nepal needs to devise ways to bring back its migrant workers.  High paying jobs that are closer to home and FDIs need to be encouraged so that migrant laborers can find a good reason to come back. Labor management is a big task. The State has to give it a thought as to what will pull these laborers to come back.

Very recently government has introduced the policy of free visas and free tickets to laborers in Middle East countries. It would have negative impact on the labor market of Nepal where there is already a huge dearth of labor pool in the country.

The Planning Challenge

Recovery is a multi-dimensional approach. Recovery budget of Nepal is stated at 6.7 billion. Pledging conference has got Nepal reasonable amount of money but the challenge is not how to get money but what to do with the money.

It is not as though Nepal has no money. What it lacks is its implementation capacity needing an immediate and drastic enhancement. What is most unfathomable and paradoxical here is while a private sector unit like DHL could handle all relief work so well, Government in power failed so miserably. It is time we ponder over the importance of allowing private sector participation in some important segments of the economy. In the case of Nepal, government intervention has not always been positive to make it just and equitable—be it in the case of Janakpur Cigarette Factory or Royal Nepal Airlines.

Inactive and reactive strategies are passé and may not provide the answer. In periods of turbulence, Nepal should gear itself up through a ‘dynamic engagement’. It should get adequately prepared for facing earthquake-like disasters in future and come up with ways to effectively mitigate their ill effects on one and all.

Start Up and Stand Up

Entrepreneurs need to be given the required latitude even inside organizations. ‘Startup Culture’ needs to be encouraged and good success stories of the West need to be emulated. Nepal and Nepali people have shown amazing tolerance in disaster. The focus of the country now should be to instill entrepreneurial flair. Entrepreneur is not just about creating and developing business but about character. The risk taking propensity has increased post disaster. So we need to capitalize on the bottom of the pyramid. People who have been victim of disaster need to own things up. Rebuilding cannot happen at the policy level alone. Affected people are to be made part of the process.

Challenge of the Unfinished Constitution

Nepali people tend to unnecessarily complicate the things and make matters worse by searching for extraordinary solutions for mundane problems. We do not learn from our own success stories. In the process, revisiting and re-crafting our constitution got jinxed leaving behind the highly contentious issues for want of adequate and suitable representation. This is resulting in our Constitution functioning in a sub optimal state while significant amounts of time and money have already gone down the drain.

Alternate Value System

Nepalese value system, which is still largely conservative, is not conducive for the Nepal economy to open up liberally in the required direction and quantum. We have capitalism but woefully it is crony capitalism to say the least. It is disheartening to note that Nepali business men are not able to figure out how to tap the large population of its gigantic neighbors—India and China.

Skilling Education

Education should not be archaic, largely chalk and talk. Education should be about skill transfer. Vocational education is the need of the hour. Education budget has gone to 12 percent post-quake which is the lowest in the decade. State should devise ways to increase enrollment in primary level. Once that increases, large chunk of the population will be able to move towards an educated future.

At higher education level, knowledge, skills and attitude, popularly known as KSA model has to be emphasized. Education should provide for gainful employment. It is where role of management education become instrumental. Management practitioners need to understand that this is the time they can utilize their knowledge and skills to help rebuild Nepal.

Management Education as a Catalyst

To make it happen, the role of management education becomes an imperative and critical while management graduates will be called upon to play a monumental role in the wake of current disaster to revive the present economy from its debilitating state. The MBA graduates can no longer afford to remain generalists but become specialists in particular spheres of activity and certain specific aspects while working in different sectors of the economy of their choosing. This also calls for business schools to run specialist MBA programs like MBA in disaster management and not a regular run of the mill vanilla type MBA programs offered usually. There could have been a glimmer of hope of speedy revival in Nepal had there been management graduates who were trained to become ‘specialists’. One could have reasonably expected them to handle such situations more efficiently and effectively.

Scourge of Less Developed Country

It is high time we thought of ways to jumpstart the economy and figure out solutions to graduate from LDC tag to ‘Developing Country’ status. That should be the vibrant and coherent vision of educated Nepali of Generation Next. And the only way out for that is Education to the masses.

Some of the ideas stated here are based on the views expressed by Mr Sujeev Shakya, Mr Chandan Sapkota, Dr Ram Sharan Mahat, Mr Kul Chandra Gautam, Mr Kusha Kumar Joshi, Mr Yogendra Shakya, Mr Sohan Khatri and Dr Govinda Pokhrel. I acknowledge with thanks their contributions.

From Euphoric Volunteerism to Prolific Activism: Way Forward for Youth in Action


Prof. Subas KC, Kathmandu University School of Management


A silver lining in the current crisis is the way our youth responded. Shaking of the earth shook them off the inertia. We saw, almost in a pleasantly surprising way, thousands of them spontaneously engaged with community, rushing to rescue the endangered and reaching out to help the helpless. Mobilizing resources and giving to the community have gained sudden premium among the youth who otherwise seemed ‘virtually’ locked into self-centrism. Kudos to those unnamed youth in thousands who have not only rescued the dangerously exposed fellow human beings but in the process have also salvaged our sinking hope about the future of this nation. Their acts have been both inspired and inspiring.

Now as the dust of devastation is slowly settling down – hopefully, that is – it is time we reflected seriously about promises and pitfalls arising out of the emergence of the ‘youth action’. I am sure spontaneous volunteerism is here to stay in both action and attitude of our youth. So will the desire to reach out, mobilize, and give to the badly bruised.   A new character of our youth and a new youth culture might as well be in the making. On a broader social level, it will be both a transformation and transformative if it continues and is consolidated.   Will it? Will we? I wish the answer was straightforward and unconditional positive.

My worst fear is the phenomenon we are witnessing – and much appreciating – may finally settle into only a euphoric volunteerism the example of which is not that rare for us to recall. Our culture promotes euphoric emotionality, and the psychology of youth is more susceptible to it. The risk is this surge of energy and enthusiasm may only be a fad and recede into oblivion for want of a sense of purpose and passion. Similarly the actions of ‘rushing to help’ may breed among the ‘helpers’ a psychology of giver and savior, reinforcing the traditional pattern of power relationship between the dole dispenser and the resource receiver.

For avoiding these pitfalls, leadership is critical. It is also a constraint at the moment. There seems to be an obvious case of leadership deficit in the sense of the youth not being provided with a purposive direction, role model, elevation of personal standards, and empowerment in their engagement with the community. I will not be surprised if this has given rise to a perspective of short-termism, not seeing the problems of the communities and their own roles in relation to the needs of the people at distress from a long term consideration.   But an even more important dimension of the leadership in this case is its emergence within and from the youth in action. Is it evolving? I wish I could answer positively and confidently.

Whether it comes from the existing or the emergent leadership, what is important is the recognition and acceptance of the need for regeneration of communities ravaged by the fury of nature, not simply relief, rehabilitation or rebuilding. While they must be priorities for now, a longer term perspective of regenerating communities for them to rise to a new level of collective being and doing must guide the immediate actions directed towards them. And the pattern of such actions should be in the form of active and collaborative engagement with the communities, the purpose not being to ‘give’ them but to work with and enable them. In the long run, the communities should be able to develop and regenerate in line with their own tradition and along the way of their informed aspiration. External supportive interventions should facilitate, not replace, it.

Our youth, so active now in working with the communities at distress, will do well to recognize and realize the true nature of their work. There is a need for moving away from euphoric volunteerism and into the realm of prolific activism as they engage with the communities at the time of distress and even otherwise. What is needed is not only action but conviction and passion and a clear sense of purpose, both personally and collectively. My hope is our youth will set this course for themselves and walk the way without waiting for wise words from elsewhere.

The recent earthquakes have regrettably demolished much of what were dear to us. If the tradition of our way of working for and with the communities is also abolished in the aftermath of the terrifying tremors, there will be at least one thing for us not to be sad about the loss we have suffered. This is both a challenge and a choice for our youth.

Devotional Spirit beyond Religion


Prof. Subas K.C. Kathmandu University School of Management


The other day, taking advantage of a break in the hectic work schedule that has annoyingly become my identity, I spent some time in a religious shrine, watching the fervent devotional spirit and passion of people.  Many fleeting thoughts and feelings whizzed past me but one of them lingered for long.  It was about the link between religion and management, or rather the thought about elevating management to a higher plane as an emotion, as a passion.  I wished other dimensions of social life, e.g. management or social work, could whip up as much devotional energy as by religion. The results would be fabulous, wouldn’t they? How can we link spiritualism with management, social work or other dimensions of life?

One specific dimension of this issue is making management and social science education more receptive of spiritualism in terms of curriculum design and program delivery.  This requires refocusing educational programs, e.g. MBA, to incorporate spiritual values and principles for producing management and social science graduates who will perform their managerial and professional responsibilities with a sense of higher purpose and a set of value-based practices. They will, I’ve no doubt, make a huge difference in how organizations are managed and social actions are conducted. We can expect better results from spiritually-inspired management and professional practices.

My contention or concern, though, is much larger than this – the devotional spirit and energy that religion evokes in people is so great that they go to any extent to observe religious practices willingly. Why, my question is, management or social work or other aspects of social life cannot generate even a fraction of that zeal? Despite different innovative approaches, management, for example, often fails to obtain and retain a high level of commitment of people to their work, as is a common experience of us all.  I think we need to analyze and understand the fundamental influencing property of religion that is so powerful in eliciting almost ecstatic energy and try to build it into other dimensions of social and organizational life for better commitment and inspired performance of people. I’ve no clue at the moment but feel that we can do some kind of deep reflection and research to find the answer.

I think future of the organized society depends on how effective we can be in elevating management and other social actions to the level of religion.  Difficult yet desirable, isn’t it?

On Resurrection of Our Nation


Prof. Subas K.C, Kathmandu University School of Management


Having lived a life full of expectations but with the bitter experience of denial and betrayal in their delivery while silently observing the crucifixion of the nation by its trustees for so long, I am sure all common Nepali now have one common dream: resurrection of our beloved nation.  I have this dream.  No goal is worthier than this.  A worthy goal demands – and deserves – a worthy effort.  Unless we put worthy efforts, this goal will be as elusive as ever.  So the need is for us to have our role in the nation’s resurrection.

As a matter of fact, resurrection of the nation has never been a more worthy goal in our history. To me, resurrection has a larger meaning – reestablishment of civil and economic rights and attainment of economic development as well as re-engineering of social, political and cultural structures and processes that have been contaminated over the years, and even redirection of nation’s psychology that has now developed acute psycho-pathological symptoms.  At the root is the issue of reconstructing nation’s conscience, spirit and self.  But I don’t want to bog down to definitional elements of national resurrection; what is more important is that we people realize and accept its need and generate enough desire and determination to work for it.  We can always work out the details when we as a nation resolve into our resurrection journey.

Yes, there are powerful elements who would force their own definitions and directions of resurrection, but this is where we need leadership. The identity of the nation cannot be a subject of ‘clan entitlements’; those who love the nation know what the nation is irrespective of whatever ‘distorted interpretations’ are circulated and even forced onto the people. It may take a long time for people to realize, even longer for them to act, but let’s not be so desperate in our spirit that we start giving up hope.

The love for the nation and the willingness to contribute to the society should be stronger than the fear of being one of them for emergence of new leadership. My guess is we’ve not yet arrived at this stage. Hence the suffering of crucifixion! Who will crucify those who are crucifying us? Let’s not wish that there are ‘extraterrestrial’creatures who will do it for us. We people must do it with collective thoughts and collective actions. Here lies the problem. But let’s not lose heart; the day will come, if not in my life time, then in the life time of my next generation

About my love for the nation, I am just an ordinary Nepali and I love Nepal just like most other Nepali do – perhaps not more but definitely not less either. I was born a Nepali and I want die as a Nepali, not with a fragmented and localized little identity tag that is now on sale.  And this is, I believe, the sentiment of most Nepali.

I agree we need to be a little more – or even a lot more – specific about our role in the process of building a better Nepal.  Accepting my agonizingly limited knowledge of what’s going on around in the country, constrained as I am by my almost negligible role in the national totality particularly when it comes to shaping and executing policies and actions that matter, I dare suggesting that there are many holders of roles right in front of our noses who are not only specific about their role but, more importantly, delivering it sincerely and sensibly – the way it ought to be.  But aren’t they marginalized and made to feel humiliated and guilty of their devotion?  What kind of society have we created where honest and capable role performers are to choose self-imposed exile and obscurity to preserve a little dignity they have?  This is shameful but since we have constructed it, we need to deconstruct it ourselves.

I believe many of us are prepared (and also capable) for taking our role in national resurrection but are disenchanted with the gross devaluation of national life to the extent that it is becoming disgusting. There lies the fundamental contradiction and our intellectual impotence. Role, like path, should be created but we are waiting for the emergence of roles for us.  Well, under the present systems it appears there is no role for those who go by principled practices and value-driven actions. It’s a catch 22 situation.  I don’t know what we can do but a serious thinking is perhaps the first step!  Other steps will follow.  Are we doing it?

When many people contribute even in a limited way that adds to substantial formation of capital of honest practices, dedicated services, clean conducts, and effective results.  At this stage, we need such ‘national capital’ built as much as possible and as fast as possible with as wide engagement of as many like-minded Nepali as possible.  I know this is a herculean task probably beyond capacity or time frame of our generation. Preparing next generation who can take it over from us is where I see hope.  I know criticizing politicians and bureaucrats does not serve the purpose and I consciously avoid attacking them knowing that their training has taken place in our impoverished intellectual and professional milieu with little inspiring role models.  But I also don’t believe that there will be change of leaders and in leadership any time soon in political and policy domains.  The best bet is to create a ground for a new movement with wider participation guided by intellectualism and professionalism.  Challenge for us is to accept it and work for it.

We need to work more and better to construct a viable model of nation building.  Till we are guided by the one point principle of ‘self-concentration of power and privilege’ at the policy and leadership level, we will have difficulty finding honest and well-meaning thinkers and doers come forward and deliver the results.  Changing this reality is beyond individuals’ scope and capacity; we need to merge into collectivity guided by highest professional standards and love for our motherland.  Nothing less than a social movement is what we need; and my dream is to see such a movement taking some kind of shape in my life time

I know and accept that bashing politicians or bureaucrats or educators is not a solution.  For this reason I consciously refrain from this easy option; we all must.  But this should not translate into passivity and apathy, which we see in plenty around us.  I think we must engage in meaningful dialogue among like-minded people to influence change and generate a formidable force for it to happen. This is a larger role than doing our duties honestly and efficiently. Many of us are doing our duties as best we can, though I accept many more need to apply themselves more honestly and passionately to their duties.  But I believe we need to go beyond that.

I may have given an impression of being sentimental. Yes, I am.  It has its own joy.  On the issue of the nation’s plight and possibility, I’m always tempted to give in to sentimentality. Indeed, sentimentality is probably the only luxury a poor teacher like me can afford.  It is the only capital people like me have in possession; and it is the only investment I can make for my country.  In any case, I’ve always believed that sentiment generates energy for action and altruism; and we need energy if we are to prepare us for change.  I am also aware of the fact that the energy thus produced should be productively channelized lest it does not take a negative course.  This is where we will be tested.  We must not fail us!!

Redirecting Management Education – Bring in the Nepali Context


Asst. Prof. Rojan Baniya, Kathmandu University School of Management


In the context of the vigor that Nepal experiences at the present time, a direction should be offered to the future pillars of Nepal. I’m talking here about reorienting education for management students. Not many years ago when I was a fresh MBA graduate, my career aspiration was limited to some commercial banks and  few multinational companies. I did not think beyond that. Despite a limited perspective, MBA instilled in me some sparks of entrepreneurship and desire to begin a business. I could not dare to go with the sparks as things are easier said than done and realities outside the classroom settings seemed unbeatable. Thus, entrepreneurship sparks died in between and like me, most of my friends too, opted for an easy way out- a secured and financially rewarding job in a reputed institution.

The trends seem same now when I stand in a position of academic and teach to MBA students in a premier management school. Interestingly, I do not see lack of vigor, vision and passion among these young management futures. Each one of them holds an ability to build the country and make Nepal better. Nevertheless, they still seem to be opting for a job in organizations, yes more different types of organization than before. This presents a big challenge as well as an immense opportunity for management schools that look towards making a long-lasting impact on the nation building process.

Of all the challenges, the one I regard as the foremost in this context is our dependency on academic materials- text books, subject matters, case studies and most important of all researches- that are designed and developed in the Western countries. The concepts, theories and researches of the West do hold a significance and help future managers and leaders in developing knowledge but they also limit their abilities to face and deal with uniqueness of managerial problems and entrepreneurship problems that exist in Nepal.

It is evident from the recent earthquake devastation that Nepali youth do not lack dedication, hard-working attitude and most importantly desire to help other Nepali people in need irrespective of geographical location, castes, income status and education. They are eager to be a partner in nation building. Management students are part of that youth who possess both aptitude and attitude for it.

It is time for management schools to re-direct their vigor towards an area that matters in the context of Nepal. It is high time now that Nepal needs to be known for its original, creative and innovative start-ups rather than Mt. Everest and Gautam Buddha and Brave Gurkha Soldiers. Therefore, I suggest as an academic the inclusion of courses that actually help management students in implementing their dreams of nation building. This can be done by bringing contextually related courses to provide right direction.

One course that I can think of in this context is Agro-tourism. It is a simple concept of merging agriculture with tourism. In Agro-tourism, tourists see and participate in traditional agricultural practices without destroying the ecosystems, the host bases. One can always argue agriculture and tourism are distinct from management but management blends with all areas of work and these are the areas that Nepal can always develop and take pride in. The integration of technicalities of agriculture and tourism and know-how of management will help establish agro-tourism as well. This will be a sustainable business for the country with opportunity of employments to Nepali people. Additionally, management aspirants will have more faith in themselves in paving a new path rather than walking in a walked path. Management schools and academics like me will have more sense of duty and inner satisfaction in being able to be guide such management aspirants.

To sum up, Agro-tourism as a course is one idea of a course among all other potential courses that can be thought of as being directly related to the context of Nepal’s uniqueness in terms of external environment. It is time for management schools, academics and management students to come out of their comfort zone and contribute significantly to national building with innovative yet contextually relevant courses. This could be a critical step for management schools in their journey of nation building.

‘Managementlessness’ in Political Perspective and Practice


Prof. Subas KC , Kathmandu University School of Management


Governance system has completely dominated the national debate and psyche as politicians and their parties are joggling, rather clumsily, the task of framing constitution. Shouldn’t we also debate what kind of management system will deliver the promised and expected results in new Nepal? I’d humbly submit that whatever governance system is in place, it won’t deliver if the nation is managed as before.  It’s time to wake up and work out; it’s already late.  I believe that a serious thought must be given as to how the nation is going to manage the new order that will be in place after the current political and constitutional exercise finds a logical conclusion, whatever it is.

One argument could be that without fixing politics, there is no point in debating about the management dimension of the national political order.  But I would argue that this line of thinking and practice has not paid off well to the Nepali nation. In last 60 years we haven’t been able to ‘fix’ politics in a way that delivers good to the people.

Fundamental though politics is, it will be suicidal for us to wrangle about another sixty years juggling about the appropriate political model. In the same period, a number of nations have zoomed sky high in their development with a variety of political structures and even with political experimentation. It is in the very nature of politics to be controversial but that should not stop leaders across the wide spectrum of national life to work on appropriate management systems and economic development models for national prosperity. I’d go to the extent of suggesting that the inability of our politics to do any good is at least partly due to its obsession with power issues only whereas politics elsewhere develop clear perspectives on national management and development issues. To me, ignoring these critical issues or waiting till politics gets settled before they are worked out is a doomed strategy from which we are suffering. Chance is that if we start working on them, even politics will be better.

My contention is about ‘managementlessness’ (forgive me for this idiosyncratic expression) in the perspectives and practices of politics and governance in our country.  This thinking, which one may contest and even condemn, is based on two fundamental propositions: a. management is pervasive across all human endeavors, including political and governance systems, and b. management creates a rational, or at least a logical, order for systemic performance and results.

With this basic conceptual perspective, I interpret management more in terms of a generic process that facilitates effective performance of any systems, private business, public affairs, politics included.  In this broad sense, I argue that the present political and constitutional debate in Nepal is painfully limited to the issues of governance system, state restructuring and social inclusion without considering their management implications and completely ignoring how will they be managed once they are in place.  This suggests a conventional and unprofessional approach to managing national affairs that has dominated the field in many parts of the world, more so in our country.  And this is what I call ‘managementlessness’ in our politics, government and society – and perhaps in our national psyche.

I have difficulty accepting the logic that we must first workout political structures and public institutions before we need to worry about managing them.  I don’t agree with this order of priorities that political traditionalism would argue.  They have to be taken up and worked out in tandem so as to ensure the viability and functionality of political systems.  But, unfortunately, our politics and politicians are mostly obsessed with power issue as reflected in the debates of governance or restructuring without even an iota of thinking about management vision in the whole exercise.  I tell anyone who cares to listen that it’s going to be costly for the nation as the new order of things they agree and put in place, if they do it at all, will produce little results relative to the aspirations of the people.  It will be old wine in a new bottle.  Here lies the fallacy and even folly of the entire exercise

For this reason, I’m saying that even politicians should have a managerial perspective, of course informed by the complications and complexities of the given social situation, to be able to create and put in place policies, systems and structures that ensure the delivery of peoples’ expectations as reflected in the interests of their constituencies.  Here, I am not suggesting that they should be managers or administrators of a particular system or function, but being broadly guided by managerial perspectives as they articulate, represent and work for peoples’ interests is, in my humble view, a necessity in the democratic polity in the contemporary world.  I’d not give much weight to the politicians ‘own interests’ in this debate, if for nothing else then for the simple reason that we have seen too much of it in the past.  The less such interest is present in politics, the better it will be.

But how likely is it for our politics and politicians to avoid the ‘managementlessness’ I mentioned above and embrace a ‘managerial’ perspective at this time when they are engaged, or so they claim, in crafting the blueprint for a new Nepal.  I don’t want to be a big pessimist but I see not much hope.  The change is possible when political leadership is able to garner trust and enthusiasm of people, which depends on their credible behavior.  Trust and enthusiasm are unfortunately in short supply in Nepali society, and it is largely the making of politicians themselves. They have failed to be credible.  In fact, my argument is that when leaders fail in politics of credibility they indulge in politics of identity. That too, their own and not that of the nation.  And that’s exactly what they are doing.

The politics as we’re experiencing – or rather suffering – today is symptomatic of a sick system which must be cured for a healthy future. Cracks in the social system and national identity are already visible to the great pain for most of us. I believe initiatives from the enlightened segments of the society are urgently needed to prevent the nation from crashing down, keeping the professional, disciplinary and psychological differences among us away for this larger cause.

What is sure is the nation’s identity is not high on agenda just as management of the nation is not. Personal or group identity seems to be gaining upper ground; this is a sinister motive with colossal consequences

Whose fault is this? Are only politicians to blame for the mess we are in now?  What about the roles of intellectuals, elites and professionals?  In a way, we all are responsible for where we are today – but some are more responsible than others.  What is sure is political leadership has failed us.  But so has leadership elsewhere.  The basic question is that of the intellectual foundation and values of Nepali leadership which has never been nourished with enlightened social orientation. It has been trained in the tradition of parochial and self-serving motive and behaviors.

I’m not sure if the situation could have been avoided with different role behaviors of intellectuals, elites and social leaders. My own analysis is that a different role behavior was – and is – not possible with such a poor tradition of intellectualism, enlightened elitism and sincerity in our social landscape. With scarcity of these fundamental ingredients, I’d be surprised if Nepali society could have behaved differently! Now the challenge is how to construct this foundation before expecting a difference.  And this is where our politics and indeed other actors of national life would do well to debate in earnest what kind of management philosophy, systems and structures are required as the nation is grappling with its political and constitutional character and structure.  This will be immensely helped by integrating management into political perspectives and processes.  Managementlessness is costly.

More Education but Less Educated People


Prof. Subas KC , Kathmandu University School of Management


Most people seem to want education but not to be educated!  Desire for degrees is dominant not the adoption of the learned practices and values in conducting life and its business.  This has led to a situation where we have more education but less educated people in society.  This is worrisome.

Degrees of course have their values from professional and career perspectives; and I, for one, would not devalue educational degrees but my main concern is that we have less ‘educated’ people with more ‘education’.  Here lies the problem with our educational systems. Instead of promoting passion for knowledge, education has become a fashion of pseudo-knowledge. This has severe implications for the future of society and civilization. What is more alarming is there is little understanding of these implications for our future, even less initiative to address them.

One of the reasons for such devaluation of education is the ‘mass production’ technology education is adopting; it has taken away the fundamental purpose of education, reducing it to the status of fast moving consumer good.

If one does not develop values and principles, then education has not served its purpose. Rationality and accountability are the qualities that are based on values and principles without which one is rootless.  Our education is largely producing rootless mass of degree holders.

Education demands – and deserves – a serious reflection as well as action, but that’s not forthcoming even from within the institutions of education. This is a tragedy, and no wonder it is festering frustration among many of us. This frustration is often manifested in the lack of faith on the value of education.

People often give in to the beliefs that education does not make much difference when it comes to developing attitudes, knowledge and capacity as well as in achieving success or worth in life.  However, there is no empirical basis for us to believe that it is true.  As any psychologist would vouch, attitudes, knowledge, ideas and capacity are all learned; they are not genetically inherited. Education is what makes us learn them.  But the tragedy is the educational institutions here have failed to help people acquire and use such attitudes, knowledge and capacity that both reflect and promote the best in human beings from the perspective of development of individuals and the society. Embodiment of these qualities and virtues among the people, who then can be described as ‘educated’, is the basic purpose of education. Our education is failing us in producing such ‘educated’ people.

As I see it, the fundamental role of best educational institutions is to discover empirically validated knowledge by integrating discovery of knowledge (through research in all dimensions) and dissemination of knowledge (through teaching again in all dimensions). They conduct and combine both; that’s why they are the best. Here in Nepal we have difficulty finding ready acceptance of this perspective and practice, let alone many examples of this model of education. This explains our sluggish growth as a society.

Having said this let me humbly submit that not all educational institutions are unaware of the fundamental role of education and educational institutions in the society, though they may be at varying stages of developing a right framework for their operations. Kathmandu University, for example, may be taken as a case in point, which has a clearly stated goal of developing as a research and residential teaching university, though resource constraint and the prevalent mindset of people and government about higher education have slowed down this process. It is trying to work on the model of integration between research and teaching.

Another point to note is that profit has been the defining character of most educational institutions, which is deeply cutting the root of education.  But again this paradigm does not define all educational institutions and educationists. There are exceptions to this general rule, and we must appreciate the good work some people are doing; otherwise ours will be a society devoid of any good people.

It’s already late to have a wider debate on the issue as a few years lost in right education means a generation lost in terms of preparing them for their role in productive role in the society.  My worry is such a debate in the present time will inevitably invite political perspectives and prescriptions which will not help address the issue.  It has proved disastrous, as we have witnessed around us on a regular basis, and the reason is not far to seek.  We have seen the breed of politicians who are devoid of knowledge and wisdom – and for this reason they may not be even ‘educated’ as I believe educated are the ones who have knowledge and wisdom relevant to their fields and also to the society at large. Of course, many of them are educational degree holders but those degrees seem to have added more confidence and cunningness to chase self-interests.  They might as well be good examples of ‘rootless’ leaders, not nourished by values and principles expected of ‘educated’ people.

Recognition of this fallacy of contemporary education is the first step toward correcting it. Corrected it must be for a better future.