In the Land of Scheherazade

The Preamble

NASSCOM HR Summits are now famous for their thematic set-ups. Rather unique, one might add. This time, the floor resembled the board of a popular game – Snakes and Ladders. Not very unlike the popular game, corporate decision-making too had a high degree of uncertainty where plaudits and penalization were often a dice-throw away. Just as right decisions result in moving up the ladder and wrong ones, in being eaten (devoured?) by a snake.

Beyond the registration desk, a flight up, one entered the plenary area through gates which resembled the car “DeLorean” in the movie, “Back to the Future.” There were two dates etched ominously – the current one, July 2017 and 2020, the future. It signified, where we are today to where we are likely to be from an HR function standpoint. The stage backdrop had a Lego-like look and feel, resembling a plug-and-play approach. The theme, “Talent Strategy 1-3-5” was about looking at various HR strategies from an immediate, mid-future and long-term perspective – the numbers signifying the time frame in years.

The Back Drop to Storytelling

Technically, the first session at the NASSCOM HR Summit 2017(even before the President’s Welcome Address) was that of Ankit Chaddha, wearing many hats – a writer, storyteller and an indefatigable showman. To top it all, he was dressed in a rather unique manner – taking us back to the time of ancient storytelling made popular by the legend of 1001 Araan Nights.

So what was he doing in Chennai at a NASSCOM conference on HR, dressed in ancient clothes characterized by Islamic tradition with a stage set-up to match? Titled, “Dastan Ek Chhoti Si Cheenti Ki” it was a veritable attempt to bring back the tradition of story-telling to create an impact. To underscore the significance of the ambience, Ankit insisted that claps be replaced by “Wah Wahs”, much to the delight of the august audience. Clearly a throwback to the times when oral communication reigned supreme and messaging most powerful when narrated through stories, some of which have stayed on. And he started to narrate the story in chaste Hindi with Urdu words interspersed generously.

The Story of the Diligent Ant                

Once there lived an ant, as the story goes, who would go to office everyday in a very happy state of mind. She was most committed and conducted her job most diligently. There was always a smile on her face. The CEO of the organization was a tiger and seeing the ant happy all the time, began to suspect that perhaps she was not being optimally utilized.

So he struck on a brilliant idea. He recruited a spider as the ant’s supervisor whose duty was to micro-manage her and make her more productive, optimize on her potential which would result in increased output and translate into higher profits. The spider was most experienced and brought in ideas like Time and Motion Study, Report Writing, Process Definition and was known to be the the backbone of an organization etc.

And so it went on…the ant worked, reports were generated and the spider kept a strict vigil on the productivity graph. After a while, the reporting got very cumbersome and so the tiger decided to hire a termite as a secretary for the spider-supervisor. She added much “value” to the system by helping her boss clearly defining processes once again, measuring outcomes through improved metrics, upping targets incomprehensively, cutting costs and bringing in ergonomically designed chairs.

The ant started to feel harassed – deluged by subjective assessments, organizational culture, presentations, deliberations, reiterations et al. In turn, her output was adversely affected and it eventually dwindled.

The system was getting more and more complex by the day. So the tiger decided to hire a subject matter expert – a crow. One who had great knowledge, was industrious and yet kept a very low profile.


Then the HR manager intervened. The organization looked to be “over-staffed”, seemed bloated and negative thoughts transpired freely – not good for the organizational culture.

The verdict was finally out – the firm needed an immediate “right-sizing”. Guess who was the first to go?

THE ANT !!!    

This blog is about the author’s session at NASSCOM HR Summit. You can see blogs from other session using this tag: hr summit 2017 

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