[Dr Vikas and Dr Preeti Shirodkar asked me to write foreword to their book which will be published soon. This is an honour bestowed on me! Here is the full text of the Foreword, published with the consent of the authors.]
A major customer of my entrepreneur friend called him over for a meeting
and explained that he had just one year in which to practice ‘just-in-time,’
upgrade his quality drastically and also cut cost by 10%. All this meant a
complete overhaul of all management practices, being followed by the company,
which employed more than five hundred persons; and he did it successfully. What
was the key factor in ensuring this success, what was the learning, I asked
him, really curious to know. His answer surprised me, till I realised how
obvious the truth, it brought forth, was. While explaining how his company
underwent a radical transformation, he said: “It is all about engaging people
in meaningful conversations”. Obvious and true and yet a realisation that is so
All in all my entrepreneur-friend pointed out the importance of acquiring
critical skills, which is the subject of this book.
The problem my entrepreneur-friend faced, in fact, reminded me of the two
kinds of problems, which Peter Senge referred to, in his book – The
Fifth Discipline. We face two kinds of problems – Convergent and Divergent.
A convergent problem has only one right answer [Which is the shortest route to
reach office from home?], but a divergent problem has more than one right answer.
Imagine asking a group of managers ‘how to improve the market share of product
‘x’ by ‘y’?’ You may try this at home too; ask your wife and children ‘Where
shall we go for vacation this summer?’ or ‘Which smart phone should I buy now?’
You will find many answers, being put on the table, all of them right and as if
that were not enough, you would realise that they advocate their answer, as the
only right answer!
If we wish to be successful, in our personal and professional life, we have
an uphill task – that of influencing people every day, for big and small
decisions. It is here that professional skills [actually why not call them
‘life skills?’] come into play and determine our success.
The interesting aspect of professional skills is that we keep learning them
and from them, throughout our life; in that sense none of us can claim to be an
expert. We can only increase our level of proficiency. Professional life
becomes increasingly challenging, as one rises in the hierarchy. The CEO has to
influence people, who matter the most, without any authority over them, when he
deals with Government officials, Customers, Technical Experts and the like.
[You will also appreciate that in our personal life too, we require higher
order skills, as we grow older – managing an adolescent son calls for different
and higher order skills than managing a toddler.]
This aspect of lifelong learning reminds me of what physicists call
‘negentropy.’ We may understand it as the reverse of entropy. While a man ages
and his eye sight weakens, he accumulates a lot of insights! His faculty of
hearing weakens, but he increasingly practises ‘empathetic listening.’ So too,
while our health deteriorates, we become ‘healthier’ psychologically. A story
goes that when Lord Yama, the Lord of Death, met an old man to claim him, the
old man said, “Don’t take me away, I have just realised how to lead life
In fact, we have a choice to make – do we wish to learn professional skills
by accident or consciously – not learning them is not an available option. It
is precisely here that this book helps us. This also brings us to the next
issue - ‘how do we learn?’ While we do not learn any skill only by reading a
book, we learn because a book triggers reflection on its messages and on our experiences.
The twenty-seven chapters and the innumerable insights presented in this book
will help students and professionals at all stages of their career.
Over and above this, the last chapter on ‘Professional and Personal Values’
underscores the need to practise them knowingly; as ‘People must know what you
stand for and they must also know what you don’t stand for.’ This gives one a
distinct character, a persona. We must not sleep walk through life, we must
live it consciously. Learning professional skills, like managing our emotions,
managing conflicts and practising them, in daily life, at one’s workplace [and
yes, at home too!] and finally testing them on the anvil of our personal and
professional values, to draw insights is finally what shapes the character of a
person and makes him/her successful.
This book guides us in that journey. The author duo is best qualified in
this task because they have practised it first and then written about it. In
evidence, I produce their profiles given elsewhere in this book!
I thank them for bringing their insights to us, and, dear reader, proudly
place this book in your hands, hoping it will prove the base for your success
Vivek S Patwardhan
Labels: Foreword, Fundamental Skills for Budding Professionals, Preeti Shirodkar, Vikas Shirodkar