10 Management Lessons from Ramayana – Lesson 1

10 Management Lessons from Ramayana – Lesson 1


How to overcome different kinds of Obstacles

Hanuman was taking a look at the infinite sea stretched in from of him, shimmering like molten turquoise metal, unknown to mankind. He took a deep breath and announced to his mates, with whom he had embarked on this search for Sita, the wife of Rama that he is off to Lanka. Ravana the king of Lanka had kidnapped Sita. Hanuman and his friends have been sent by their King Sugreeva, who was an ally of Rama.

With a roar that shook the earth and momentum that rivalled a comet, Hanuman leaped forward to cross the sea. On his flight to Lanka, Hanuman encountered three obstacles. The first one was Minaka – The Mountain. Minaka was sent by the sea god who wanted to assist Hanuman in this noble mission. Minaka was also a friend of Hanuman’s spiritual father Vayu – the wind god. The mighty Minaka rose from the depths of the sea and blocked Hanuman’s way. Minaka addressed Hanuman and request him to rest for some time before proceeding to Lanka. Hanuman, however, politely refused. Hanuman told the kind mountain that he was on a mission and had limited time. If he rests now, his plans would suffer so he touched the mountain in acknowledgement and moved forward in his quest.

The gods (devas) along with their king, Indra was watching this spectacle. They wanted to test Hanuman’s resolve – to see if he was worthy of this noble mission, that was going to change the life of the mightiest kings of that time, Ravana. So they sent the second obstacle in his way. They requested Surasa, the mother of serpents that inhabit the depths of the sea to confront him. Surasa appeared before a surprised Hanuman and said “O Hanuman, I have obtained a boon from the creator that anything that flies across the ocean should pass through my mouth, so it can become my food. You have to enter my mouth and it is an order from the Gods”. Hanuman explained the mission to her and asked her to wait till he completes his mission. He promised Surasa that he would voluntarily come back to become her food, once he succeeds in finding Sita.  Surasa didn’t heed those words and insisted that Hanuman enter her mouth. So Hanuman asked Surarsa, to open her mouth wide enough to accommodate him. Hanuman then started growing in size to become a giant. Surarsa, being a giant snake, had no problems in opening her mouth to gargantuan proportions. In a flash, Hanuman became thumb sized, entered her mouth and flew out of it before Surasa could realise. For a person who has the magical eight, siddhis it was not a tough task. An outwitted but impressed Surasa gave Hanuman her blessing and let him move forward.

Having proven his worth, Hanuman was close to his destination when he encountered his third and final obstacle a rakshasi (demon) called Simhika. Having recognized a real threat, Hanuman acted quickly. He again became small in size and entered the mouth of the demon. He destroyed the vital organs inside and emerged through her ear by puncturing her ear drums. Thus Hanuman, with his sharp mind, decision-making skills and courage overcame all the obstacles in his way to Lanka.

Like Hanuman, we too are faced with three kinds of obstacles when we embark on a mission in our organizations. It could be a new project or a change initiative, the impediments we face can be classified into:

1. Well-meaning obstacle:

These obstacles like the Minaka are not harmful. These obstacles are put forward by the stakeholders who have your best interests in their mind, they might ask you to:

  • Give up a promising idea – citing risks
  • Work on an idea that is a workaround or easy way out
  • Work on an alternative to the current task that might be fun but not productive

These obstacles are overcome with a clear vision and goal in mind. It is important for a leader to have clarity about what he wants to achieve. He should understand the risks of the task and be prepared to tackle them. Only then he will not fall prey to such naysayers. Anything that deviates from his project plan, no matter how good it seems, is an obstacle. If we rest for a long time on Minaka, we may lose track of our tasks and end up missing deadlines.

Such obstacles are overcome using influence. We can draw from our referent power and politely convince the stakeholders to get a ‘Yes’ from them.

2. Obstacles that are actually challenges:

These obstacles are blessings in disguise. These are the inevitable pitfalls every project would face like schedule overrun, cost overrun, change in requirements, unreasonable deadlines etc. A manager has to overcome these obstacles to successfully complete a project. These obstacles give an opportunity to up-skill and cross train. Once overcome these obstacles become learning for the next project.

A leader has to be equipped with critical thinking, problem-solving skills to overcome such challenges. He needs to take the objective decisions to resolve these problems. Then Surasa will bless us on our path to success.

3. The real obstacle:

These are the unknown demons that are lurking in the depth to catch you unaware. These have no positive impact on your project or mission. A good leader should be ready to tackle such problems head-on. He should be equipped with detailed risk analysis and robust risk mitigation plan. Only then he will be able to navigate through the rough seas to reach the destination.

Next week let us see what Hanuman does in Lanka and what we can learn from it.  Till then don’t hesitate to mail your views and comments topsmadankumar@gmail.com

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