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Tamil Software
அழகி மென்பொருள்
Tamil-English bilingual webmagazine dedicated to education of the masses through E-books, articles, worldwide informations, Slideshows,
Presentations on various subjects, photographs and images, moral and objective oriented stories and Lectures including audio and video

Action rather than goal

Courtesy: S.K.Raja

One of the most famous lines in the Gita is: Karmanye vadhikaraste ma phaleshu kada chan, in which Krishna tells Arjuna to focus on actions and not on the results.

This instruction seems simple enough but it becomes very difficult to implement in corporations where the whole focus in the target and the task. Business begins by visualizing the phala or fruit.

And then one figures out way of planting the bija or seed. We call this outcome-based management, which can be seen as the very opposite of the lines in the Gita. You focus on what you want and then you work towards that goal.

Some gurus separate target from task and say that while one may desire the target one must focus on the task. That is what Krishna is trying to say. Once we visualise and agree on the target, we must forget about it and focus on doing the various little tasks that will lead us to the target.

So a cook, having planned the menu, needs to focus on the little details like cleaning and cutting the vegetables, and boiling the rice, and laying out the plates, rather than keep wondering about whether the guests will enjoy the food.

If one focuses too much on the ultimate outcome, one gets too distracted from the tasks at hand and ends up messing the meal. At another level, this line draws attention to unpredictable outcomes.

When we do any task we have a predictable outcome in mind. However, there are many forces in the world that determine outcome, besides our action, so outcome need not be predictable.

So rather than focus on outcome, one should focus on action. Expecting predictable outcome to one's action leads to unhappiness. Taking the case of preparing a meal for example, despite all our efforts, one cannot control things from going wrong or right: extra guests, sudden medical emergency, maybe an electrical shutdown, that can ruin the planned dinner.

A mind that is overwhelmed by fear of unpredictable outcomes will always be stressed. And so it is wise to focus on action alone, not on result. In the Ramayana, Ram raises an army of monkeys to save his wife Sita. But the outcome is far from predictable. He saves her from the demons of Lanka but in unable to save her from his own subjects who gossip about her tarnished reputation. Likewise, in the Mahabharata, Draupadi seeks vengeance and wants the destruction of the Kaurava clan. She gets what she wants but it comes at a price. Her children are killed in the war.

This collateral damage was not predictable. Unpredictable outcomes need not be negative. They can be positive too. Sudama goes expecting some financial help from Krishna but is swept away by incredible hospitality and generosity. Ram is asked to string Janaka's bow and ends up getting a wife for himself and for all his brothers. When unpredictable events happen, we believe they are destined. When predictable events happen, we are the fruits of desire. We really do not know what is destined and desired. So it is perhaps best to focus on tasks rather than on targets.

Devdutt Pattanaik is the author of 'Business Sutra a very Indian approach to management'

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