This is a blog by the students at the S P Jain Center of Management, Dubai, Singapore. The site is designed to play a common ground for the students and alumni of SPJCM to blog about their lives at the campus, industry exposure, events, current happenings, and everything else. The views expressed are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views of S P Jain Center of Management. For more information on S P Jain Center of Management and the courses offered, visit the official SPJCM website

The irony of Soft-Skills

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Our 2006-07 batch of SP Jain is halfway through the designated one year Global MBA program. We’re done with our stint in Dubai and are taking a much needed break in India before we move on to Singapore for the second and last part of the program. Our last term was grueling to say the least and going by what our Dean Dr. Vijay Sethi says, our stay at Singapore is to beat Dubai stint by miles, for now we’ll be robbed of even the weekends that gave us a little bit of a breather in Dubai.

And what a learning it has been! Just yesterday, I was discussing with my brother, a commerce graduate, the Macroeconomic nuances of pegged and floating currency. While that might just be a fraction of the ocean that Macroeconomics is, the discussion was something I couldn’t have done without undergoing the Dubai SPJCM experience. It has been a whirlpool worth being sucked into.

However, was there anything we could’ve done differently? Was there anything that we students as a batch could’ve handled better? The answer is an unequivocal ‘yes.’ We need to change our smug ‘know-all’ attitude towards soft-skills courses and those that deal with Human Relations. The problem, according to me, is that we perceive them to be synonymous to Communication Skills. And isn’t our selection into one of the premiere B-Schools of India proof enough of our good communication skills? After-all, didn't we all take exams like CAT, GMAT, wrote case-studies and essays, underwent Group Discussions and Personal Interviews to get selected for this program? A pretty comprehensive selection procedure I’m sure all would agree. May Hell unleash its fury now on the imprudent soul that still doubts our communication skill. But it is this very haughty attitude which is our undoing, especially because communication skill is just a part of the whole and not the be-all and end-all of it.

Our program at SPJCM entails us to work in three different groups for different purposes. The first one is a special project group for which we have the liberty to choose our team within the first couple of weeks of the commencement of the program while the other two groups are preselected for us. This group is more coherent since people generally handpick the ‘apparently’ better students of the lot. But such a selection has two problems the first of which is a proverbial aphorism – “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The second problem is that people tend to choose only those they are comfortable and friendly with. So, the friendly, humourous and fun-to-be-with people get picked up faster while those perceived to be nagging, inquisitive or overly-studious are left out. This precept sometimes falls flat on its face because of the second rule, “The most sincere and knowledgeable people are not often the best people to hangout with.” Students realize their fallacy when they find that people who are pompously fun-to-be-with are not the best assets in a team. Flamboyance, in most cases, ends up being antagonistic to sincerity since the people who actually work in a group are rarely high profile. It is here that the group formed from the “left-overs” who were partners more out of compulsion than choice do a better job by working silently and sincerely, as is their wont. The other two groups are pre-selected and hence more heterogeneous, both in terms of experience and attitude. You need truckloads of serendipity to end up with a good group where almost everyone contributes. However, it’s only human to have a black-sheep in a group of six.

All these above groups work on various assignments that have atleast one deadline per day. Every choice is a trade-off here. You can’t choose to work with one group without antagonizing another. You can’t please one without relegating the other. You can’t continue neglecting one for long lest you be seen as a worthless moron. Life, in the middle of all this, is a huge management game in itself. It is here that the Soft-Skill and Organization Behaviour courses pitch in. Every time a team member chooses to work for a different group, there is a conflict. Motivating them to work for you is no mean task. God save the groups whose members fall in love with one of the batch-mates. No amount of coaxing, rebuking or imploring can get them out of their self-imposed honeymoon for they prefer to stay in that self-denial state of romantic hangover. Then there are some who just don’t want to work. Then there are some credit-mongers who join the group when it’s time to stand on the podium. So, what do you do for them? How do you get them to work for you especially when you’re only his peer and not his boss?

These are the very issues of conflict and motivation that you face in corporate life. The B-school environment is a fantastic learning ground for such things. But in our self-righteous myth of omniscience for soft-skills, we fail to gauge its importance. Consequently, not a single group succeeded in motivating the Non-Performing Assets (famously called NPAs) of the teams. There, according to me, lies the single biggest scope of improvement for the batch.

The Indian schools and Undergraduate Institutions are partly to be blamed for laying no emphasis on teamwork. We need to inculcate the importance of teamwork in children at an impressionable age. In their quest for ‘individual’ marks and grades, Indian students have forgotten to work for the holistic good. It is amazing what you can achieve if you don’t care who gets the credit. But in the corporate world, your progress depends on your visibility. So how effectively you balance the two contradictions will decide how far you go. We still need to ensure that we communicate to our teams that while claiming credit for something is welcome, plagiarism is not. Soft-skills, ironically, have a very important role to play here.


Siddharth Ghaisas November 20, 2006 at 11:21 PM  

saro chhe

Heman - What a name! I know, but let it be November 21, 2006 at 1:33 AM  

Kamlesh, This article mirrors some very important team work related issues that the groups faced in term I. The peer evaluation idea (each member anonymously peer evaluates every other member in the group) now being put forward by Dr. Sethi is perhaps a solution to this problem. But will it work? Only time will tell.

Venkatesh Sridhar November 30, 2006 at 12:39 PM  

hi kamlesh,
Even in our batch we had this concept of peer evaluation and also the option of voting out a member if they are not contributing, but it rarely works in Indian b-schools as we do not like to generally antagonize ppl unless we really hate them. A good article once again, keep the flow. Will post an article about life after b-school soon and one on the experiences of placements as the season is fast upon you guys.

Heman - What a name! I know, but let it be November 30, 2006 at 9:54 PM  

That's a gr8 idea Venky! We look fwd to your articles...

  © Blogger templates Sunset by 2008

Back to TOP