Thursday, August 25, 2011

Divorce by PowerPoint

Is PowerPoint the greatest thing given by a tech company to managers or the worst? I would not try to bias your thoughts since I am in a similar field but this story of Divorce, Management Consulting and PowerPoint has a lot to stay about PowerPoint-ization of life. I came across this story on the Facebook notes of Krishna, a management student at a very reputed Indian B-school.
Shruthi – working as a software engineer in Gurgaon filed for divorce from her husband Abhishek because of the impact his consulting profession had on their personal life. Her husband works at one of the big four management consulting firms. Long work hours were definitely a straining point but things became worse at their daughter Priyanka's second birthday. She says, "It was our daughter Priyanka’s second birthday. We had arranged for a small celebration at our place. In the middle of the celebration, Abhishek opened his laptop and started with a 20 minute presentation that he had prepared on Priyanka. It was titled: ‘Roadmap 2050 – opportunities and threats’. He had analysed the strengths and weaknesses of our 2 year old kid, presented the different career opportunities available to her, laid down the uncertainties, possibilities in the future, and made detailed bar graphs, pie charts portraying various facts and figures. He had also done an analysis using the Porter’s 5 forces model: Threat of neighbours’ children, threat of television, bargaining power of Priyanka’s friends in successfully distracting her, threat of stalkers etc. He had used several frameworks, matrices (like BCG matrix) etc. Finally he concluded with 4 possible career choices as recommendations which were quite obvious even in the beginning. The people present at the function were puzzled and even frustrated to some extent. But I did not take it seriously. I just dismissed it as Abhishek’s attempt at being innovative and funny at the party. But I was terribly wrong. A few days later after he returned home from office late in the night, he showed me another powerpoint presentation, with great excitement, which contained the vision and mission statement for Priyanka, financial analysis related to her educational and other expenditure, NPV, IRR of Priyanka etc. I was starting to get a little uncomfortable. Gradually this started becoming increasingly frequent. He spent most of the time at home talking and behaving like a consultant. He started boring me with conversations about articles and reports like ‘A consulting guide to consultants’, ’A marketing guide to marketers’, ’A banking guide to bankers’. I tried my best to accept this behavior as an ‘occupational hazard’ and move on but it was becoming very difficult. He never used to take any decisions. He just used to state the obvious facts, give the different options which were anyway obvious and apparent right from the beginning. The final decision had to be made by me. For instance, even when we had to decide on a kindergarten school for Priyanka, he gave a list of recommendations and the onus was on me to choose the right school. Even for a weekend dinner at some restaurant, he would give me a list of options for food which was anyway available on the menu card and I would have to decide the order. So I had no option but to take this extreme step.”
I don't really pity the consultant since it is by volition that he chose this profession. Inevitably careers in consulting and management can keep you surrounded by PowerPoint presentations and you end up closing the emotional side of your own self. Moreover Shruti's husband is not a good manager or a consultant. He has poor decision making ability. Despite excessive evaluation and recommendations, there is a fear in taking decision. The desire to grow made him use more of PowerPoint and finally the imbalance drowned his personal life with a flood of PowerPoint. The key thing missing in his story is that one PowerPoint slide that would've evaluated himself. To all my fellow managers and consultants who find themselves surrounded by this situation, I would recommend reading The Bhagavad Gita. One of the most important message of Gita is that the man should not keep his interests on the fruition of deeds but rather on the tranquility produced in the mind by pursuing the deed itself. I feel Gita can help the cause of overworked and stressed out managers and consultants and can keep them away from the perils of their occupation.