Thursday, October 29, 2009

Malaysia Boleh?

A leader should know how to manage failure

(Former President of India APJ Abdul Kalam at Wharton India Economic forum, Philadelphia , March 22, 2008)

Question: Could you give an example, from your own experience, of how leaders should manage failure?


Let me tell you about my experience. In 1973 I became the project director of India ’s satellite launch vehicle program, commonly called the SLV-3. Our goal was to put India ’s 'Rohini' satellite into orbit by 1980. I was given funds and human resources -- but was told clearly that by 1980 we had to launch the satellite into space. Thousands of people worked together in scientific and technical teams towards that goal.

By 1979 -- I think the month was August -- we thought we were ready. As the project director, I went to the control center for the launch. At four minutes before the satellite launch, the computer began to go through the checklist of items that needed to be checked. One minute later, the computer program put the launch on hold; the display showed that some control components were not in order. My experts -- I had four or five of them with me -- told me not to worry; they had done their calculations and there was enough reserve fuel. So I bypassed the computer, switched to manual mode, and launched the rocket. In the first stage, everything worked fine. In the second stage, a problem developed. Instead of the satellite going into orbit, the whole rocket system plunged into the Bay of Bengal . It was a big failure.

That day, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, Prof. Satish D hawan, had called a press conference. The launch was at 7:00 am, and the press conference -- where journalists from around the world were present -- was at 7:45 am at ISRO's satellite launch range in Sriharikota [in Andhra Pradesh in southern India ]. Prof. Dhawan, the leader of the organization, conducted the press conference himself. He took responsibility for the failure -- he said that the team had worked very hard, but that it needed more technological support. He assured the media that in another year, the team would definitely succeed. Now, I was the project director, and it was my failure, but instead, he took responsibility for the failure as chairman of the organization.

The next year, in July 1980, we tried again to launch the satellite -- and this time we succeeded. The whole nation was jubilant. Again, there was a press conference. Prof. Dhawan called me aside and told me, 'You conduct the press conference today.'

I learned a very important lesson that day. When failure occurred, the leader of the organization owned that failure. When success came, he gave it to his team.

The best management lesson I have learned did not come to me from reading a book; it came from that experience.


Story by: BayiSingh



Anonymous said...

good one. in malaysia, that leader will claim successful when he managed to terminate osama ben laden with C4. of course, since he himself a C4, his second man the 'fat monkey' will make the announcement and claim victory.

now, one leader C4 himself, another monkey takes leadership and the people continue to suffer.

instead of C4 osama ben laden, the C4 leader should C4 his whole cabinet and the people will claim victory and honor their saviour.

again, but of course this will never happen so long roasted pork running the country, with pork ribs for dinner?

suratkhabarlama said...


Scientists at the Rocket launching station in Thumba, in the southern state of Kerala in India , were in the habit of working for nearly 12 to 18 hours a day. There were about 70 such scientists working on a project. All the scientists were really frustrated due to the pressure of work and the demands of their boss but everyone was loyal to him and did not think of quitting the job.

One day, one scientist came to his boss and told him -Sir, I have promised to my children that I will take them to the exhibition going on in our township. So I want to leave the office at 5:30 pm. His boss replied - OK, You are permitted to leave the office early today. The Scientist started working. He continued his work after lunch. As usual he got involved to such an extent that he looked at his watch when he felt he was close to completion. The time was 8:30 pm. Suddenly he remembered of the promise he had given to his children. He looked for his boss but he was not there. Having told him in the morning itself, he closed everything and left for home.

Deep within himself, he was feeling guilty for having disappointed his children. He reached home. But the children were not there. His wife alone was sitting in the hall and reading magazines. The situation was explosive; any talk would boomerang on him. His wife asked him - Would you like to have coffee or shall I straight away serve dinner if you are hungry. The man replied - If you would like to have coffee, I too will have but what about our children??? Wife replied- You don't know - Your manager came at 5:15 pm and has taken the children to the exhibition.

What had really happened was that the boss who granted him permission was observing him working seriously at 5:00 pm. He thought to himself, this person will not leave the work, but if he has promised his children they should enjoy the visit to exhibition. So he took the lead in taking them to exhibition. The boss does not have to do it every time. But once it is done, loyalty is established. That is why all the scientists at Thumba continued to work under their boss even though the stress was tremendous.

By the way, can you guess as to who the boss was????????

He was Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the Father of India's Nuclear Programme and Missile Systems and presently the President of India.

p/s. if I were him I would rather go out with the wife hehe..and that's why I never became a boss hmmmm...

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