The Invaluable role of “Chief Business Obstructers” in the modern corporate world

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Manu Rishi Guptha: The Invaluable role of “Chief Business Obstructers” in the modern corporate world

The Invaluable role of “Chief Business Obstructers” in the modern corporate world

Darwins theory of evolution in its
simplistic form says ‘The fittest survive and they fight to compete, survive
and procreate’
Societies have evolved over
generations where economic progression, education and character have all moved
in a synchronous manner. Some of the most developed economies like the US, UK
and France have had their fair share of tribulations such as wars, diseases etc
but have demonstrated that they maintained their financial, military and
intellectual hegemony from a global perspective.
Societies in the first world
countries prided themselves with superiority and there was a race among these
nations to establish themselves as a leader in one thing or the other.
Inventions (technological, financial and medical) of every form happened in the
western world.
So why did India get left behind so
miserably, when evolution of homo-sapiens happened almost at the same
rate/manner across the globe.
The answer lies in one word
“Corrupted Greedy Character”
But this didn’t happen by design – it
was the natural evolution of a nation where its large population zealously
procreated and
grew roughly 4 times from 350 mill to 1.3
billion in just 65 years.
And Darwin’s to blame majorly for the
present character of this nation. Or at least his theory explains this at best.
Lets reflect objectively on the
causal factors.
India can primarily be divided into 2
kinds of demographics Rural-Agrarian and Urban-Corporate.
The rural-agrarian have relied on
limited means, producing and consuming and storing for the proverbial
winters/rainy days – Simple.
The urban-corporate are living in
small over populated cities with limited resources and infinite greed among themselves
to survive, grow, hoard and procreate. Another phenomenon happened in the
Indian sub-continent in the last 50 years. Indians were primarily fighting
floods, droughts and starvation and suppression in the last 300 years, but the
last 50 were marked by rapid economic developments, lesser vagaries of nature,
economic development led by rapid and almost alarming shift from agrarian to
services based economy and a large part of urban population having marginally
more than required.
Yet the starvation gene (let’s call
it the gene X) still continued to exist and despite the rapid progression, in
last 50 years, on all fronts namely economic, medical, food, transportation and
habitation, the gene X that encourages to hoard, be greedy and survive at all costs
and mostly at other’s expense, persisted and didn’t mutate at the same fast rate
as the economic development of this sub-continent.
That’s why Indians over eat and eat
till they are proverbially full (read bursting after a meal). They are
generally a dissatisfied lot wanting more than what they deserve or can
actually earn.  And that explains why inspite
of being a rather superior nation on many fronts, this subcontinent still
behaves primitive, back stabs, in-fights on trivialities and sadly the educated
in the so called corporate world spend majority of the time pulling the other
one and the surrounding ones down because of a misplaced sense of depravation
and insecurity that purports corruption, greed and above all ‘obstruction’.
And that catalyses the breeding of
‘Chief Obstruction Officers” in the corporate world too. Fair warning pls – no COO should feel attacked –
we could even call these assets – Chief Business Obstructers or Chief Financial
Obstructers. They are all the same. For brevity lets just stick to CBO’s
C N Parkinson wrote a powerful essay in 1955 that pretty much
defined the expansion of bureaucracies in an organisation and how work aligns
and expands itself according to people available for its completion and
organisations are perpetually insecure. Every insecure company necessarily wants to have
infinite multiple layers of inefficient CBOs to keep an alleged check and
But lets talk of the role that these
CBOs play in the fate of organisations.
These people have never actually
handled a business in its true sense. (the corner shop
paanwalas are better businessmen
because they invest their own money and have a skin in the game). CBOs pretend
to be confident, very knowledgeable, stretched on the chair as if on a hammock
(during an official meetings – but that’s a body language that hides
inferiority in the garb of stretched posture), their condescendence and pretentiousness
would put thought leaders such as
Kotler and Prahlad to shame
Nothing amuses me more than seeing
people from disparate backgrounds, accidentally landing themselves in position
of authority, pretending to be Prahalad’s reincarnation, aspiring to make a
mark without an iota of responsibility, assuming authority because no one
questions, pretending to have a connection with GOD (when God least cares),
and then start preaching on topics and industries – of which they have no
We call them “Chief Business Obstructers”

A friend
was sharing his personal experience when he used to run a business that grew 5-6
times in 4-5 years. Customers were happy, colleagues were thrilled, profits
were good. So much so – the growth rates encouraged his company to start
thinking IPO. Nothing gives an executive more joy when peers in the industry
start talking about small businesses that become a formidable force and
everyone starts talking of these small businesses as the next big thing.

Enter –
“The Chief Business Obstructor”

world is funny – everyone pretends to abide by
Thomas Bertman’s adage “don’t fix it – if it ain’t
broken” yet no one practices it indeed. On the contrary system gives authority
to incompetent people who know nothing about a business and these wise men try
and fix every single thing that’s not broken – till the business is on its  knees, is on ventilator support and
eventually breaks down.
Corporate world is replete with
examples of excellent businesses that tried to do a lot when nothing was
required to be done and businesses and leaders who did nothing when a surgical intervention
and action was required.
But there are clear and distinct
signs that leave a trail of evidence, sometimes discovered much later (similar
to the tail effect of a comet) when its too late, that sow the seeds of demise
of well run, well managed, perfectly fine companies irrespective of their size.
I spoke to about 9 different C and D
level executives and have endeavoured to summarise below the signs we must look
out for – if we care for the longevity of the companies.
  1. When setting up businesses
    do not allow the old loyalists from other divisions (who have no freaking clue
    of the new businesses) to opine.
  2. Keep things simple –
    Product , Market, Marketing, Sale, Customer, Customer Service. This is all that
    matters. Anything beyond that is all farce.
  3. Always almost make your
    projections keeping a buffer for difficult and unexpected times. Microsoft
    excel is a wh@#e – you can titillate it to whatever extent. It almost
    always fakes in real life.
  4. Every executive who leverages the company, must be locked in (by hook or
    crook) into company’s employment for the length of the debt. Else the promoter
    will be left with the hot potato at the end while the executive would have
    taken his/her hefty bonuses and digested. Does this sound like Fuld?
  5. Executives who fix up
    meetings 4 times a week on disparately different subjects – Weekly updates, strategy
    for the week, strategy for the month, long term strategy probably need to be
    fired immediately because they have nothing better to do and are only trying to
    establish their relevance at the cost of some other business and someone else’s
  6. There is a trend to ask
    for weekly monthly and yearly cash flows week after week after week as if the
    flow of cash is the living account of the flow of bile of the Chief
    Business Obstructer.
  7. To establish their own
    importance, some CBOs suffocate the businesses of cash to an extent that their
    artificial importance gets established as if they are The Fed and 90% of the time of
    the business is spent in making excel sheets or symbolically accounting for the
    CBO s bile.
  8. When reviewers start commenting
    on everything that they don’t have info about and keep showing the business and
    its CEO in questionable light just to justify ones’s 8 figure salary and
    pretend to be custodians of the business – pls definitely get wary.
  9. CBOs ensure that the
    business doesn’t have enough money to even pay its salaries while they are
    happily gloating in the warmth of their annual bonuses and planning trips
    across the globe.
  10. CBOs unleash a volley of
    20 something’s analysts, seeking
    data from companies with the sole purpose of making themselves and CBO’s look
    like saviors but in reality setting a rot of mission fatigue within the
  11. Pretend to be owning the
    business at someone else’s expense, without investing a penny and feigning
    ignorance when shit hits the roof and finding someone else to blame.
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The few reasons why a handful of
businesses have survived over ages are – when..

  1. Owners and CEOs have
    trusted a handful of performing executives over long periods of time.
  2. Businesses aren’t judged
    week on week but are judged year on year and brand-on-brand and
    reputation-on-reputation and happiness-on-happiness (teams and customers)
  3. Owners don’t allow
    fraudulent people with all authority and no responsibility to exist in the
    system without any measurable accountability.
  4. Owners call-out the fakery
    by converting the hefty bonuses into equity and making these well-wishers participate
    in the success/failure of the company.
  5. The fundamentals of
    running a business are kept simple where cash is king and debt is death.
  6. Businesses aren’t enamored
    by the western style of cash flow discounting and valuing the future elusive cash into
    present ongoing party.
  7. HBR in a series of popular blogs have lauded the Indian baniya style of doing business and has given an infinite importance to collaborative culture and care for all.
  8. Businesses are managed
    with lean teams that are empowered and productive and not meeting 10 times a
    week to discuss strategy when none really exists. Take for instance Berkshire
    Hathway’s office in Omaha that manages 510 Billion in marcap of businesses with
    a handful of 25 employees.
  9. And lastly….
  10. Rather than reinventing
    the wheel of management styles – unconditionally back the performers, remove
    the flab and rapidly weed out the fakers.
Also Read on FinMedium:  Are Markets poised for a deep cut?

Manu also writes for HuffPost


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Manu Rishi Guptha

Manu Rishi Guptha

Manu is an Investor, Blogger, and a Professor of Fearlessness & Minimalism.
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