INTERVIEW WITH ZARRAR R. ZUBAIR, DIRECTOR PAKISTAN INSTITUTE OF MANAGEMENT

KHALIL AHMED
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Mar 21 - 27, 2011

PAGE: TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF.?

R. ZUBAIR: I have been associated with PIM for the last 33 years and have operated mainly as a trainer, educationist, and a consultant. In training and education, my areas of operation have been organizational behavior, communication, HRM and strategy. In consulting, I have operated mostly in the areas of strategic planning and organization development and have led PIM's consulting teams in over 50 major projects. I owe a lot to PIM as it has helped me in developing myself and has given me extensive professional experience and exposure. I did my MBA in 1972 with majors in marketing and finance from IBA Karachi. From PIM's platform, I have received extensive training, both local and international, in the various disciplines of management and this training has helped to develop me professionally and as a person.

PAGE:YOUR VIEWS ABOUT BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION EDUCATION IN PAKISTAN.?

R. ZUBAIR: Business education in Pakistan has come a long way since its inception in the mid 1950's with the establishment of IBA Karachi. Today it is recognized that a qualitative business management degree is a passport to a good job and a rich and satisfying career. However, it should be kept in mind that like the deterioration in the overall standard of education in Pakistan has also been reflected in business education. Business education in Pakistan is clearly split into two main segments depending on the quality and credibility of the education providers and their degrees. The two main segments are qualitative business education and mediocre business education. The numbers of the qualitative institutions is low, their induction criteria is tough, and the cost of their degree is high and their annual output of graduates is a couple of hundred. There are a large number mediocre business educational institutions; their induction criteria is very relaxed, their cost is low but their academic standards are also low. It is an unfortunate reality that the mediocre business education institutions are very popular and are churning out business graduates of very low quality whose acceptability in professional business houses is poor and as a consequence thousands of these graduates are joining the ever increasing queues of the job seeking youth who are increasingly becoming disgruntled and frustrated. Hopefully, the overall standard of business education in Pakistan will show an upward trend but it would be simplistic to think that this will happen without a coherent national strategy of turning around and improving the standard of our education system.

PAGE: WHAT SHOULD BE DONE TO PROVIDE QUALITY TRAINING TO THE CORPORATE WORKFORCE?

R. ZUBAIR: In delivering quality as per the requirements of customers, the role of the worker, be it a factory worker or a service provider, is pivotal. Quality is created by the worker, and the better educated and trained the worker is the better will be product quality. Globally, all countries, which excel in producing quality, are characterized by high and continuous investment in education and training and in these countries there is a recognition that in the future substantial up gradation in investments on human capital will be the key to competitiveness.

The EU's commission on education and training in its 2007 annual report concludes that "investments in education and training produce high returns which substantially outweigh the costs and reach far into the future". The Commission issued Council Conclusions of March 2008 reiterate the need for "investing more and more effectively in human capital and creativity throughout people's lives as crucial conditions for Europe's success in a globalised World".

In Pakistan with some honorable exceptions, our investments on training have been low. The textile industry in Pakistan, which is the largest employer in the country, is a case in point. With an overreliance on daily wage workers and a refusal to hire workers on company payrolls, there has been little investment in the textile industry on training its workforce. As a consequence, worker productivity and quality have been key issues which have degraded our textile industry's global market share in the growth segment of value added textiles.

In the SME sector, which is the backbone of all economies, the investment in training and development is very low and often the importance and value of training is not understood. The lack of availability of training materials in Urdu and the relatively high cost of training are further disincentives for investments in training.

Japan after the War, South Korea in the 60s and 70s and Malaysia in the 90s have relied on the creation of a National Training Fund to give a boost to training and development in business and industry. The training fund is created by imposing a small tax on business profits and the government matches all collections with a guaranteed minimum contribution. The fund subsidizes all training received from approved/registered institutions and this subsidy is greater for the SME sector. Possibly, a similar strategy could be used in Pakistan to give a much-needed boost to training and development in Pakistan by developing standardized training materials and funding training especially for the SME sector.

PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU COMMENT ON STRATEGIES USED BY MAJORITY OF PAKISTANI COMPANIES?

R. ZUBAIR: The strategies used by Pakistani organizations range from the very sophisticated and effective to a seat-of-the-pants approach which has a hit or miss kind of success ratio. On an average, most organizations do not see the value of and the need for formal strategic planning. Surprisingly some of the largest public sector organizations of the country, incidentally whose losses are holding this economy hostage, are being managed and run without formal strategic plans or their plans were developed a long time ago and have not been suitably updated. This is gross negligence and mismanagement and it needs to be urgently redressed.

Key characteristic of good strategy are market orientation, long-term orientation, innovativeness and operational simplicity. The key drivers of strategy are the quality of human resources and leadership.

Most strategic plans developed in Pakistani organizations do not place enough priority and value on developing a capable management team, which can deliver results in the future. Also often missing in these plans is a serious examination of the requisite capabilities of the leaders who will lead the organization.

No strategic plan is worth the paper it is written on unless it accepts that people are a core asset and are the key driver of strategy implementation and ultimately of strategic advantage and success. Historically for us in Pakistan, and mostly in the third world, the recognition of the importance of people comes rather slowly and in general, we seem unable to have the motivation and will have to invest on the induction and development of requisite capabilities and talent. However, there are encouraging signs that progressive organizations are coming to this realization and are willing to invest in inducting and developing their human resources.

Organizational leaders also need to be self-accountable in terms of how competent are they to shape and lead their organization into a dynamic and very challenging future. Top management training and development needs to be done in Pakistan on a very serious and continuous basis. Acquiring knowledge and skills in the newer technologies of management and organizational systems has become imperative for our top managers and they must shed their reluctance to get trained. In so many cases, the age profile of top managers in many private and public sector organizations is inconsistent with the requirements of the era. Especially in the private sector, many successful entrepreneurs would be well advised to relinquish the reins of power to their often highly qualified and competent heirs and the sooner they do this the earlier will their organizations begin to take off.

PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ON THE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM IN PAKISTAN.

R. ZUBAIR: Organizations operate within societies, which have distinct cultures which manifest themselves in the shape of customs, traditions, norms and values and distinct ways of thinking, behaving and living. Inevitably, the nature and development stage of a social culture will significantly impact how organizations are managed and led. These cultural influences provide the fine-tuning of how organizations are shaped and how they operate. Irrespective of cultural influences in overall terms, organization management systems are classified into three broad categories: Directive, Consultative and Participative.

In a directive management system, which is also known as an exploitive management system there is unilateral power with management and it is in a position to impose its will on the employees of the organization. Employee rights are almost nonexistent and whatever is available to them in terms of rights is granted to them by the wish of the bosses.

In a consultative system of management, power still resides unilaterally with the management of the organization but their attitude is more positive regarding employees and they have a tendency of informing employees about issues at hand and taking their opinions regarding suitable courses of action. However, it should be clear that consultation does not mean that the decision maker is bound by the opinion of the people being consulted therefore in consultative systems of management though management may take opinions it usually does what it wants to do. Most experts consider consultative management systems a vast improvement over directive systems as the process of consultation does create openness and to some degree the opinion seeking and expression sets psychological limits on unilateral use of power through unacceptable decisions.

Participative management systems operate on the principle of inclusiveness and in all major decision situations employees are informed and allowed to participate in decision formulation through discussion and mutual consent. Participative systems range from low participative where participation is practiced in only a few areas to highly participative systems where all key issues are open to debate, discussion and mutually agreed upon decision-making.

Research has shown conclusively that participative systems of management are far superior to consultative and directive systems in terms of employee commitment, morale, motivation and productivity. In terms of decision-making participative systems produce quality decisions which have a longer term perspective and are more easily implementable as employees exhibit greater acceptance and ownership of these decisions.

What management systems are in use in Pakistan? The Pakistan Institute of Management conducted a survey on decision-making trends in Pakistani organizations in 2010 and the following results were visible in terms of management systems:

Management & Decision System? (percent) of Use in Pakistan

Directive Systems 39%
Consultative Systems 25%
Participative Systems 37%

Past data available at PIM shows clearly that a gradual shift towards the use of participative management in Pakistani organizations is underway. This shift has been more pronounced since the early 1990's and hopefully it will accelerate and lead to significant change in the way we manage our employee and organizations.

PAGE: WHAT INCENTIVES THE EDUCATION SECTOR NEEDS FROM THE GOVERNMENT?

R. ZUBAIR: It is established truism of development economics that no nation has become developed without first establishing a qualitative education system. Most experts in sociology, economics, and politics accept today that a country's greatest asset is an educated, healthy and motivated workforce. Unfortunately in Pakistan, like most third world countries, there has been little political will to invest massively in education and consequently our education system is of poor quality and is not in line with our socioeconomic requirements and aspirations. Today, there is an emerging consensus that most of the problems of country in terms of intolerance, extremism, social conflict, law and order, human rights, women rights, technology absorption, product quality, mismanagement and corruption can be traced back to the flaws and inadequacies of our education system.

In Pakistan, our education system will not be realigned and improved only by incentives offered by the government. The GOP must intervene immediately and improve the country's education system on a war footing. There should be one system of education in the country, syllabi must be standardized, teacher training and compensation upgraded and adequate educational infrastructure provided all over the country without any biases, preferences and favoritism. It is equally critical that in Pakistan we must shift the focus of education away from an excessive emphasis on the tertiary back to primary and secondary education. The foundation and base structure of the education system is the primary and secondary level and without this base, it is illogical to expect a tertiary education system to work well. Without a qualitative education system at the primary and secondary, there is little sense in trying to build world-class tertiary education system. We must move away from our penchant for building colleges and universities and ignoring and underfunding primary school system.