The Game Of Chess

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Life and business lessons come through various mediums to the curious and open mind. Fables and scriptures are oft quoted for guiding principles. Sports is a fertile breeding ground for learnings as well. Yet, co-relation between the game of chess and the Indian textile industry? Here is my interpretation. Observations are particularly relevant for the family run MSME textile units of India.

You require a team, single performer can’t win it alone
Place the most powerful piece of Chess, the queen, alone, and put her against a full array of pieces on the other side. No one has ever won that way and can’t. So first lesson, stop being the superhero and egoistic. You will need all the other supporting characters if you ever want to win in the textile business. Humility and respect for the team components, will follow automatically.

The team needs to have varied skill sets
We find the horse, the elephant, the camel, pawns, have different capabilities of movement, combining to cover the entire board and make a formidable army. You organisation requires assembling a similar team of people of various capabilities and specialisation to come together and act cohesively. Just number of people does not suffice. For example a chess set made of only pawns will fill the squares, but be almost hopeless when it comes to effective battle. Sadly, we in the Indian textile industry do not give enough importance to this, and feel by numbers we shall be able to overcome lack of quality and structural definitions. Doesn’t work.

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Team skill set variation is important, so is structure and discipline
While each elevated character is given sweeping powers and movement freedom, a horse is never allowed to become a camel. Yet, we see that happening often in our textile units, if someone with a skill set leaves, he is often replaced by a person with entirely different skill sets on basis of loyalty or other factors. Make sure you replace like by like. Also that each specialist operates only the way he’s been defined to. Chess would go crazy if suddenly a pawn starts to jump two and half moves and its not restrained. Something similar happens to your organisation when you are lax in enforcing job and working discipline.

You need a strategy
Chess is played in two ways. One by wannabe players like me, where we just go into a confrontation spree, killing and getting killed without any planning, hoping some how the opponent will make mistakes. Other by the real successful masters of the game, who spend months planning all possible moves and working out how the game will play out and practicing it over and over. If you aim to be successful and be among the top, you have to follow that method. Define a strategy of how your team members will be deployed, who will move where and when. Have a plan in place, run over it on paper, in your mind, with others as many times as you can, fine tune it, then implement it.

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Focus on winning the war not the battle
In chess we see many times the side sacrificing or losing one of the key pieces like the queen, and still go on to win the game. Your organisation will face many such occasions due to reason within or without your control. Understand, its short term pain for long term gain. Do not confuse an incident of failure with that of your business. Focus on recovery and rally your other team members to consolidate and hold while you work on setting things right.

Encourage and promote within the system
Given proper strategy and support from other team members, a pawn, on proving its capabilities by reaching the other side of the board can get converted into the most powerful of pieces, a queen. Try to develop an environment within your organisation that identifies queen material from your lowest ranks and nurture them by empowering and supporting them to finish the course.

You are also competing against the clock
Those familiar with chess tournaments know that a timer is stared by the opponent once he has made his move. You are supposed to respond within a set time or you lose, irrespective of your strength on board. This resonates in reality with critical decisions being deferred often indefinitely because they don’t seem to cause any visible loss. The culprits ae more often than not the owners themselves. It’s like chess, only invisible and hidden from sight, if you don’t make your moves in time, you and your organisation are eventually losing.

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Use our golden and deep legacy well
In summation, chess is said to have originated in India. The Indian textile industry does not need to look beyond our rich heritage to draw lessons from and apply them to our business and day-to-day working. Also the game is said to sharpen thinking and acumen, both essential to today’s business where an organisation’s culture and efficiency is the thin line between super growth and stagnation. Study it and use it.

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