15 Sep 2016 20:29 IST

Lessons learnt at an Indian wedding

Organising a wedding at short notice offers practical solutions to work-a-day problems

What if we behaved at work like we do when there’s a wedding in the family, everyone pulling together to make sure everything goes like clockwork?

I recently had to organise my daughter’s wedding in a fortnight and a reception in 30 days. As I set about it with equal parts excitement and anxiety, I realised it takes a whole village to pull off such events. As I sit back and recall the dreamlike event, I find aspects of management lessons that stand out. Here are some practical solutions to work-a-day problems drawn from the wedding experience:

Trust people’s expertise: I realised that the flower man, Pandian, wove floral magic; he understood the décor best. To help him, we got an architect to draw the details, and an interior decorator to assemble colours and lend him a hand with designs. Once these inputs were given, it was a case of trusting the expert. The result was bell-shaped flower arrangements and floral curtain wisps that created a magical ambience on my daughter’s big day.

At work, once a project has been spelt out, it is a combination of planning and trust in others’ expertise and intent that brings the pieces together.

Rehearse even the obvious: Trusting others’ expertise does not mean being complacent. We had to make checklists, assign roles and responsibilities and go over every detail to ensure nothing was left out. We followed the Western practice of holding a rehearsal, and each family member and friend who volunteered to help took their responsibilities seriously. It paid off when the waves of guests arrived.

At work too, do not leave anything to chance. If it is an important client presentation, rehearsing the sequence of events — which team member speaks first, which aspect comes after what, , who gets to take notes and when the coffee is served — all contribute to the final outcome. Even though these may seem like small details, they are well worth rehearsing so that there is accuracy and calm when the event unfolds.

Don’t underestimate the uninvolved: Even someone who is on the periphery and seemingly uninvolved in a project, if asked for an opinion, is capable of stepping in and giving useful inputs. It may differ from yours, but if the person is given the responsibility of making it work, it will produce results.

At the wedding, it was the suggestion of a relative who was consulted at the last minute to add a box of chocolates to the return gift bag that proved the cherry on the cake.

Solutions can come from all levels. Recently, it was our security guard who gave us the idea that the checklist of nationalities coming through our doors could easily be tracked if we did it right at the ‘welcome’ stage. We hadn’t thought of asking him but his simple suggestion to place a world map near the door for people to sign was well-received. Everyone loves to do that now.

Don’t overestimate communication: “I thought…”, “He meant…”, “She said…” There is ample room for communication to go awry, whether in a project or a wedding. The need to recap actions every day and ‘cc’ everyone is the way to pull off any event in a short time frame.

Go the extra mile: If only we could do at work every day what we Indians do so well when it’s time to organise a wedding! When a wedding is being planned and conducted, we go out of our way to help and go the extra mile. Ask politely, appreciate generously and respect everyone, showing them the part he/she plays in the big picture of the event.

A musician friend who came as a guest, stayed to sing and entertain others, a dancer friend rushed to a local store to buy small trinkets at the last minute… No one waited to be asked twice. No one was a guest. It was everyone’s project, a family affair. Colleagues, high-school friends, family members and staff chipped in and made it a day of warmth and hospitality, as I watched with gratitude.

If we could hold on to this same spirit at work as well, how easy and efficient our projects would be!

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