26/11 continues to rankle our worst memories, when our beautiful and lively city was attacked by a band of heavily armed terrorists from across the border, who wreaked havoc by spraying bullets and lobbying grenades at the hapless, innocent and hardworking people of this city. What started as firing at Leopold Cafe, soon spread to famous restaurants locations such as CST station, Cama Hospital, Marine Drive and two of the most iconic hotels not only of this city but of our country- the Oberoi and the Taj Mahal Palace.

I didn’t know that great valour and presence of mind shown by the staff of the Taj had in fact been taught as case study at Harvard university, and came to know about it only the other day when a friend sent me a Ted talk video on the subject.

The speaker, a faculty member of Harvard university explains this case study and this video leaves the audience in the midst of a plethora of emotions – heart rending at the trauma faced by 500 in house guests , 600 visiting guests and 500 staff, gut wrenching misdeeds of the abominable terrorists, pride at the presence of mind and valour shown by Taj staff and above all amazement at the management lessons learnt out of this unforgettable tragedy!

While the Tata group is respected world over for their philanthropy and employee friendly policies and practices, the management lessons are real eye openers:

(1) the young apprentices and starters are mostly undergraduates, who are generally recruited from smaller towns such as Tiruchirappalli, Nashik and not from Delhi, Mumbai or Chennai;

(2) while recruiting the grades of the candidates are not seen but the emphasis is given on their attitudes. Teachers are talked to so that the students who are obedient, cooperative, empathetic and positive in their outlook are identified in preference to class toppers and A graders

(3) these staff are encouraged to be guest ambassadors and not brand ambassadors. Any positive note by a guest for a particular employee is taken note of and rewarded within 24 hours through recognition instead of through annual Diwali bonuses!

And such is the impact of the above that on the doomsday even the lowest ranked employee- telephone operator, waiter, cleaner, guard et al formed a human shield around the guests and protected them instead of escaping ! And mind you these were youngsters in early 20s for whom escaping the crisis should have been a natural priority! At the end these heavenly armed mad dogs on a death mission could kill only around 50 people, half of them being Taj staff!

As it is, any reference to 26/11 evokes the saddest memories, but I recommend viewers to check out this TedX video on YouTube by Rohit Deshpande. It will give goosebumps alright – the greater lesson being what the practical management lessons are all about!

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