Keep the conversation going!

Recently, I wrote a post (link to the original post) about my boss and how he trusted me and trained me to take a leadership role to resolve a crisis.

I loved watching your comments, reactions and disagreements to the story. Engaging with any case study at this level brings a deeper understanding. I want to take this opportunity to highlight this comment I received on email.

SP is a ‘senior professional’ whose opinion I really respect. As you will read further, SP disagrees with my boss’ (referred to as “PC” in the post) method. Other readers have also reached out to me and discussed their thoughts about this anecdote. As a teacher, I am thrilled that the story invoked such a strong reaction. I also completely understand where SP and other readers are coming from, but I also wanted to clarify PC’s stance.

Here is an excerpt from my conversation with SP on email:

SP: In handling issues of routine crisis, I would have appreciated PC’s approach. However, in the present case, you were dealing with a chemical plant where any failure on your part could have led to dangerous life and death consequences for many. The Bhopal gas tragedy immediately comes to mind. A boss could not have taken the stand that PC did, i.e., hope that you would find a solution. He was playing with the lives of people. I am sorry to disagree with this example since I’ve been both, a post-graduate with an MSc in Chemistry who knows the hazards of chemicals, and an IPS officer who has faced many life and death critical situations!

KAPIL: Thank you very much SP Sir! You have really taken interest and gone through the story considering all issues within and around the story. Your opinion and apprehensions are absolutely in place. In fact, two of my close associates also brought up the question of the hazards and the risk to the lives of people. I now realise that I should have added a paragraph to clarify that this project had no such risks. 

Anyway, let me take a moment to explain this to you, sir… This story is related to a chemical plant where there are no such risks about high-pressure reactions, poisonous gas leaks etc. The worst scenario could have been huge spillage and loss of slurry from filter pans (the big circus-like equipment that occupied an entire floor) which were open to the sky. It could have resulted only in huge financial loss and there was no danger to human lives at all.

Both PC and I were well aware of this, and it was true for everyone working in the plant. The only risk was from handling of concentrated sulfuric acid which was stored in closed tanks and brought to the reactor after adequate dilution. Another occupational hazard of this plant is the exposure to fluorine gas which can cause harm to human bones in the long run.

Sir, as I write this to you, I got to brush up on my chemistry and chemical engineering which I have almost forgotten. It was nostalgic! For over the last 30 years, I have been largely a business and management professional. But, I do hope that my reply clarified any apprehension you had. As an author, I should have touched upon this aspect of the story!

This was a part of a longer discussion we had. It goes to show how a good case study can open itself to so many learning moments.

If you recall the story, PC himself called me within an hour to check on me, without knowing if I had solved the situation or not! When I told him that I was successful, his few words of confidence (“I knew it!”) motivated me. It kept ringing in my ears for years to come! 

As a writer, while communicating the stakes of the situation, I might have caused an unintentional misunderstanding where some of you imagined a tragic alternate ending! Rest assured, the stakes were only financial!  

Let me know your thoughts on such anecdotes that I will continue to share, and let’s keep the conversation going. 


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