Being Cyrus Mistry: Ashwin Sanghi on his school friend

'The one defining characteristic of Cyrus was that he always managed to be universally loved. There was an innate decency about him.'

I remember a 2006 movie directed by Homi Adajania called Being Cyrus. In that film, Saif Ali Khan played Cyrus Mistry who entered the world of a dysfunctional Parsi family and eventually ended up killing a couple of its members. The real life drama of Cyrus Pallonji Mistry is the story of yet another Cyrus entering a dysfunctional family (let’s call it Tata Sons if you like). But unlike the character played by Khan, this one was far too decent to kill others. Unfortunately, the problem with the world that we live in is that either you kill or you get killed. Figuratively, at least.

The question then is this: will this Cyrus live another day to conquer, like Cyrus the Great of Persia? As a writer of complex mysteries with sudden plot twists, I believe this story has not yet reached its climax and we may yet be surprised by further developments along the way.

Cyrus and I were classmates during our years at Cathedral and John Connon School in Mumbai. He wasn’t academically brilliant, nor do I recall him as being outstanding in extracurricular activities. The one defining characteristic of Cyrus was that he always managed to be universally loved. There was an innate decency about him. I guess it was this decency, coupled with an uncanny ability to get along with people, that stood Cyrus in good stead in later years.

Dale Carnegie, the guru of winning friends and influencing people, said, “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” And that sums up Cyrus – working with people, understanding the emotions that drive them, and often getting them to do extraordinary things.

I met Cyrus rather infrequently after we had put our school years behind us but his warmth and graciousness remained ever present on the few occasions that we did meet. I recall a flight from Delhi to Mumbai several years ago (much before he became chairman of Tata Sons). He switched seats with the passenger seated next to me and we spent the next couple of hours reminiscing about the good old days and exchanging business notes. As I recall, during that conversation, Cyrus remarked that reputation is more important than revenue and that people are more important than profit. He went on to say that if one operates with a concern for reputation and people, then revenue and profit may follow, but not vice-versa.

It was the first time I realized that there was much more substance to my school friend than I had imagined. It is also the reason why I believe that he went into the Tata conglomerate with honourable intentions. It is possible that those intentions may not have been in sync with some other stakeholders but the reason that one appoints a chairman is to place a leader at the helm, not a lackey.

Fading halo

It was around 2012 that I heard an interesting story from a common friend. Cyrus and this friend had been sitting by the poolside at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, waiting for a table at the Golden Dragon restaurant. Cyrus had just taken over as chairman a few days previously. The manager at the Taj poolside was relatively new. He did not recognize Cyrus and enquired if they were staying at the hotel (because the poolside is reserved for residents). Not once did Cyrus mention who he was. Instead, he got up, apologised and headed over to the lobby to wait for his table at the restaurant. It was his usual humility and correctness at play.

You can imagine how shocked I was when I heard that Cyrus had been guillotined in the Tata Sons boardroom. Knowing Cyrus, one simply had to ask him nicely and create the appropriate circumstances and environment for an honourable exit. He would have quit in a dignified manner, just the way he got up from that poolside table.

During my growing up years, I was fascinated by the Amar Chitra Katha comics. They were filled with stories about historical figures, mythological heroes and religious and social reformers. Whenever these stories touched upon the lives of enlightened individuals such as Buddha, Vivekananda, Guru Nanak or Zarathustra, the illustrators of those comics would place a glowing halo around the character’s head to indicate the fact that the person was an elevated soul. We Indians love doing that even in real life. We mentally place halos around the heads of our political leaders, Bollywood actors, cricketers and godmen. It’s rather foolish but we continue to do it.

That’s precisely the sort of halo that my generation placed around the Tata group and – by association – around its chairmen, be it JRD Tata or Ratan Tata. We always saw the Tata group as a rather different Indian enterprise, one that stood for decency, fairness, conscience, honesty and even social transformation.

That halo faded when Ratan Tata pulled the levers to get the board of Tata Sons to dismiss its serving chairman (with the precision of a meticulously-planned midnight coup). It soon emerged that Cyrus hadn’t been given the opportunity to defend himself during the Tata Sons board meeting. Then, in quick succession, there were letters shot back and forth. By then the halo was barely visible. Then the independent directors of boards of individual Tata companies began expressing their support for Cyrus. The halo seems to have almost entirely disappeared now and, frankly, there will be no winners at the end of this saga.

Whoever said that being Cyrus was easy?

Ashwin Sanghi is the author of The Rozabal Line, Chanakya’s Chant, The Krishna Key, The Sialkot Saga, and the 13 Steps series of self-help books. He co-authored the New York Times bestselling crime thriller Private India with James Patterson.

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What hospitals can do to drive entrepreneurship and enhance patient experience

Hospitals can perform better by partnering with entrepreneurs and encouraging a culture of intrapreneurship focused on customer centricity.

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Most of these tech enabled solutions have emerged as hospitals look for better ways to enhance patient experience – one of the top criteria in evaluating hospital performance. Patient experience accounts for 25% of a hospital’s Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) score as per the US government’s Centres for Medicare and Mediaid Services (CMS) programme. As a Mckinsey report says, hospitals need to break down a patient’s journey into various aspects, clinical and non-clinical, and seek ways of improving every touch point in the journey. As hospitals also need to focus on delivering quality healthcare, they are increasingly collaborating with entrepreneurs who offer such patient centric solutions or encouraging innovative intrapreneurship within the organization.

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Getting the best from collaborations

Speakers such as Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director - Medanta Hospitals, and Meena Ganesh, CEO and MD - Portea Medical, who spoke at the panel discussion on “Are we fit for the world of new consumers?”, highlighted the importance of collaborating with entrepreneurs to fill the gaps in the patient experience eco system. As Dr Trehan says, “As healthcare service providers we are too steeped in our own work. So even though we may realize there are gaps in customer experience delivery, we don’t want to get distracted from our core job, which is healthcare delivery. We would rather leave the job of filling those gaps to an outsider who can do it well.”

Meena Ganesh shares a similar view when she says that entrepreneurs offer an outsider’s fresh perspective on the existing gaps in healthcare. They are therefore better equipped to offer disruptive technology solutions that put the customer right at the center. Her own venture, Portea Medical, was born out of a need in the hitherto unaddressed area of patient experience – quality home care.

There are enough examples of hospitals that have gained significantly by partnering with or investing in such ventures. For example, the Children’s Medical Centre in Dallas actively invests in tech startups to offer better care to its patients. One such startup produces sensors smaller than a grain of sand, that can be embedded in pills to alert caregivers if a medication has been taken or not. Another app delivers care givers at customers’ door step for check-ups. Providence St Joseph’s Health, that has medical centres across the U.S., has invested in a range of startups that address different patient needs – from patient feedback and wearable monitoring devices to remote video interpretation and surgical blood loss monitoring. UNC Hospital in North Carolina uses a change management platform developed by a startup in order to improve patient experience at its Emergency and Dermatology departments. The platform essentially comes with a friendly and non-intrusive way to gather patient feedback.

When intrapreneurship can lead to patient centric innovation

Hospitals can also encourage a culture of intrapreneurship within the organization. According to Meena Ganesh, this would mean building a ‘listening organization’ because as she says, listening and being open to new ideas leads to innovation. Santosh Desai, MD& CEO - Future Brands Ltd, who was also part of the panel discussion, feels that most innovations are a result of looking at “large cultural shifts, outside the frame of narrow business”. So hospitals will need to encourage enterprising professionals in the organization to observe behavior trends as part of the ideation process. Also, as Dr Ram Narain, Executive Director, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, points out, they will need to tell the employees who have the potential to drive innovative initiatives, “Do not fail, but if you fail, we still back you.” Innovative companies such as Google actively follow this practice, allowing employees to pick projects they are passionate about and work on them to deliver fresh solutions.

Realizing the need to encourage new ideas among employees to enhance patient experience, many healthcare enterprises are instituting innovative strategies. Henry Ford System, for example, began a system of rewarding great employee ideas. One internal contest was around clinical applications for wearable technology. The incentive was particularly attractive – a cash prize of $ 10,000 to the winners. Not surprisingly, the employees came up with some very innovative ideas that included: a system to record mobility of acute care patients through wearable trackers, health reminder system for elderly patients and mobile game interface with activity trackers to encourage children towards exercising. The employees admitted later that the exercise was so interesting that they would have participated in it even without a cash prize incentive.

Another example is Penn Medicine in Philadelphia which launched an ‘innovation tournament’ across the organization as part of its efforts to improve patient care. Participants worked with professors from Wharton Business School to prepare for the ideas challenge. More than 1,750 ideas were submitted by 1,400 participants, out of which 10 were selected. The focus was on getting ideas around the front end and some of the submitted ideas included:

  • Check-out management: Exclusive waiting rooms with TV, Internet and other facilities for patients waiting to be discharged so as to reduce space congestion and make their waiting time more comfortable.
  • Space for emotional privacy: An exclusive and friendly space for individuals and families to mourn the loss of dear ones in private.
  • Online patient organizer: A web based app that helps first time patients prepare better for their appointment by providing check lists for documents, medicines, etc to be carried and giving information regarding the hospital navigation, the consulting doctor etc.
  • Help for non-English speakers: Iconography cards to help non-English speaking patients express themselves and seek help in case of emergencies or other situations.

As Arlen Meyers, MD, President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, says in a report, although many good ideas come from the front line, physicians must also be encouraged to think innovatively about patient experience. An academic study also builds a strong case to encourage intrapreneurship among nurses. Given they comprise a large part of the front-line staff for healthcare delivery, nurses should also be given the freedom to create and design innovative systems for improving patient experience.

According to a Harvard Business Review article quoted in a university study, employees who have the potential to be intrapreneurs, show some marked characteristics. These include a sense of ownership, perseverance, emotional intelligence and the ability to look at the big picture along with the desire, and ideas, to improve it. But trust and support of the management is essential to bringing out and taking the ideas forward.

Creating an environment conducive to innovation is the first step to bringing about innovation-driven outcomes. These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott, which is among the top 100 global innovator companies, is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.