“In the old days, it used to be said that the Twentieth Century Motor trademark was as good as the karat mark on gold. I don’t know what it was that the Starnes heirs thought, if they thought at all, but I suppose that like all social planners and like savages, they thought that this trademark was a magic stamp which did the trick by some sort of voodoo power and that it would keep them rich, as it had kept their father. Well, when our customers began to see that we never delivered an order on time and never put out a motor that didn’t have something wrong with it – the magic stamp began to work the other way around: people wouldn’t take a motor as a gift, if it was marked Twentieth Century. And it came to where our only customers were men who never paid and never meant to pay their bills. But Gerald Starnes, doped by his own publicity, got huffy and went around, with an air of moral superiority, demanding that businessmen place orders with us, not because our motors were good, but because we needed the orders so badly.”
Having published the first of the two sections from Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) that inspired me, it was only appropriate that my next post be about the second section from this epic of a book, that has left such a deep impression on me.
To be honest, it was very difficult for me to go through this part of the book the first time around; for the sole reason that the time spent reading this section was one where I was totally repulsed by the description given in the pages.
Now one might say that ‘repulse’ is too strong a word to be used in the context of a particular section of a book. Alas, that was the exact emotion that I experienced while going deeper into the pages. When one starts imagining the kind of transition that envelopes an organization, where people outdo each other to do the worst they can, hiding their own ability and… staking their claim on other’s; the plot leaves a huge lump in one’s throat which stays there, much to his/ her discomfort. Any system that rewards non-performers at the cost of performers is bound to fail, or develop cracks from within, sooner or later; should we consider a time period of 5 yrs, or one which spans 50.
Not to take anything away from the books and articles that I have read (and learnt from) over the years, but, this section taught me more about the essence of people management and understanding and managing (the right kind of) people’s expectations in the 2 days that were spent reading this section, than all the time I had spent reading about Reward, Recognition and Training (Winning anyone?!) and rest all jazz that HBR and other fabulous (albeit random!) sources line up in my mailbox every day around noon or later.
Of all the things that I am grateful for, the one thing that this section helped me with most, was to learn to Let Go… of learning (laying to rest parts of myself – perceivably good or harmful, that do not serve me in the long run), situations and people.
Trust you too will find something relevant to take back from this section, each and every time you read this.
p.s.: Feel free to bookmark, for all those times you may wish to revisit this.
(An answer that still eludes me: How did Ayn Rand know all that she did? And what experiences did she undergo to learn the same? )
The Story of The Twentieth Century Motor Company from ‘Atlas Shrugged’