Leadership lessons from the Great Rail Yatra: Indian Railways In 2006, when the then Railway Minister rose to address the parliament with the rail budget, he said “Mr. Speaker Sir, I rise to present the Budget Estimates 2006-07 for the Indian Railways at a point in time when, there has been a historical turnaround in the financial situation of the Indian Railways.” The sheer size and scale of the Indian railways in terms of the volume of passengers and freight it carries to the number of trains run and the scale of operations involved makes it a traditionally challenging organization for any change. To top it, it was said to be burdened with inefficient bureaucracy and conflicting objectives of public service and commercial viability. In fact to haul it out from the terminal debt trap that engulfed it, a parliamentary committee had recommended corporatization, downsizing and increasing fares without much consideration into the soul of the organization. However, the turnaround in question here helped the Indian Railways to bounce back from his fund balance of a mere Rs. 180 crore to generating a surplus of Rs. 16000 crores within a span of 6-7 years. Furthermore, in the XIth 5 year plan, investments to the tune of Rs. 2500 billion were planned for modernization. The writers attribute the success of the turnaround to 3 sets of actors: 1) Railway minister and his advisors
2) Railway board
3) Staff of Indian railways
The thread that ran through the actions of all these actors was the leveraging of the strengths of Indian railways (employees, engineering talent, existing infrastructure etc) rather than trying to eliminate the weaknesses. Minister & Railway Board:
The minister understood, acknowledged and respected the skills and independence of the talent available within the organization. To encourage the employees, the minister himself not only took initiative & responsibility but also assumed the risks of new actions. He connected with the...