PMI Bangalore Chapter

PM Guest Article January 2021

The Unconventional Project Manager


Murlidharan is currently retired, but in the past has worked in various organizations like Madhura Coats, BPL (as a CIO) and IBM.

MSD, Mahi, or simply Dhoni, as he is called, is without doubt one of the finest captains that India has ever had and a hero to many cricketing fans. Project managers will find a good case study in his success through unconventional methods.

Starting from a humble background, he rose to become the most successful cricket captain of India to win the most number of cups. Under his captaincy, India won the inaugural 2007 ICC World Twenty20, the 2010 and 2016 Asia Cups, the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup and the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy. This success can be attributed to his keen cricketing instinct, uncanny intuition, excellent leadership skills and exceptional humility.

Leadership Being a natural leader, he knew exactly how to get things done. From being an excellent team player, to managing super stars, many of whom were much older and established than him, he couldn’t have won so many cups had he not managed his men well. Leading from front by example, his exceptional leadership skills were all as a result of observation and experience. Without a management degree or a corporate background, he learnt from Life itself.

Communication We could catch his constant banter from the stump microphones which was a continuous communication to the team. No project is successful without the communicate, communicate and communicate mantra. He was a master at reading the situation and communicating it to the rest of the team both on and off the field. This not only motivated the team but made sure that every player was clear about his role. Players come from different parts of India, and it is tough to communicate because of language issues  but he made sure that they spoke the only language they could all understand on the field – the language of cricket.

People Management No project can be completed as a one-man-show. Through excellent team work he got things done – utilising to the hilt the strengths of each individual player of his team. There were very few who didn’t get along well with him. He was good at selecting the best team for his projects and without bias or prejudice gave everyone a fair chance. This brought many youngsters to the forefront and helped build a long lasting team instead of focusing on just the performance at the current matches.

Stakeholder Management Dhoni knew who his stakeholders were and never tried to please all. Unlike many others before him, he maintained a squeaky clean image because one of his stakeholders included his conscience. There are many instances of how he handled questions from the press with aplomb. He was crystal clear about his priorities and that produced excellent results. The good sense of humour that he had made his stakeholder management easy and successful. Laid down objective was to win and every player was made to understand this to give their best.

Risk Management Dhoni took many calculated risks. Information being scarce, he depended on his fore-sight to understand the risks and planned ahead for them. He applied risk mitigation strategies, even when he lost the toss. Intelligent assessment of the risks involved courageous risk taking abilities; on the field this talent made his captaincy truly exceptional.

Emotional Management “Captain cool” remained cool under testing situations, being least disturbed emotionally. Unperturbed and unruffled he knew that he had to keep emotions in check to ensure project success. Be victory or loss, he took them with equanimity. He was a master and not slave to his emotions – something that is not very easy to do as a celebrity. His coolness during and after the matches was legendary that kept the stress level at minimum.

Process Adherence He understood the rules, followed the processes to ensure project success, looked at long term results rather than short term gains and knew that putting processes in place ensured success. This kept the team’s activities smooth and transparent.

Ownership As the captain of the project, he owned the result and knew the buck stopped at him. Rarely was he found blaming someone else for a defeat. He never usurped victories but shared success with the team. Never did he carry the trophies for photographs and handed over the same to the new and young players. A motivation beyond imagination.

Strategy His instinctive field placements and constant adjustments brought him many successes. It was almost like he could predict where the batsman would hit the next ball, an uncanny ability which surprised and impressed many commentators and even some opponents. Though not much is known about his planning skills, as most of this was done behind the scenes, the results of his strategies are there for everyone to see.

We need such leaders in our country’s administrative and political arenas and I am sure he would be picked up for a significant role to continue to serve our country anytime soon.