Monday, December 4th, 2017
The key tests for sieving through the MBA aspirants in India focus excruciatingly only on aptitude skills with an exception of XAT. XAT paper also invests in analyzing a person’s attitude, though the standard test format is rather restrictive for being an accurate barometer for a person’s honesty/sincerity. After all, like Warren Buffett insists – Integrity is the prime quality he would look for before hiring a new candidate.
“Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you really want them to be dumb and lazy.” – Warren Buffett
XAT has a separate section for Decision Making which tries to filter this coveted quality among the candidates. It consists of situations/case lets with you as the protagonist and possible course of action that you can take now. It generally consists of one or more of the following types of problems:
1) Management Issues
2) Ethical Dilemma questions
3) Financial Issues
The areas which the questions encompass are generally related to automobiles or manufacturing plants, workplace equality, corruption, etc. If you’ve been regularly reading the newspaper comprehensively, preferably an unbiased one, it would be much easier for you to draw parallels from real life.
Ethics is becoming the cornerstone of any MBA education program, with cases like Enron becoming commonplace – Deutsche Boerse becoming one of the most recent scandals hitting the media. Ethics are essentially generally acceptable standards of responsibility and conduct in which any relationship/partnership is handled. This may include the behavior of two colleagues with each other, the attitude of an employee with the suppliers, or the communication from the company with its customers. It is easily one of the most convoluted topics studied in business, and therefore, very difficult to be transparent about. The normal customs and expectations also complicate the matter further. There can be no rule book that can save you from all pitfalls as there may not be one correct or ideal course of action in real life. However, the following steps may help a XAT candidate to easily eliminate incorrect answers, if not, arrive at the correct answer. Please note that there is no tacit sequence involved, however, the steps are listed in order of ease of acclimatizing yourself with them.
The inherent subjectivity in any real-life situation is a double-edged sword. It may render the problem quite relatable and easier for you to assess the impact at different parties/stakeholders involved. However, you’re also much more likely to let your personal biases cloud your judgment. It is, therefore, absolutely crucial to be conscious of your own prejudices. A healthy way to distance yourself from such a pitfall is to discuss the questions with your friends and other candidates.
This practice will go a long way in helping you for the Group Discussion round as well, and not to forget, in building a more holistic and educated view of the world.
A good manager/leader takes charge of the situation rather than waiting and expecting others to do the right thing. For example, if you somehow get reliable information that someone in your company is fudging and inflating his sales figures for earning more sales commission, and even if your paths do not cross in your regular work, it will be a horrible idea to simply sleep on this information, and worse still, to propagate the news as the office grapevines. Ideally, the first step would be to report it to the concerned authorities, quoting the reasons why you suspect the same. Of course, it would be a good idea to be certain before making an allegation as eventually, the evidence will rule. That being said, often times, as in this case as well, it can be beyond your capacity to ascertain the truth since your work may not be intertwined. It is imperative though to sincerely take action in your ability.
For a lot of us, having lived in a similar environment all our lives do not add to our ability to be empathetic or even acknowledge the predicaments other people face. For example, a person who has been brought up in a family of academicians or army men can be more likely to frown upon well-settled businessmen. They can be rather dismissive of the trouble they have had to go through in order to maintain a steady flow of income for their family and vice versa. There should be no denying that it’s rather difficult to be perfectly empathetic since we all are inclined to place more weight on something we have faced ourselves. Another classic example corroborating this bias comes in light of the recent MeToo campaign, which aimed at making the world aware of scale and prevalence of sexual harassment against women. Twitter and Facebook were flooded with shameful instances that many ladies shared. But a lot of men were sharply taken aback by the magnitude of the impact such an instance can have on the victim, even the ones who are staunch supporters of the cause. It is not possible for a gender to know exactly how something can affect the opposite gender, and silence about it can obviously make them unaware or indifferent towards it.
Though theoretically impossible, a good leader would try his/her best to be cognitive of different points of view and to be sensitive towards different belief systems.
There has also been ample research on leadership and related qualities. Empathy is regarded as the crowned jewel in the long list. It is strenuous to imbibe this trait and will take the entire lifetime, but a small step in the right direction can only bring you closer to the correct option in the XAT Decision Making section.
Any situation can be broken down into an impact-influence dynamic between different stakeholders. Once you have identified the key stakeholders involved and assessed their respective interests, a second reading of the text may throw more light on minute caveats or wordplay. For example, if the text says Mr. X stole money in front of Ms. Y, the tacit connotation is quite different from when the text says Ms. Y said she saw Mr. X steal money. In one case, there is a ubiquitous certitude of Mr. X committing a felony but in the other case, Mr. X may be innocent and Ms. Y can, in fact, be the real culprit. In the latter case, the likelihood of Mr. X being the perpetrator is strongly correlated with the likelihood of Ms. Y telling the truth as well as not hallucinating. It will be in your best interest to not jump to conclusions, and in fact, give each stakeholder some leeway and the benefit of the doubt.
Being understanding and empathetic shouldn’t come at the cost of rationality. Please note that empathy is different from being emotionally gullible. There’s a very thin line between a smart leader and a rather strict one. Both may be clever but a smart one is understanding too. One way one can achieve this is by thinking rationally, trying to minimize the cumulative loss of all stakeholders, yet making sure one or more individuals or groups are not unfairly getting the shorter end of the stick. A smart one would weigh in both long-term and short-term benefits and damages before reaching a decision prudently. A smart one would value the society before his/her employer, and put the organization before any person, even before his own self.
Hopefully, equipped with the above steps, you are in better shape for attacking any Decision Making question in XAT this year.
a) Detailed Concept Videos
b) Questions from 2008-17 solved on video
c) 5 Decision Making mocks with 100 questions
d) Live Classes for Strategy
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