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PI Talkies: The 24/48 Rule

The 24/48 rule plays out across organisations, across spheres. Take cricket for instance. Think of 24 as the dressing room, maybe the nets

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Have you heard of the 24/48 Rule? If you are a leader looking to build a great business and shape your organisation’s culture, it’s a rule you will find useful.

The 24/48 rule is built on the premise that almost all organisations have two compartments. 24 and 48. And the numbers refer to the ambient temperature at which the people in those compartments operate. The 24 degrees refers to folks in the air-conditioned corporate office. They are the people who make the big decisions, the policies and strategies that drive the entire organisation. And at 48 degrees are the people out there in the marketplace. The sales teams and the supply chain people, working in the heat and dust.

The 24/48 rule says that to build a successful business, you’ve got to make sure that the people in the 24-degree environment always keep the 48-degree folks in their mind. Businesses depend on the 48ers for the execution of their ideas and strategies, and indeed for their success. In the confines of an air-conditioned room, decisions can seem like they are works of geniuses, but it’s a good idea to pause and consider how they might play out in the real world of 48 degrees. Good leaders learn to test their plans in a 48-degree environment, ask for feedback – and then go ahead.

Powerful idea, no? Reminded me of my own experience at the start of my career. Coming out of B-school and hoping to build a career in marketing with India’s largest FMCG company, I had big dreams of going to work at their plush South Bombay office, and of devising marketing strategies and creating great advertising. I was quickly brought down to earth, on day one in fact, when I was sent off to spend the first eight weeks selling soap in small-town Tamil Nadu. The message was clear. Businesses aren’t built inside air-conditioned offices. They are built out there in the marketplace where customers part with their hard-earned cash to buy a company’s products and services. It is a message that has stayed with me.

The 24/48 rule plays out across organisations, across spheres. Take cricket for instance. Think of 24 as the dressing room, maybe the nets. Or the BCCI officials. You can devise great strategies there, but results come from the execution in the real game, from the players – the 48 folks.

If you’d like to leverage the 24/48 rule to your company’s advantage, here are two ideas to get you started.

One, make it mandatory for everyone in the organisation – across functions - to spend time with the frontline, meeting customers. In some companies, an interesting ritual is the creation of a Bazaar Day – one day in the year when all the people in the corporate office go out and spend time in the market, with the frontline folks. Almost magically, it paves the way for greater empathy and mutual respect.

Another idea would be to give a chance to the frontline people to “Walk a day in my shoes”. Essentially get the 48ers to shadow a 24 person for a day. It allows them to see the other point of view, and opens their minds to the idea that they are not the only ones who care for the business.

The 24/48 Rule. Try it. It’s good for business. And good for you too.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Prakash Iyer

Iyer is an author, speaker and leadership coach , and former MD of Kimberly Clark Lever

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