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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Reforms is the Key

The widely prevalent belief that many organizations lack focus on delivery and need to work harder to bring about major improvements is borne out of the simple age old philosophy that hard work leads to higher output. The philosophy is not totally off the mark, except for the fact that it does not really differentiate between remaining busy and deliverance.

Remaining busy does not always imply delivery though delivery would invariably necessitate remaining busy. The fine line between the two needs appreciation borne out of experience.

All the organizations that I have been associated with in the capacity of a head honcho had people, almost the majority of them, who remained busy like hell and also took pride in that. They were, with exceptions of course, generally all good people with good intentions. Yet in their obsession with remaining or appearing to remain busy, the bigger picture was lost sight of and delving in the mundane occupied centre stage. Blaming peers, superiors, subordinates and also the constraints of the external environment for failures to adequately deliver, without realizing that an honest peek within, as Gautam Buddha said, would provide the real answers.

And therefore I often peeked within, looked for and fairly regularly found the right answers within easy reach and also easily implementable. And answers were generally the same regardless of the sector and its intrinsic technical or administrative complexities. And organizations in general behaved similarly to external stimuli.   

One of the biggest follies of organizations is adapting to an aggressive cycle of management, a cycle during which reprimands and extensive monitoring at various levels occupies centre stage almost all the time. A frenetic activity unfortunately and also incorrectly gets regarded as synonymous with delivery. This cycle assumes that subordinates do not know their jobs, are not to be trusted and are to be always kept on their toes for them to be able to deliver, in case deliverance is really aspired for, with trust being the biggest casualty, almost always.

Lack of clarity in how to please superiors remains another area of concern. Employees generally desire that superiors, as they have the maximum impact on the environment of the subordinates, should be happy and therefore they look for ways and means to keep them so. Kowtowing to whatever the superior says or does, generally appears to be the safest bet and therefore almost everyone at all times looks for opportunities to agree with superiors, even at the cost of what is right, or right for the organization. Rarely does one witness people having an opinion and standing up for what they think is right. 

The ridiculous extent to which the processes have been generally complicated even for mundane activities is sad and also damaging for organizations. And therefore the never ending quest for super outstanding people who can bend, twist or subvert the processes in order to deliver. This is at far variance with what one witnesses in developing countries where systems are based on trust and processes are simple enough to be handled by almost everyone.

Reforms therefore need to address all these basic issues.

Organisational culture is the first area to be looked at. Is it a culture built on sycophantic behaviour with frills being at the core of almost all our activities? Are people concerned about pleasing superiors or they are bothered about doing the right thing and delivering? Are the men happy or are the faces drooping? These are questions that need to be answered and then addressed. A no frills environment devoid of petty ego’s that encourages a fearless working environment indeed brings out the best in the human resource. We need to create an environment where our men can stand erect with pride and at the same time have humility and compassion towards their fellow human beings.

Reforms should also address the core issue of deliverance. The supremacy of deliverance over everything else except perhaps the human values needs to be grilled down the organisation. That men being mere mortals would make mistakes in the process of work needs to be appreciated. And the organisation should be invariably able to differentiate between a genuine mistake and a malafide. The men need to be proactively supported and cared for.

The processes need to be simplified, ideally to the level of one thumb impression per decision, but that may not be always possible. Yet a lot of simplifications is possible, almost always in every single organisation. And the easiest way to simplify is to delegate authority to the lowest functional levels. Yet letting go of authority is easier said than done and resistance and road blocks to this effort in the guise of concern for malpractices that may erupt if people are trusted, needs to be handled with an iron hand.

Reforming the structures should indeed come the last for what is a structure but a physical manifestation of the process. The structure exists for the processes and not the other way round. Ideal structures are like pyramids with a clearly defined apex in whom the supreme power vests, and the apex is not meant to personally exercise powers for everything under the sun, for that would bring the organisation to a grinding halt, but should liberally sprinkle power over the various tiers of functional authorities.

And lastly choosing the guy at the apex level. While a lot of requirements apparently come to mind, the one quality that really encompasses everything else is the courage to stand up, at the right time for what is right. Fearlessness needs to be at the core for the guy occupying the hottest seat.

Organisations shall flourish with a liberal sprinkling of reforms and a courageous guy at the apex level.