Another brick in the wall.


Organizations are funny institutions. Talent is hired via a thorough recruitment process. Time & money is spent on induction & subsequent training to prepare the feed for the organizational set-up. Work requirements are identified, and fresh minds are deployed to take a relook at existing systems or at times to begin something afresh. The organizations like to believe that fresh perspective is helping them grow & keep up with the changing trends (as taught in the business schools) & the new joinees revel in the new found learning for the entire induction period after which a majority of them either sit aside wondering how the organization has been existing all these years without expert intervention or make an effort trying to convince how they can bring about the ‘change’ which the thought leaders of the self same setup promised them they could bring. A majority however, eventually choose go with the flow.

Most trainees join at middle management levels & are managers without the slightest inkling of what a manager is expected to do. Usually, it doesn’t harm much, as most organizations too do not know what to do with managers! It is interesting to note how most freshers nowadays do not know the answer to the recruiters’ favorite question of all times “where do you see yourself five years from now?”

Man-Machine-Medium-Mission-Management

A typical organization has a defined objective or end towards which all its efforts are aligned. Vision & Mission statements are more than just fashionable statements adorning companies’ walls (or they should be) It is with these objectives in mind that the business of a business is run. Efforts are made to reach the goals & the same is broken down into achievable, measurable bits which all weave in together to achieve a particular goal over a given period of time. In order that the efforts may be made, organizations need manpower & material that they may work with. An organization slowly evolves into an organism in its own right & sets up its own systems & processes through which control maybe established & alignment to organizational values maybe achieved.

The question to be asked is who is the ‘organization’? The organization as referred to in the preceding paragraphs is a set of individuals who by virtue of time spent in the system, function or professional arena are deemed seniors in the set-up & reserve the duty of taking decisions & defining the way-forward for the rest of the individuals that constitute the set-up. These are fondly called the MANAGEMENT.

Much about where the performance goes & how the employees fare on their KRAs depends upon the Management (as distinguished from managers). In order that the large populace in the system is managed effectively, a series of systems, processes, rules & regulations are evolved. These dictates systems eventually achieve just the opposite!

Let us examine how this happens. We shall pick a few tools from the organizational fabric which the management relies upon. Namely,

 Succession planning – Involves moving players one direction, upwards, instead of zigzagging—which produces superior learning. What is created is an inventory of potential replacements but there is no effort of rigorously investing in this inventory. There are people put in to fill someone’s shoes who are not really ready to take over the role. All of these lead to lack of confidence in the process

 Setting up of KRAs – The mission statement is broken down into its granular components & each one is given a part of the bigger jigsaw. More often than not employees do not understand where their part of the solution fits in. The stringent KPI measurement ensures that they have no opportunity whatsoever to pick any cues of the bigger picture as they themselves are made a tiny part of the photo frame

 Setting up SLAs – the centralized system creates chains of command which despite dependencies exist as separate setups within an organization. In order that they do not hamper each others’ functions, the management ensures a set of service level agreements which define who will do what in how much turnaround time

 Centralization of decision making – This reduces managers to mere implementers

 Rules & regulations that act more like a boundary line within which people can function

 Specialization

 Span of control

 Incentives for positive affirmation of order fulfilling

 Control over Budgets

These & several other practices ensure that an organization (which ironically depends on individuals to get to the vision) at times/mostly, deliberately disallows the employees from reaching professional maturity at workplace & promote immature subordinate behavior primarily by under expecting from its efficient workforce.

This reminds one of the often quoted Maturity-Immaturity Continuum by Cris Argyris. The logic laid down is simple. The theory studies the changes that take place in an individual’s behavior as he moves from being an infant to an adult. Maturity is gained as an individual traverses from the left end – immaturity to the right end – maturity (see chart). Such progression is achieved as a result of advancement in age & leads to development of the ‘healthy’ personality. It is true that culture & personality too are factors which substantially affect the exhibition of maturity in the growing adult.

A typical organisation is set up in the traditional pyramidal centralised power of control hierarcy. Individuals are hired & trained to do specific specialized jobs in a specified span of time with a specified set of people reporting in to them to whom work maybe delegated. A specified superior overlooks the performance of the individual & ‘rewards’ him with a rating which is then normalized via a relative performance grade logic to fit in with the organisations specified bonus budget. The very individuality for which the employee was recuited goes for a toss & a creative soul becomes another brick in the wall.

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