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The Culture Drives The Organisation

A well-developed culture ensures accountability, builds trust and motivates people to consistently give their best

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All successful organisations have as their foundation a robust culture that hinges on values, beliefs, assumptions, customs, traditions and tenets. The culture is shaped by the strategic leaders of the organisation in the backdrop of a long-term vision, prevailing environmental realities and the aspirations of the people in the organisation and various stakeholders.

Culture creates the organisation’s identity and governs the behaviours of its people in pursuit of its goals. A well-developed culture ensures accountability, builds trust and motivates people to consistently give their best.

The Indian Army’s stellar performance over the last seven decades in both India and overseas is wholly attributable to its robust value-based culture that underscores the primacy of the mission and helps develop agile and well-knit teams of high-octane performers.

To retain enduring effectiveness, its culture encourages creative, innovative and proactive thinking, which enables the organisation to lead change and remain relevant in the ever-changing environment of the 21st century. It develops will power and empowers its personnel to be at ease while accomplishing missions in challenging situations marked by very high levels of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.While every institution articulates its own values, I am of the belief that the values of loyalty, integrity, respect and courage are vital for ensuring vibrant internal health and guaranteed success and growth. In brief, the value of loyalty elicits allegiance of the people towards organisational goals and its ideals. Integrity spurs people to fulfill their obligations with utmost sincerity and take decisions that are legally and morally correct. It strengthens accountability and obviates impulses that can lead people astray.

The value of respect ensures deference and tolerance of the people towards diversity and the sensitivities of others. It helps create harmonious internal and external environments, besides ensuring an affable demeanour during interactions among the people in an organisation. The virtue of courage empowers people to say what they feel is right and not what the senior wants to hear. Effective leaders always keep the providers of constructive critique very close to their heart and often use them as sounding boards when examining complex issues. These sounding boards help them take bold decisions and manage risk more comprehensively and effectively.

Organisational culture spreads to various branches and segments of the organisation through the climate the subordinate leaders create and foster.  While culture is formed over many years, the climate is created by the leaders during their tenures. To inspire people to internalise the values in earnest, it is imperative that leaders at all levels are seen as role models, who champion organisational ethics. The induction programmes evolved for integrating new entrants into the organisation, inter alia, should diligently focus on the code of conduct, policies, procedures and other elements of the culture.

Effective integration occurs only when individual values get aligned with that of the organisation. Any parallax is likely to be a source of recurring friction and conflict. In the profession of arms, all ranks are made to practice and live organisational values till they get engrained in their psyche and each value becomes a habit.

Organisational culture cannot be completely insulated from external influences. It remains susceptible to the unethical and corrupt behaviours and practices that still plague our society. In the last corruption perception index released by the Berlin-based Transparency International, India ranked 81 in a group of 180 countries. While sincere efforts are on to strengthen e-governance and to root out corruption, it will take time for us to improve our stature in the international pecking order. In the last few years, electronic media reports have alluded to ethical erosion and fading in almost every pillar of our democracy.  

Ethical erosion and fading, more often than not, starts from the top and percolates down to the members of the organisation. Figuratively speaking, in today’s world, leaders live in glass houses and whatever they do is known to all. Some leaders tend to undermine ethical standards when they get inebriated with their achievements and start believing in their indispensability. Double standards confuse subordinates and overtime, weaken their shields of mental resilience.  Leaders should learn to wear the hat of success with grace and humility. They should set the ethical tone and consistently display  impeccable behaviour even when they rise to dizzy heights.

To shape and strengthen ethical culture, strategic leaders should continuously update the policies and code of conduct in the light of contemporary best practices and regulatory framework. They should proactively engage with their people and encourage them to express themselves with candour and conviction. They should keep the formal and informal channels of communications open.

Choking of communication channels gives rise to wedge-driving rumours and inappropriate use of social media. Great strategic leaders are also quintessential readers of nonverbal communications, which enhances their ability to gauge the levels of trust, contentment, confidence, camaraderie and commitment more accurately.

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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magazine 22 december 2019 communication

Bikram Singh

General Bikram Singh , PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM, ADC, is a former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of the Indian Army

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