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BW Businessworld

Analysis: Organisation In Decay!

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Delaware was an organisation! It has now forgotten that organisations have to have value frameworks that allow individuals to work in a safe manner. Now, Delaware is an organisation in decay. 

All individuals bring to an organisation a unique and a brilliant way of thinking. The uniqueness of each individual's way of thinking and his working in tandem with other individuals allows an organisation to grow. But an individual's uniqueness can only be an asset for the organisation when it functions within a value framework and when such a value framework is clearly defined. A key function of such a value framework is to guide individuals about what not to do. The second function of a value framework is to guide them on how to do things that are difficult. When an organisation does not define what not to do, it runs the risk of individual members of the organisation deciding what is right for the organisation and working at cross purposes. Also when an organisation does not instil "the how to" of difficult decisions, then it decays.

I do not blame Ajit for the messy decision- making at Delaware. Nor do I blame Mark or Uppal. I, certainly, do not blame Uday. For blaming these individuals for the mess would mean that I would be following the same logic as Ajit. His logic goes like this: If sales are down then one individual is not working and that individual must be held accountable (presumably, so that others start working.) This logic is fallacious. Blaming just one person and making him accountable only repeats the problems rather than solving them. So who is responsible for the mess that Delaware finds itself in? I do not know the answer, as sometimes it is difficult to define human situations in terms of a linear cause and effect.

So, let us visualise that Ajit and Uday are playing with a ball. In this game it is Uday's job to catch the ball that Ajit throws, and  Ajit's job is to catch the ball that Uday throws. Both are catching well. Then one time, Uday is not able to catch the ball and he drops it. If one uses linear causality it would be logical to say Uday messed up and he does not know how to play; or also to say that Ajit does not know how to throw a ball and thereby conclude fault. Organisational processes (in fact most human interactions) are not as simple as this game!

Now look at another game. Ajit, Mark, Uppal, Uday, Indira, Ambi, all the dealers and vendors of Delaware have a ball each to throw and are also supposed to catch the balls that are thrown in their direction. If we imagine all of them throwing their balls at the same time…how many balls will be dropped and how many will be caught? And who will be responsible for the balls dropped and who does not know to play ball? Who will decide who went wrong?

Is it fair to think in terms of cause and effect? Is it possible to say who went wrong or is it more important to figure out what went wrong, and how things may be done differently, so that the objectives are met? Perhaps, what went wrong in this game is similar to what went wrong at Delaware. No one defined ‘what not to do' and ‘how to take decisions'. So all the decisions did not add up to fulfilling the objectives of the
organisation.

If one uses linear causality while thinking about organisations one may end up defining who went wrong. This is a good way of finding scapegoats. If, however, one were first to reflect on ‘what went wrong' and, in answer to this question, one looked for patterns, patterns that connect thoughts of various people about ‘what went wrong', then, prepared with this information, one can ask, ‘What should be done differently, now?' and ‘What would be the impact of the solution not only on the problem that has been defined but also on individuals and their capacities?' Then, one would find answers that are game-changers.

The real change, my dear Mark and the invisible people you represent, is not to allow the MD to unceremoniously sack the Sales head who has a long association of 17 years with the company. Or to blame Ajit for sacking Uday. Or to blame Indira for taking over from Uday. Or to blame Uppal for not standing up to Ajit. Or for everyone to blame everyone else. So, while I do not blame anyone for the mess at Delaware, I do wonder what it is about this organisation that everyone has become a silent spectator and is ‘grieving'. Can an organisation survive such a mournful silence?
Though one does not have all the information, one would really suggest to the team
to reflect!

Reflect by asking three questions: One, when did we start blaming individuals for collective failure? Two, what do we celebrate as success and how do we do it? Three, how do we honour near failures? The answers may throw up a solution and not a scapegoat!

Dr Achal Bhagat is a consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist. He is director, division of mental health and quality of life, at Medanta The Medicity, Gurgaon. He is also chairperson, Saarthak, an NGO in the field of mental health services

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 26-03-2012)