The second half of the 20th century brought with it a start to revolutionary changes in organizational management styles. Emphasis started being given to proper management structures where a concept of shared ownership was developed and policies opened the top managements’ doors for everyone at the workplace. Management suddenly became a science and terms like data mining, forecasting, and decision analysis etc. became the talk of the town. Business had new rules- rules that were governed by the principles set by management theories. Systems, structures and frameworks had started being developed and/ or adopted. A new breed of professionals emerged onto the scene and they called themselves ‘Consultants’. They would help organizations open up their eyes to see what was happening in the outside world. This awakening though would cost organizations fortunes. But, companies felt it was the need of the hour and in some cases, an ‘in’ thing to hire a consultant and have systems implemented. There was a small problem to all of this though- humans.
I participated in a training in Osaka back in 2012 which was a trainer’s trainer course for the Management Training Program (MTP). What struck me the most in Japan was an astonishing contrast. It was a contrast between understanding human beings and implementing strong systems. For many, it may not come across as a contrast. It may not even come across as relevant for a few. But what was interesting for me to observe was the presence of such strong and robust systems and infrastructures in every field and walk of life there and yet the heart of the management training program was to understand human beings better. I think this is because of the underlying fact that all systems and policies are useless until those upon whom these policies have an effect on are understood completely encompassing every facet of their personalities. Human psychology is a complex subject and those who are students of this subject would agree to me on that. Every human being is a different person, with different needs, reactions and patterns of thinking. And to categorize them is a task that only has a start and no definite end to it.
Frameworks and policies therefore fail to take on a robust shape in countries like ours where importance is given to personalities more than the system itself. How many times have we seen organizations that are run on a system that completely depends on one or two individuals who are sitting at the helm of affairs?
It is actually unfair to call this kind of setting a ‘system’ in the first place. These are work environments where educated, qualified professionals boast about the prevalent management theories of their times or maybe even those that are predicted for the times to come. Yet, in effect, their own organizations or departments lack seriousness in the very same areas. Systems and structures are merely used as disposable tools for short term benefits that are often even limited to personal gains instead of organizational advantage.
Change is the only thing that is consistent in these kind of organizations. The primary reason behind this is the on-going violation of policies in the name of amendments/ enhancements. The interesting part is that this is led/ allowed from the top. Policies and systems in such organizations are intentionally set on weak foundations so that the same can be used against personnel by putting the blame on them for certain failures. I have seen policies that have room for exceptional cases ending up being used in way that it becomes difficult for one to distinguish between a rule and exception. Policies that are already made flexible are stretched to greater lengths and in many cases even revised frequently in order to entertain items on the wish list of those who disagree with what their predecessors had been doing- even if that means overwhelming any good practices. Dependence on institutional memory instead of concrete systems is not something that organizations should be proud of.
In this time, it is considered shameful for someone to concede that any of the work done by their predecessors was correct and on-track. This is basically because of the pressures ineffably and sometimes even explicitly put on new comers when bringing them on-board. These pressures push individuals to either re-brand the system that was already in place (discrediting all the work previously done) or start all over again reinventing the wheel. They need to do this in order to please egos of the people sitting at C-level positions in organizations who actually brought them on-board in the first position. It is sad but true.
From modern organizational management styles to pleasing egos, the work environment of many organizations specially in the sub-continent has generally deteriorated over time and systems and frameworks only serve the purpose of pleasant visual professional packaging and sometimes helps the organization get by compliance issues. Theories keep pouring in everyday and most of them may also be effective in reality. However, if there is a will to make a difference, one must adopt a mindset where scopes are defined, systems are strengthened and structures are allowed to mature and be followed. This requires consistency on both personal and professional levels and a control over one’s will to mold the system as per his/ her personal desires. Maybe that is what the world generally calls ‘professionalism’.
Hammad A. Mateen