New age organisation for national good
AI is rightly being hailed as the agent of next generation Industrial Revolution because AI makes the technology 'smart' producing a multiplier effect
India's strategy of governance and growth must rely heavily on the transformational impact that the IT revolution has made on our young generations over these three decades. This had overshadowed the traditional approaches the rulers had hitherto adopted in both areas. Time is ripe for this course correction as the country has in Prime Minister Narendra Modi a leader who had an uncanny grasp of how the times had changed.
The transition of Industrial Age to Knowledge Economy altered the narrative of productivity by creating new norms of leadership, teamwork and management and put the focus on the idea of the individual being made the centre of all output through appropriate human resource development strategies. Induction of technology in all aspects of a functioning enterprise to make the processes 'smart' emerged as the new recipe of success, the basic idea here being to enhance the output on investment per unit of 'resource' with 'time' becoming a newfound asset in addition to the conventional resources of 'money' and 'manpower'.
'Efficiency' as the productivity enhancer in relation to time and 'cost-effectiveness' as a legitimate means of conserving resources of funds and personnel, combine to define this 'smartness'. Artificial Intelligence, a gift of technology, is rightly being hailed as the agent of a next generation Industrial Revolution primarily because just as technology makes a process 'smart' AI makes the technology itself 'smart' producing a multiplier effect.
The new framework of organisational aims and responsibilities begins with the emphasis on bringing on board information savvy personnel and embraces an investment on arrangements to garner business intelligence on border-less markets, a lookout for appropriate technology and adoption of principles of corporate governance. The most important conceptual shift, however, is in the areas of human resource development and establishment of the right organisational environment for achieving the goals of productivity.
In this regard, it should be specifically mentioned that vertical interaction designed to nurture talent, transparency in credit sharing and a conscious effort to strike 'work-life balance'—all of these contribute to organisational loyalty. This, in turn, makes for optimal output because a loyal employee will always produce more. The newfound practices mandated by the Age of Knowledge have to be understood and grasped by the entrepreneurs as well as the leaders of the government of these times.
A 'flat' organisation is the order of the day where the 'boss' is also the immediate superior responsible for mentoring his team and combining a healthy delegation of decision making with an understanding that the senior was available for giving guidance whenever it was sought by a junior. Today's boss has to be a leader too which means he should be reliable and looked upon as a person with 'power of authenticity'— this coming among other things from the ability to make knowledge-based decisions. The organisation's approach to teamwork should acknowledge that 'nobody knows everything but everybody knows something' which means that all 'tacit' knowledge available within the organisation had to be garnered.
Also, it has to be realised that the individual can be turned into a 'production centre' through 'skilling' or 'reskilling' and that a multi-cultural team could be a 'powerhouse of creativity'. The basic thing in selecting the team is to keep in mind the idea of 'leveraging individual strengths for enhancing productivity'. All these principles must come into play in the field of governance as well particularly because the country is moving towards Public-Private Partnership that would require a common grid of management principles operating across the government-non-government divide.
It is good to know that organisational responsibilities of those who run an enterprise cover a new range now. Keeping the body free of internal corruption comes first as an insider damaging the organisation by indulging in malpractices for personal gain destroys the collective good that the enterprise could ever serve. Scrutiny of fund utilisation—this is directly connected with productivity—is to be done by periodical audit and is to be supported by a system of vigilance management that was now an integral part of corporate governance. There is an emphasis on preventive vigilance which begins with the identification of 'vulnerable' areas and positions where tested hands would be posted.
Corporate governance defines the role and responsibilities of board members controls unethical practices like insider trading and eliminates discrimination on grounds of caste, creed or sex within the organisation. In the risk management paradigms today there is a shift from 'security as a cost' to security ' creating value for the stakeholders'. Also, a safe and secure workplace is now considered essential for employees to work with a peaceful mind, regain concentration and thereby enhance output. The leadership of a successful enterprise fully understands the mandate of the Age of Knowledge embracing all these aspects of how to make the organisation more productive. There is no reason why these practices should not be assimilated in governance as well.
Three things relating to any organisational outfit stand out in bold relief. First, today's organisation has to have information savvy members on its rolls. Such people have some defined traits: they do not shun reading, have a spirit of inquiry, prefer authentic opinion to gossip, have logical progression of thought in terms of going into the What? Why? and Where? of a situation and have an interest in human nature and behaviour. Secondly, the incredible speed with which business is conducted and the pace at which things change have created a new resource called 'time'.
It is vital for the leadership to eliminate all 'time stealers', make a speedy 'course correction' where needed and generally create an organisational environ where everybody worked with a sense of urgency of purpose. There is loss of time when there is a lag between information and decision, between decision and its communication and between the communicated decision and its implementation. The leaders must understand these finer points.
And finally, technology induction must make the organisation produce more but the leadership should also be aware that technology has to be clubbed with the right human intervention to optimise its value as a productivity enhancer. CCTV network will make no sense unless there was human monitoring of the feed. Response to a detected intrusion can be guided only by a human mind and so is the case with change of Passwords and level of encryption required in cybersecurity. A worker at the assembly line detects a process flaw because he applies his mind to whatever he was doing. Even data analytics is done only in the framework set by human masters. In short, the new age organisation has to be led by the new age leadership and governed by the new age paradigms of manpower management and technology-based running of operations. There is a learning in this for those who manage the nation too.
(The writer is a former Director of Intelligence Bureau. Views expressed are strictly personal)