Making steel frame more accountable

| | in Oped

There is a need to bring changes in the modus operandi and style of functioning of bureaucrats. The present babudom is not result-oriented but power-oriented

The issue of de-bureaucratisation, in a bid to promote better governance, has been debated by the best of minds, both internationally and in India. “Bureaucracy must die”; business guru Gary Hamel argues vehemently in his article in the Harvard Business Review. He says that bureaucracy is an epidemic. It inflicts organisations, making them “insipid, inertial, incremental and uninspiring… To find a cure, we will have to re-invent the architecture and ideology of modern management.” In the present hyperkinetic environment, bureaucracy impedes innovative thinking, discourages dissent and breeds sycophants, organised hierarchically by “a small cadre of seasoned executives who fail to write-off their depreciating intellectual capital”.

Most of us may agree that the evils of bureaucracy must die and the advantages of bureaucracy must remain. We need changes in the modus operandi and style of functioning of bureaucrats in our babus' empire. Bureaucratic structure is power-oriented rather than result-oriented. Authority cascades top down from seniors to juniors, level-by-level to shift supervisors and frontline employees. There is no free flow of knowledge, thoughts and ideas bringing radical game changing transformation in strategic management thinking. In a bureaucratic pyramid, authority and power rule the roost, flow down in an inflexible controlled environment only in one direction. Rules are religiously adhered to like Biblical verses, strangulating innovative ideas. Operational processes are rigidly disciplined.

Experience matters, but creative thoughts and ideas should flourish. When there is knowledge deficit at the top, strategic decisions become routine incremental changes rather than creative transformations. It matters little how ingenious a business owner is, it is virtually impossible for a single individual to be a strategic king thinker to generate the range of strategic ideas. Many departments like the Army, Government or businesses like fast food may benefit from tight controls and tall hierarchic unity of command, authority and responsibility, but there also innovative methods should replace the archaic ways of delaying doing things.

Adequate delegation of authority is a must. More flat pyramid encourages better communication. Division of work facilitates specialisation, but compartmentalisation of knowledge and skills in silos may cripple the entity. Each area of specialisation must be totally integrated not just by an enterprise resource planning system but flexible to keep pace with dynamics of business environment. The principles of knowledge leadership, participative decision-making, challenging work assignments, management by objectives, generating environment to breed path breaking creative ideas and decentralisation of authority may help optimum utilisation of resources.

Indian bureaucracy has inherent evils. The Hindu caste system had crept like a virus into India's babucracy dividing and multiplying it into non homogenous innumerable layers of disunity. Babucracy has different castes, sects, sub-sects and gotras based on different methods of recruitment, rules and guidelines deciding the avenues of promotion and career graph. Red tapes strangulate the decision-making process. It leads to massive corruption in critical domains like receivables and payables, procurement and the entire supply chain management. Enterprise resource planning systems are regulated to go slow, to keep pace with babucracy norms with frequent management overrides. The employees feel inertia and helpless like a cog in the wheel having no feeling of belongingness to the organisation. Weber's model needs massive overhauling to free it from rigidity, impersonality, excessive controls, excessive dependence on superiors, tendency to ignore creative ideas and game changing thoughts.

Bureaucracy suppresses proactive bottom-up renewal. The feudalistic apparatus must be replaced by better proactive management model, removing all the bottlenecks to optimise outcome while retaining the blessings of bureaucracy like precision, consistency, and predictability. The challenge is to find new ways of doing things, making knowledge leadership gets its ascendancy in organisations. Only innovative ideas can revolutionise the way we work and change the world around us.

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