Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fiction from Fact - the spewing and spawning of Management terms

It has been a week since I attended CII's Annual Innovation Summit in Bangalore. While the impression I got there was of India asserting its identity as a nation where start-ups may thrive, a flash of fads, fleeting interests and uncritical explorations rushed my mind. I’ve known a few terms that a set of intersections between communities have developed over the years. Practitioners, Academicians and Consultants of management have conceived of, discovered and disused terms that language has registered through journals, reviews and news media. The salient among these for me are the following.

1.       BPR – Business Process Re-engineering. It took a long time for people to realise that reduction of process views to values of efficiency did not account for human elements. If the process was reducible, the incidence of human beings attached to the extant process were just that – extant. Scholars with a humane disposition have impressed upon me the roots of this ‘expert’ led philosophy to the detached traditions of related statistical procedures that predated the BPR fad by decades, perhaps even earlier than WW-I.

2.       Theory ‘Z’ – When William Ouchi traced manufacturing shopfloor routines and factory layout enablement in American and Japanese auto majors, he probably realised, that neither American practice nor pure Japanese collectivism by themselves held promise. Yet, he selectively established the significance of the human element in the perpetuation of the firm. It makes me wonder, why there is no such reference of Chinese and Korean models of management to extend any promise of effectiveness into the future. While, the Nano may have been the car for India’s masses, the universalism of western thinking has us believe, that the Tatas went into uncontested market as in a Blue Ocean. Yes, no Indian ‘archetype’ beyond the vernacular ‘jugaad’ labelled the phenomenon on the ground.  Ranjan Acharya would probably be heartily chuckling in the heavens at how after qualifying as India’s earliest Lead assessors for PCMM, the systemic nature of continuous improvements in the knowledge economy has been jettisoned with the convenience that only short-horizon mercantilism can institutionalize in their industries. The leaders of firms with People Capability Model credentials, wear the title like a badge, not knowing the difference between terms such as ‘assessment’ and ‘certification’; validity and reliability, behavior modification and behavior modelling.

3.       TQM – Total Quality Management is probably one of the more enduring management practices, more comprehensive in its embrace of organisational life, and tenure. Again, while the Tatas adopted the Business Excellence mould to adapt the Malcolm Baldridge award criteria to its companies, the idea of the long-term is competitively pitted against the mean aspects of Lean, where the negotiation of results at the bottom-line could take away from the perpetuation of the institution. The proverbial tension between the short-term and the long-term is heightened by the voracious appetite of stock-markets.  Repeatedly finding errors and fixing them (quality control) can result in a high quality product, but it is a very inefficient process. The best approach is to build a quality product the first time. In general, your team can’t build a quality product the first time without quality work processes (quality assurance). Quality Management is a mind-set profession. So is Human Resource Management. Private wealth makers have sided with mammon for short-term security too often, only to be deceived in the long-run to hit the melting icebergs of our planet and the oxygen baths of their megalopolises.

4.       Restructuring is a term that spells the end of corporate careers for seasoned professionals, and spoils the broth being cooked from the effervescence of human ideas. When people play God at the decision-table, their assumption that their idea is right is falsely attributed, in service of the mammon, whose might prevents the heroism that leaders could aspire for. Population ecologists may argue that imitative effects shape the structure of an industry or the internal procedures of organisations in an industrial sector. Yet, the sentience of social systems, and the altruism of the human race stands exposed in brutal irreverence in recent times. Social Enterprise forms seem embarrassing apologies for the compassion of the social sector and the efficiency touting of the corporate creed. Restructuring events are applauded in most economic theory, while their social impact, includes the adverse effects and implications of social disruptions caused by downsizing and other organizational and corporate changes. 

A lack of critical thinking skills among employees compounds the verification and classification of institutional knowledge held by employees at their workplace.

What would you say separates fact from fiction in the work experience you have?