Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Great Indian Ship.... Continued

One of my friends asked me if I found only one common thing between Indian history and today's corporate world. As suggested by this friend, I am giving here a few of my views, or the parallels I could draw between Indian history (as known to me) and corporates in my observation. 

India had structured villages and towns that even had rain water harvesting about 2000/3000 years back. Some of the Indian buildings (temples) are even older than these villages. But today's buildings are not based on the Indian architecture neither use Indian technology! 

Ancient Indians believed in extensive documentation; they even documented how to breathe, how to bathe, how to eat etc. - the very basic things in life. After a point, the documentation reduced to cryptic form of writing and then was stopped finally for various reasons. The country started believing in passing on the best practices and knowledge through informal communication methods - gurus to disciples, fathers to sons and so on!! I guess, you can make out where the current world is... some companies encourage extensive documentation while others are moving away from documentation. Hope we learn from the Indian lesson and have decent level of documentation

Most of the medieval Indians believed that they have achieved heights of architecture & construction technology, as the buildings stood for centuries (unless demolished in a war with great difficulty of course). This can be compared to people who think that they are within the control levels, or they have got best team awards etc and hence the process is working in its best!! Large corporates should understand that there is always something to improve irrespective the best products they are launching. Thank god, so far the competition keeps the attitude for improvement intact for the sales and product design teams at least.

The other comparable aspect is, new religions. Yes, religions. Whenever there was a new religion in the country, they despised the already existing religions and suggested all new things. In the process communities, this attitude is very visible; whenever they start propagating new processes, they negate all already existing processes and models. Continuous improvement is needed definitely but it does not mean you need to undo all your current processes except in very rare cases.

Caste system is very prevalent in corporate world... hang on... do not pounce on me yet... I do not mean that they have the same castes as India. But they call them as horizontals and verticals or business processes and competencies or portfolios and job families. The name could be different but the concept is just the same. Indian caste system was also originally started to retain the knowledge of the jobs, identify best practices, improve them, develop appropriate tools etc. For example, the system even defined how to build houses for each job family - farmer should have a warehouse for paddy etc. but then, later it became so rigid that no one was allowed to switch jobs, change the way they built their houses or dresses even if they felt a need to. Today's corporate world also resists job family rotation considering the learning curve and associated cost involved. Only a few companies realize the need to rotate people between these job families to develop generalists also!! For any successful organization, both specialists and generalists are important.

The list would go on... I may continue after a while... I am stopping now as this comparison exhausts the mind. Being an Indian, digesting the fact that we could have done a lot better but we are still a developing nation is really hard. It is like despite having best of best vehicles in the world, having to move at snails pace because you have a lot of things tied to the car pulling it backward with equal or more power!!

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