Sunday, 27 May 2012

Personal Philosophy, Covenantal Relationships and Leadership

So many books have been written about leadership that it is natural to feel bewildered.Some books have long staying power, and have influenced the thought and literature on leadership in a big way .Two such books are The Art of Leadership by Max De Pree and On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis.While I found both the books outstanding I felt that it would be worth my time and would add to my understanding if I compare the two books .It was a difficult but very interesting and fruitful exercise , and here I intend to share the results.I wanted to compare the two books because I wanted to see what common things they say about leadership and which book says it more eloquently , clearly and precisely .
The first thing that struck me was the difference in the background of two authors .While Max De Pree is a practicing businessman and a writer , Warren Bennis is essentially a teacher , researcher and a prolific writer.Max De Pree in 1980 became the CEO of a company founded in 1923 called Herman Miller Inc., manufacturing office furniture.He served in that capacity till 1987, and was a member of Board of Directors till 1995.Leadership is an Art , was first published in 1987 by Michigan State University Press.It was published as a currency book by Doubleday in 1989.Warren Bennis is a Distinguished Professor of Business Administration at the University of South California.He also served as Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Centre for Public leadership at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government .He has written or edited 30 books , which have been translated into 21 languages.On Becoming a Leader was first published in 1989, two years after Leadership is an Art was published.
Both the books have had a staying power and are being read even today by those who are interested in Leadership.Bennis has profiled close to 30 leaders in his book , has included extensive quotes, stories and anecdotes while Max De Pree has quoted very few leaders and writers.I found that Warren Bennis has quoted twice in On Becoming a Leader from Leadership is an Art by Max De Pree.To my mind , these are the best two passages in Leadership is an Art .Warren Bennis first quotes Max De Pree (On becoming Leader;August 2003 edition;Indian reprint by Magna Publishers;Page162):"The best people working for organizations are like volunteers.Since they could probably find good jobs in any number of groups, they choose to work somewhere for reasons less tangible than salary or position.Volunteers donot need contracts , they need covenants . . Covenantal relationships induce freedom , not paralysis.A covenantal relationship rests on shared commitment to ideas, to issues, to values , to goals, and to management process.Words such as love ,warmth, personal chemistry, are certainly pertinent.Covenantal relationships . . . . fill deep needs and they enable work to have meaning and to be fulfilling" .Bennis calls these relationships as "leading through voice"
At another place (On becoming Leader;August 2003 edition;Indian reprint by Magna Publishers;Page192)Warren Bennis quotes Max De Pree in "Leadership is an Art" as follows;"The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.The last is to say thank you .In between , the leader is a servant".In his own words , Warren Bennis says that leaders manage the dream.
While Warren Bennis tells us a lot of stories , anecdotes and quotes , and some of these are illuminating, he is fuzzy and cluttered at times .Max De Pree , on the other hand is more focused and gives some very important and practical insights.
I find his following insights worth emulating :
1.Covenanted relationships, giving space, and communication
2.Completeness and personal philosophy.
3.Performance Review
5Service to community
1.Covenanted relationships, giving space, and communication
A very impressive and insightful concept has been given by Max de Pree about relationships .in this , he scores over warren bennis .This is about the concept of covenanted relationships.Max De Pree says that broadly , there are two types of relationships in any organization .These are mainly contractual relationships , which are generally found in most of organizations.Contractual relationships tend to be legal and are based on reciprocity.A legal contract almost always breaks down under the pressure of conflict or change.It does not motivate us to reach our potential and fails to take advantage of the full range of human possibilities.Contractual relationships , therefore , create an atmosphere of spiritual mediocrity.In a way , it paralyzes men's noblest impulses.
The best people working in an organization are like volunteers. Since they could find job in any number of organizations ,they choose to work for reasons less tangible than salary or position .Such volunteers need something more than contracts .They need covenants.Both contractual and covenantal relationships are commitments .But covenantal relationships enable work to have meaning to fill deep needs and to be fulfilling.They make possible relationships that can manage conflict and change.A covenantal relationship rests on shared commitment to ideas, to issues , to values, to goals and to decision making processes Words such as love , warmth, personal chemistry are certainly pertinent.Covenantal relationships are open to influence.Covenantal relationships reflect unity , grace and poise.They are an expression of the sacred nature of relationship.
True covenants are , however , risky because they require us to be abandoned to the talents and skills of others and therefore to be vulnerable.The same risks as one has when falling in love.In this way , covenantal relationships tolerate risks and forgive errors.Participative decision making based on covenantal relationships is the best decision making process.we should seek to develop covenantal relationships as we seek to such a situation , organization becomes a group of people working intimately with a covenantal relationship.
Giving Space:
Leaders give others the gift of space, space in both the personal and the corporate sense, space to be what one can be.
leaders need to have good communication .Good communication is one which forces you to think .Dishonest and careless communication tells us as much about the people involved as it does about anything else.Communication is an ethical question .Good communication means a respect for individuals.
2.Completeness and personal philosophy:
We often mistake a part for the whole .Incomplete ideas are viewed as complete.Relationships are considered well formed when they are insufficiently formed.Values are taken for final statements when in fact , they are only beginnings.This gives a twisted view of the whole picture.A leader always works for completeness and elegance., trying to be his or her best.Contracts are only a small part of relationships .A complete relationship needs a covenant.
3.Performance Review:
A leader should think through his assumptions about human nature and have a well developed system of beliefs and philosophy and a well developed system of measurement of performance.
Every leader must review the performance of the people he or she leads.Max gives us a list of questions or requests that he sends to each senior manager , much before the performance review.It is important to see some of the requests:
1.Brief self assessment against annual plan indicating the most important achievement.
2.Personal management philosophy and personal plan for continuing education and development for the coming year.
3.Ways to approach personal accountability for the future of the corporation and our joint accountability for your future career.
4.Your thoughts on team building at senior level.
5.Your thoughts on our competition and our possible response to it.
6.Your role in the transmission of corporate culture.
7.Plan to devote more time on strategy , values, participation , continuity and team building.
8.Five key projects /goals of the organization and how Top leader can help or support.
9.What are the three signals of entropy or impending deterioration you see at the organization?
10.Who are your three high potential persons and what will you do in the coming year to develop them?
11.What are the three significant areas in the company where you feel you can make a contribution but can not get a hearing?
12.If you were at the Top , which one key area would you focus on?
Max De Pree gives us a unique system of performance review of the people as well as the processes.
Leadership does not seek to control but to liberate people.
Max De Pree says that leaders understand the diversity of people's gifts , talents and skills.People bring to the organization a great variety of gifts.The art of leadership lies in polishing , liberating and enabling those gifts.On diversity , Max De Pree says:"A Whale is as unique as a Cactus.But don't ask a Whale to survive Death valley.We all have special gifts.Where we use them and how , determines whether we actually complete something ."
5.Service to community:
Leadership , according to Max De Pree , lies in serving .It is a concept of owing certain things to the organization.It is a way of thinking about stewardship as contrasted with ownership.Max De Pree quotes Robert Greenleaf's book Servant Leadership:,"Love is an undefinable term, and its manifestations are both subtle and infinite."It has only one "absolute condition:unlimited liability!As son as one's liability for another is qualified to any degree, love is diminished by that much."(Servant leadership,New York:Paulist Press,1977,p.38).
Max De Pree has emphasized the importance of mentoring .He says that mentoring is one of the chief duties of any leader.Being a mentor is both challenging and rewarding.A good mentor is required to take the time to learn a good deal about his or her mentorees' worlds.True leader enables his or her followers to realize their full potential.
Against these eight major points that Max De Pree brings on table, the most important points that Warren Bennis drives home are:
1.Self Mastery, completeness and personal philosophy.
2.Getting People on Your Side;Covenanted relationships.(Courtesy :Max De Pree)
1.Self Mastery, Completeness and Personal philosophy:
Bennis says that leaders must have self knowledge and clear personal goals.His list of leadership qualities is long and fuzzy."Free expression is the essence of leadership".Becoming a leader is a spiritual journey and involves self mastery.Bennis says:"So the point is not to become a leader.The point is to become yourself, to use yourself completely-all your skills,gifts, and energies-in order to make your vision manifest.You must withhold nothing.You must , in sum , become the person you started out to be, and enjoy the process of becoming. . . .So strike hard, try everything, do everything, render everything, and become the person you are capable of being".Bennis quotes Jim Burke:"Also , I've always felt that society lacks philosophers.We ought to have people who dedicate their lives just to thinking.We have plenty of economists, and we have all the sciences covered, but only a handful of thinkers.So may be that makes me reflective .But I also think of myself as an activist ."
Warren Bennis does not say much about Performance Review ,Service to community,and Mentoring others.
In terms of practically useful insights , I rate Leadership is an Art much higher than On Becoming a Leader .Among other things , it succeeds in telling us the importance of having covenanted relationships , personal philosophy and performance review system ,for a leader to be effective However , the chief attraction of On Becoming a Leader is that it draws our attention to the magical , multidimensional and fascinating world of leadership, and inspires us to read further , never stop learning and being an activist at the same time .


Friday, 25 May 2012

Good Governance

There is a difference between government and governance. We all need a government that governs. We need more governance but less government. But we need a small smart and strong government. We should catalyse and facilitate change rather than directly delivering services. Secondly there is a difference between forms of governance and quality of Governance. For example e-governance is a technology based method of governance. But e-governance becomes good governance only when it is reliable, up-to-date and available for all the 24 hours. If services under e- governance are frequently disrupted due to inadequate power supply or the Server being down, then e-governance is not good governance. Similarly Public Private Partnership is another method of governance which saves lot of government resources, but it need not automatically become good governance if the private service provider chooses to neglect quality of performance and there is no one to monitor his work. Services can be contracted out or turned over to the private sector but governance cannot be contracted out. A good government has to govern well and strongly.

One essential element of governance is preservation of law and order, protection of property rights, and enforcement of contracts through courts. When property rights and contracts enforcement systems are effective, the state attracts domestic and foreign investment and higher growth. There is no fear in investors’ mind of being cheated. Such an environment fosters competitive markets. When Governmental institutions become weak, the mafiosi or organized crime provides services of information as well as enforcement. Crony capitalism and kleptocracy become pervasive as a result.

Absence of corruption and least transaction costs is the most important indicator of good governance. This needs creation of independent agencies against corruption. Corruption needs to be checked and punished at cutting edge levels and at higher levels. This requires elimination of discretion and rent seeking opportunities. It also requires transparent system of procurement and purchases of goods and services for the government, based on information based, transparent, competitive bidding. Fourth Indicator of good governance is ensuring smooth flow of information to the citizens and transparency in decision making processes. This requires respect for right to information. It ensures openness and accountability.

Another indicator of good governance is efficient functioning of judicial system. How accessible the courts are? How affordable justice is? How swiftly courts handle cases? How impartial court decisions are? How effective courts are in enforcing their orders? “In the year 2000, 25 million cases were pending before the courts in India, and even if no new ones are filed, it will take 324 years to clear the backlog”. (Bearak)

Often public policies are formulated without any evidence base. The fifth indicator of good governance is a practice of building competence and capacity of departments to design, formulate and implement evidence-based public policies and discharge government functions.The evidence base need not be built only by the in-house staff of a given department. If the staff do not have the skills / expertise to do data collection, research, analysis to reliably create the evidence-base, the job can be contracted out as consultancy work to outsiders such as academics. But it is wise to create SOME in-house capacity for research (through training) – even if only so that there are people within the dept. who can understand the evidence and interpret, assess and apply it, for internal decision making. This requires large scale investment in data collection and research, and in the training of employees . The top post related to training must be made highly lucrative and respected, and the best officers should be posted there.

The sixth indicator of good governance is a motivated civil service with effective and objective system of rewards and punishments. Stability of tenure provides continuity of administrative leadership which is critical in transforming public systems. No organization will go through the risk of innovation and transformation if its senses that its leader might be gone in a year or two. The rewards and punishment system of civil servants and political leaders needs serious thought. They should not be punished for trying something and failing. Otherwise it will result in their running a mediocre and ineffective government and will make them hesitant to take bold decisions, resulting in governance deficit and policy paralysis.

Effectiveness and efficiency in delivery of public services requires the use of latest ICT, e governance and other technology on one hand, and decentralization of governance and powers on the other hand. Information and communication technology is also needed to monitor the performance of contractors. Responsibility for addressing problems of citizens should be with the lowest levels of government possible. It should be at block, Thana and Tehsil level and not even at district level because we cannot micromanage from a distance. This is the seventh indicator of good governance. This will ensure speedy redressal of public grievances.

The eighth indicator of good governance is measurement of outcomes, not inputs or even outputs. It is the results which need to be measured. The ninth indicator is citizen orientation of the government. Civil servants and political leaders should be citizen friendly, in touch with citizens, track their complaints and listen to their groups, councils and associations. Their will to serve the people needs to be strengthened by the top leadership. They should focus on quality of public services and getting close to the citizens. It also requires respect for public opinion. The tenth indicator of good governance is participatory management. This requires giving space for civil society, non profit organizations and experts in consultative processes.

The eleventh indicator of good governance is creating new partnerships. These are new models of public- private partnerships as well as public- public partnership. This can promote competition between service providers for delivering various kinds of public services. The twelfth indicator of good governance is emphasis on maintaining and operating existing structures and infrastructure. Resources need to be allocated for proper maintenance.

Budgets should be given lump sum and should be mission driven. Legislators then do not need to micromanage. They in turn can focus on larger problems. This is the thirteenth indicator of good governance. Fourteenth indicator of good governance is effective and efficient management of existing public sector units. This need is critical in the power sector. Good governance requires provision of basic infrastructure in areas like power, roads, irrigation, sewerage, drinking water, sanitation, education and health. Good governance also requires protection of natural environment for sustainable development and keeping it pollution free. Good governance also requires simple, need-based, timely changes in laws, regulations and procedures.

Good governance requires equal and inclusive access to public services by the disabled, the weak, the poor and the destitute sections of society.

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PS:This article was written by me and was published in Daily newspaper Hindustan in Hindi from Lucknow, India on May 25, 2012. . VN Garg

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Spiritual Foundations of Leadership

I "met" Jane C. Nebelung through the social networking site Linkedin.I had posted therein a topic for discussion on the group called "Leadership Thinktank" in December , 2010.The topic was "Is there any relationship between Leadership and capacity to love?" The discussion among members from all over the world is still going on , continuing for about 18 months,with more than 5500 comments already made so far .Many of the members requested me , and some even reminded me of my responsibility to moderate the discussion and bring it to a conclusion .But something deep inside me always told me that the discussion is not yet over , and the best is yet to come .So , the discussion continues , with many very learned and profound contributions , and these took the discussion to very high planes , at times .Lucira Jane C. Nebelung is one such great and serious contributor to the discussion .While I was following , understanding and enjoying comments made by many of the members , I was particularly struck by the note of authenticity in the comments of Lucira Jane .She was kind to send me a copy of her book"Leadership in Service to Life:We are Divine , Our Essence is Love" , published by WingSpan Press,Livermore, CA in 2007.
It is a very precise and well written book of 84 pages .The book is "intentionally brief", as the author says.I read it thrice over, reflecting and contemplating on each chapter.Jane has a background in Industrial Organizational Psychology .She has been influenced, among others, by Meg Wheatley's book "Leadership and the New Science" published in 1992.
Jane says that successful business leadership is based on universal spiritual principles.The way to lead , even in business , is to understand ,adopt and practice spiritual principles in life and work.Life and leadership have spiritual foundation, meaning and perspective.

What Jane has propounded is not a new theory of business management .All the business management practices since the 1950s, like Participative Management,Empowerment ,Learning Organizations, Vision, Values are, by and large, correct .They do improve the work performance and profitability.But the literature does not tell us explicitly why these practices are successful.Jane tells us that they are successful because they nurture our divinity or spirituality. For example,At the foundation of creating a learning organization(The Fifth Discipline by Peter M. Senge), is our need to nurture our spiritual nature .It not only serves life , it brings profits too .But profit is not the main purpose of such an organization .The main purpose is to serve life and to nurture spirituality in us .This incidentally,also takes care of the question whether it is possible to live ethically in business.If we accept and practice this in our life , then all of us are leaders in the path of tranforming humanity.
The three Universal truths governing life, according to Jane, are:
1.Oneness.We are One , intimately connected with all of creation and interdependent .We must honour our oneness.What we do to others , we do to ourselves.
2.Uniqueness.We are each a unique manifestation of Spirit.
3.Free Will .We have freedom to create life and to choose our experiences.We are responsible for what we do.Do we choose to identify ourselves with ego and body , or do we identify with our divinity along with our ego?We create our separate realities with our ego.Actually , there is only one reality.

Every other spiritual concept or practice is a derivative of the three universal principles or truths of oneness , uniqueness and free will .These three truths are a part of our divine nature.Our essence is love.
Each aspect of our divine nature corresponds to a set of psychological needs.These needs in turn lead us to a certain area of organizational practice , which in turn takes us to be business leaders in our chosen field.
The needs of connection and participation , to be part of something larger than ourselves flow from our oneness.The corresponding areas of organizational practice are strategy, branding values, organizational design , governance and communication .The leadership practices it leads to are equality and shared power, active participation, broad and open dialogue.

The needs of purpose and meaning, to bring value and benefit to others, to enhance life flow from our uniqueness, and take us to purpose and mission of the organization .The leadership practices it takes us to are clarity of organizational identity and clarity of individual purpose and contribution .

The needs of self determination and choice flow from free will .These takes us to the area of performance contribution and enhancement, planning and monitoring in the organization .The leadership practices it takes us to are choosing our career progression, feedback from work and self awareness , making us focused on stewardship.
Jane has also identified two more aspects of divine nature , though they are very much parts of oneness,uniqueness and free will .But because of their importance , these have been treated independently as parts of divine nature .These are :
4.Return to Source.
5.Unconditional , selfless Love .We need to generate and expand love that is.
The needs of growth and creativity, to expand who we know ourselves to be , flow from our divine nature which wants to return to source.The area of organizational practice to which it takes us are engagement and development .The leadership practices it leads us to are expanding strengths,, personal experience with reflection, non-judgmental coaching and building collective wisdom .

The needs of respect, acceptance, appreciation,compassion and love flow from divine nature of selfless love.It is acknowledging that we are one.We do not project our beliefs and emotions onto others' experiences. .Areas of organizational practice it leads to are leadership , participation and shared rewards.Leadership practices it takes us to are using strengths to fulfill purpose, affirming contribution and purpose.
Purpose of a corporation historically , has been to serve others(both customers and employees.).Profit is still important as an outcome , but it is not the purpose.Nurturing our divinity and serving life is the root cause of business success.This also results in financial abundance.When in doubt about a certain action , ask yourself:"Does this serve life?" If yes , then do it.In a way , Jane expands on the concept of servant leadership.Our leadership has to respect the three laws of life , that we are one , we are unique and we have free will .Change management is an oxymoron because we cannot control whether others choose to change.Organizational change requires free will , oneness and uniqueness.
When we talk about spirituality , most of the academics and thinkers consider it not based on evidence , and therefore avoidable .To be fair , there are certain concepts in spirituality literature , which can be challenged by anybody wanting rigorous laboratory research.I am not sure if I agree with the concept of Chakras as also of Spiral Dynamics of Ken Wilbur , quoted in chapter 3"our divinity is hardwired into our humanity"of the book .But it in no way diminishes the truth of the basic paradigm of the book that there are spiritual foundations of leadership in service to life .

Monday, 14 May 2012

In the times of citizenship by proxy and chequebook participation

Recently , I felt a bit "disconnected" from society .I remembered having read the book "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe , about 15 years ago .It is a modern classic about integrity, courage, and about confronting the system by a cross-country runner who seizes the perfect opportunity to defy the authority that governs his life.I also recalled this statement by Warren G. Bennis in "Geeks and Geezers:""Unable to hear my interior monologue,you may not realize that I am struggling at all-from the outside what I perceive as an ordeal , may look like a charmed existence.In this sense, the journey that transforms an individual into a leader is always a lonely one" .I also recollected the book"The Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations " by Dave and Wendy Ulrich in which he reminded us"of the value of investing in both close friends and broad social networks.Connecting us with others is one of the roles of vital friends at work.We all need at least some friends who play the important role of connecting us with people we don't necessarily claim as best friends" .Somewhat similar sentiments on increasing the value of our networks were echoed in"Glow: How You Can Radiate Energy, Innovation, and Success" by Lynda Gratton.It seems that the task of leadership is to add social capital to the community .A leader like Mahatma Gandhi adds social capital of the community in a big way

"Bowling Alone '(Simon and Schuster) by Robert D. Putnam had been on my shelf for about five years.Its 544 pages looked formidable and daunting .But this time , my curiosity to read it was strong enough to surmount the barrier of size .I took the risk of reading it slowly but regularly .I am happy that I chose to read this book .This book changes the way you think about life and social relationships.It is terrific in its insights , value and sweep.It is formidable in the sense that it has end notes running into 60 pages, index into 45 pages and charts and graphs and tables into about 100 pages.
Robert D. Putnam is a Professor of Public Policy at Harvard. Putnam initially wrote an article called"Bowling Alone:America's declining Social capital" in January 6,1995 issue of Journal of Democracy and this became -perhaps the most discussed social science article of the 20th century.Later on , in 2000, Putnam wrote this book called"Bowling Alone:The collapse and revival of American Community".Putnam's work has been enormously influential not only in the academic world but also in influencing Clinton's state of the union address of 1995 as also the Presidential Campaign of 2008.It deals with a fascinating topic of enduring interest , namely Social Capital .It is written with fresh insights on a familiar topic.It is a seminal work.The book is scholarly, enlightening , absorbing , engaging , , entertaining and provocative .It is relevant and readable.It is an agenda setting and impressive book .In a way , it is depressing as well .

What exactly is social capital?The earliest use of term social capital is traced to L J Hanifan, a state Superintendent of rural schools in 1916 as"goodwill , fellowship, sympathy and social intercourse . . (result in ). . an accumulation of social capital which may immediately satisfy(the individuals) needs and which may bear a social potentiality sufficient to the substantial improvement of living conditions in the whole community."Social capital includes friendships as well .It includes a smile , a kind word , a helping hand and group participation. There are two types of social capital .One is bridging or inclusive social capital .The other is bonding or exclusive capital."Bridging capital is more effective at bringing positive social effects."Putnam says that we should increase our bonding social capital among homogeneous groups and our bridging capital among diverse groups.

The book deals with nature of contemporary social reality .People find it more satisfying to bowl alone rather than bowl in leagues.There has been a widespread erosion of social engagement with our friends , neighbors and coworkers over the last half of 20th century.This trend explains our existentialist dilemma. How "disconnected" is every body?We know this to be intuitively true but Putnam has confirmed it empirically .This gives an appeal to his findings.
Why so many people have become isolated and out of touch with family , friends and community?Why there are fewer and fewer common experiences we can share with others at water cooler.?Why people are less inclined to volunteer their time to a non- profit?Does this mean degeneration if people want to live highly independent existence? Perhaps, our current relationships are becoming more genuine because location is increasingly less important when choosing friends and associates.Or do we need to renew our commitment to create and sustain meaningful relationships both professional and personal ?Many dislike the civic organizations of the past because it is a painful reminder of those times when racism and sexism ran rampant .Women's unpaid labour facilitated a lot of social capital.That is why , civic organization of the past have to fall apart and people must find new ways to connect with each other .We must form new and different kinds of communities with changing times. What , after all, is community?You need a vision of community that the vast majority of people have brought into, before you can talk about recapturing that sense of community.Our vision of a community needing conservation of resources ,energy , healthy economy should actually stimulate our need to work with others .We need to enhance social capital.We do not need to confuse in -grouping with community.

Simple correlation cannot be automatically substituted for causation .Should we watch less TV? Putnam attributes as much as 25% of the over all decline in social capital to the watching of television."People whose primary form of entertainment is watching television are three times more likely to give a fellow driver the finger".Generational change in attitudes towards the purpose and value of engagement is another major factor.The suburbs have contributed to an isolation that includes 72 minutes of commuting each day.The fact of women's greater place in the work force contributes to but does not cause the decline in civic engagement.
Loss of social capital allows for a plausible explanation of the rise of cheque book participation and the proliferation of letter heads over civic action by individuals.It encourages citizenship by proxy , which is an oxymoron.The increased use of professional campaign staff to replace volunteers and the need for corporate and other special interest money to maintain this form of 'democracy' is a profound change.What is the relationship of social capital with happiness and other quality of life measures?"People who are socially disconnected are between two and five times more likely to die from all causes, compared with matched individuals who have close ties with family, friends and the community."Social capital enhances individual's life and well being."Happiness and health depends on whether or not individuals participate in groups .If you decide to join (a group), you can cut your risk of dying over the next year in half."The book documents the importance of bridging relationships on the development of the country and even on personal health.Loneliness may decrease the immune response.Voluntary associations produce external and internal benefits to democracy.Informal networks have helped individuals in Silicon Valley prosper.

Putnam ignores the role of the government and law suits while explaining the causes of loss of social capital.He does not pay much attention to the growth of welfare which eliminated the reason for existence of many charitable organizations.State policies pay out unemployment insurance and do other welfare activities.There is no exclusionary reason to belong to mutual aid society. As a result ,societies close their doors and with them , presumably , a host of other activities suffer.Taking away control from local governments and centralizing it, the centre of decision making and power has moved far away from the community,making participation in local affairs much less relevant and leads to the huge lobbying organization.Intermediary organizations are crucial for the healthy working of modern democracies. .Public interest organizations are now oligarchies and useless as a means of civic engagement.This pattern has been repeated for education, care for the elderly, health care and other aspects of life.Is there any wonder that people are less involved with their neighbors.?

Putnam is too willing to rely on government intervention to change people's attitudes and behavior..Putnam idolizes the Progressive period and the resulting increase in scope of state action.All his proposals treat the symptoms and not the disease.He recommends:
!.Public discourse.
2.Education .
3.Work place changes.
5.Elimination of digital divide and ensuring equal access.
6.Increased political involvement .
7. Election Campaign reforms.
Putnam's call to action by 2010 seems inappropriate for this book .It looks like the silly last action . There are costs of using government to bring Putnam's agenda into being .Putnam has used websites and seminars promoting social capital under the auspices of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government .Market forces resolve such issues in total far more efficiently than does legislative fiat.
There is a dark side of social capital as well ."Too much fraternity is bad for liberty and equality, leading for example , to an increase in organizational crime but Putnam believes that on balance the benefits of copious social capital broadly outweigh these costs.
Internet,Facebook , twitter and mobile phones are not adequately covered because these things came into use in a big way only after 2000 when the book was published.To that extent , the book is dated.It is not clear whether the internet fosters the development of social capital. Some believe that Internet is the number one cause of alienation and political narcissism in America. Computer groups are worse at generating trust and reciprocity.What are the issues and initiatives relating to community building?Does participation in society mean meeting in physical presence , or can meeting be virtual , on Skype or through video conferencing?Only time will tell.

There is no tradeoff between deep personal relationships with friends elsewhere and a dozen bowling buddies at our place of residence.The book does not talk about where the balance should lie between the bonding and bridging social capital.

The book does result in a shift in thinking paradigm about ourselves and our personal ,professional and social relationships.It offers a lot to think about. However while it has very well done the cataloging of the shift in social capital in our society it seems to long for the good old days.Book's strength is in its diagnosis.There is no doubt that the book is set in America and its results and conclusions cannot be applied straight away to Indian situation.But then , it is very provocative and will certainly make you think and reflect its implications for that India , which is as global as America , or is at least aspiring to become like America.As the society progresses, there seems to be a distinct possibility that the social capital further declines , especially in developing countries .Enhancement of social capital in the organizations and society , then , becomes an essential and critical role of a leader.I do not like to believe that ultimately , a real leader himself or herself is lonely in his pursuit , but I am not sure.At individual level , we need to understand and appreciate not only the importance of social capital in our lives but also the causes underlying the trend of declining social capital ,and contribute our support to public policies and lifestyles which enhance our level of civic engagement in an authentic manner.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Art of Building a Learning Organization

To broaden our perspective from individual to organization and then to global community is a process of growth and evolution .As John C. Maxwell has stated in his "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership",  the main  task of a leader is to develop  a number of leaders  through out the organization.One way to do this is to pick up a handful of persons and to mentor, groom and nurture them to become leaders with a purpose and a vision  in due course .But after reading "The Fifth Discipline . . The Art and Practice of The Learning Organization" by Peter M. Senge , my views on this issue underwent a major change  and if I may say so ,  became more enlightened .The book had been on my shelf for a long time(since 1999) but its size(424 pages ) had  discouraged me from reading it .And I am happy , I read it .I wish , I had read it earlier, when I had procured it . Senge, then Senior Lecturer at MIT,  first published this book in 1990 and it became a modern business classic.
                                      Senge  recommends   not only to focus on learning by the top chosen  few .He advocates to build   whole organizations  which develop the ability and capacity and commitment  to learn ,and learn fast at all levels in the organization.Senge says:"The ability to learn faster than  your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage."In the process , Senge gives a whole new meaning to  the concepts of  competitiveness , sustainability and employment, engagement  and learning  itself.The concept of learning organization  is against conventional model of management and leadership .With  their  mission is to build a learning organization ,  the role of leaders changes drastically .The real issue is learning how to learn and how to learn  together as teams and as an organization .Learning has to be both survival or adaptive learning as well as generative learning .The former helps us to survive , the latter helps us to enhance our capacity to create.
Every organization has seven learning disabilities.Leaders must take every possible step so that the organization overcomes these learning disabilities.
1.Every person defines his identity through his position in the organization ."I am my position."
2.There is in each one of us a propensity to find someone or something outside ourselves to blame when things go wrong ."The enemy is out there."
3.The illusion of taking charge and being proactive .
We try to take aggressive action against an external enemy.Actually , this is not real pro activeness .The real pro activeness lies in seeing  how we contribute to our own problems , and then taking action.
4.The fixation or focus on events , especially short term events .
5.Neglecting to see the gradual processes that often pose the greatest threats."The parable of the boiled frog."
6.The impossibility of learning from certain types of experiences.Often , we do not directly experience the consequences of many of our important decisions because the consequences come many years after the decision s.In such cases , there is least opportunity for  trial and error learning .
7.Often , teams exist only in form .To keep up image , teams seek to squelch disagreements, they seek to protect themselves from the pain of appearing uncertain or ignorant, , members with serious reservations avoid stating them publicly, joint decisions are "watered down compromises"  or else reflect one person's (Chair person's)view foisted on the group.
Once we have identified these learning disabilities , we need to see how we can overcome and possibly get rid of  these disabilities.

Senge describes three roles of  a leader in a learning organization.
1.As a Designer.
2.As a Steward .
3.As a teacher.
As a designer  in a learning organization , the main task of the leader is to design and develop the learning processes  where people throughout the organization  develop their mastery in five learning disciplines , also called the five  component technologies.These five learning disciplines are Personal Mastery ,Mental Models(confining assumptions and mindsets),Building Shared Vision ,Team Learning and Systems thinking(Seeing  the forest and the trees.).These include vision , values , purpose, policies , strategies , systems and structures. Designing also involves integration of the five component technologies. This will require  seeing the organization as a system in which parts are not only internally connected , but also connected to the external environment and clarifying how the whole system can work better.Thirdly , a leader has to decide the sequencing and interactions among the disciplines .Fourthly , in  large organizations , different combinations of learning disciplines  will be developing in different operating units., and leadership  has to operate at many levels.Fifthly , if there is a resistance to learning certain disciplines ,  a leader must not be pushing .Rather than pushing against resistance , a leader should look for the source of resistance  and continually improve the design .

2As a Steward in a learning organization , a leader may start by  pursuing his own vision  but he also learns to listen to the visions of others..Then they begin to see that their personal vision is a part of something larger.They realise  how their organization needs to evolve as a part of something larger.This in turn enlarges the purpose of the organization and it becomes a vehicle for  bringing learning and change into society.In the process , the leader develops a unique relationship with his own personal vision.He becomes a steward of the vision .He becomes responsible  for it without possessiveness.The vision as well as the organization becomes a vehicle for advancing the larger story .
3.As a Teacher, a leader helps people throughout the organization  develop systemic understandings so that strategic insights  systemic forces that shape change become  public knowledge , open to challenge and further improvement.This prevents the leaders from  losing their commitment to the truth.Without systemic understanding , the organization becomes dominated by events and re activeness.In the process , leaders  and people in the organization become crisis managers, with no control over their time or vision . or purpose(Symptomatic problems versus root problems).Leaders must have  an integrating purpose story and understanding of systemic structure (big picture).The task of leader as a teacher is  to help people achieve a view of reality, as a medium for creating  rather than as a source of limitation.Leaders can help people view at four different levels as events , patterns of behaviour , systemic structures and  an integrating purpose story  but in a learning organization ,  they focus more on  purpose and systems structure and less on events and patterns of behaviour.A learning organization evolves depending on the skills of leaders in teaching ,mentoring , coaching and helping others to learn .

Actually , Senge has focused  on two major things in the book .The first is the need to have a big picture or systemic thinking, which he calls The Fifth Discipline.In this he leans heavily on David Bohm and others.This , to my mind , is not his original idea.In fact , this is a separate subject in its own right.The second is his concept of learning organization , which , to my mind , is revolutionary.Form learning organizations to learning communities is but the next step of evolution.This could raise global standards  for environment responsibility , labour rights,gender equality , poverty , disease , hunger and illiteracy.This idea is full of great  possibilities.
 This is an outstanding book and has contributed significantly to my knowledge .It has introduced a large number of brilliant ideas .I recommend that everyone who is working or  aspires to work for large organizations or for global communities must read it .It  demands some patience , like all good things of life, before you realize how good it is .