Systems Thinking

The Elphinstone Stampede – Getting back on our feet

On 29th September 2017, an overcrowded foot over bridge at Elphinstone railway station, Mumbai witnessed a horrific stampede. 23 people died. What can we, as a society of organizations, do in the aftermath of the Elphinstone stampede? Let us explore the way forward using systems thinking. It might be a good idea to start with a description of the mental model we carry in our collective consciousness. Mental models are the very foundation, the source of how we create our own social reality. Mental Models Here is an articulation of the current mental models as I perceive them. ” Mumbai is the city of dreams. The financial capital. The corporate hub. Everything worth striving for is in Mumbai. We must go to work where the offices and establishments are. The best way to travel? The Mumbai locals – hands down. Cheaper & faster than anything else. Sure, it’s risky. Rush-hour.Packed trains, people falling off, getting run over. Part of the deal. We have made peace with it. Brave everything you encounter because there is a job to be done and food to…

Values & Culture v/s System & Process : Which one is more important?

As a part of a Whatsapp group, I was privy to this question : What is more important – values and culture or system and process? The drift of the conversation was towards most people feeling that values turned into behaviour that are embedded in a culture is a positive state of affairs than a system and process holding sway in an organization. This set me thinking on how they relate to each other. And here are my thoughts.  If you find people in an organization very empathetic/supportive & step out of the organization, you won’t find a concentration of people exhibiting the same behaviours across the street. The dichotomy of values/culture v/s system/process is conceptual, not real. In creating a new set-up, we can make a cognitive beginning with one or the other. In an existing concern, it becomes a chicken & egg story as both values/culture & system/processes end up getting transmuted into each other all the time. The empathetic/supportive behaviour in an established organization is a systemic attribute, not depending on specific individuals. It is a good thing…

Right Recruiting: How it aligns organizational performance

For leaders aiming to make organizations perform better on the whole, an under-appreciated area that holds great promise is recruitment. People generally look to training or performance management. But the right recruiting gives you an opportunity to set everything right. Why? The simple reason is it all begins with recruitment. When you decide to make your recruiting effective, you focus on what are the right things to do (the things that matter) 1) In order to arrive at which people are ‘right’ for your organization, you are compelled to articulate the essence of why you exist & what you have set out to do. You can hope to recruit the right people only if you have clarity of purpose. Knowing what exactly you want in terms of mission & results helps you identify the right actions, the right tasks, the right skillsets & the required people capability. 2) With right recruiting, your training needs will qualitatively change. The more you recruit the right people, the less would there be mass skill-deficiency. Right recruiting can help save your training budget or…

Narendra Modi’s leadership & electoral success: A systemic appreciation for leaders & organizations.

By leading the BJP to a thumping majority in the recent Lok Sabha elections, Narendra Modi & his core team have scripted a success story worth studying. The victory was not unexpected, but its margin invites positive exploration. How did they pull it off? Does this story have something to offer students of leadership & organizations? Let us dive in leaving aside both political affiliations & political grandstanding. People all over the country were deeply discontent with the Congress. But that does not mean electoral victory was a cakewalk. The political scene has too many players of various hues & colours, each owing its emergence to a cause or a support base that lends itself to mobilising power. How could Narendra Modi & his team break through the clutter in such a fractured polity? Four key actions stand out. Sustaining & building upon the Core Foundation – What is the one thing that made it possible for Narendra Modi to take charge within the party & establish primary credibility with voters? Take this one thing away & Modi did not…

Infosys: Making sense of leadership & organizational challenges

When the numbers accumulate & a trend is discernible, we can make a conjecture or two. The current CEO of Infosys, S.D Shibulal has said that at 18.7%, the attrition rate has reached uncomfortable levels. He considers this to be more worrisome than the exit of nine senior executives, quite a few among them being C-suite contenders. Both instances are of course, related. No two ways about it. Why is Infosys facing so many challenges? A significant part of the answer lies in the decision to rotate the top-leadership among all company founders. This is the primary conjecture. Let us trace the journey from then to now.  Emotions have a big role to play.We are all emotional beings.The story of Infosys is cherished corporate folklore.It has inspired millions of success stories in India. We rightly revere people like Narayan Murthy for their integrity-bound achievements.  Founder-owners make tremendous sacrifices in the cause of their enterprise success. It is their baby. The world invariably respects their commitment to safeguard their baby. Keeping the top-position in the company founders circle was a reflection of…

Uncovering Process in Cricket. Uncovering Process in Organizations.

When we witness a cricket match, what is visible to us is the real action. We see batsmen bat, bowlers bowl, and fielders field. In a mammoth run chase featuring a match-winning partnership, batsmen pace their innings, calculate wickets in hand, keep the required run-rate under control, and score big at the right times. In the post-match interview, the winning batting pair reveal how they went about it. The say, “We broke up the 300 run target into multiples of 50. We will score 50 runs six times is what we told each other. We decided to play out the main strike bowler without taking risks. We created these 50 run milestones, quietly celebrated them and refocused ourselves for the next 50. This kept us going and when the win was guaranteed, we got a bit careless and got out. The others came in and finished off the game” What did we see? We saw runs being scored. We saw the powerful hitting, the fours and the sixes. But there is no way we ‘saw’ how they really did it.…

Understanding Systems- As explained by a Systems Pioneer

Early on in teaching about systems I often bring out a Slinky. In case you grew up without one, a Slinky is a toy – a long, loose, spring that can be made to bounce up and down, or pour back and forth from hand to hand, or walk itself downstairs. I perch the Slinky on one upturned palm. With the fingers of the other hand, I grasp it from the top, partway down its coils. Then I pull the bottom hand away. The lower end of the Slinky drops, bounces back up again, yo-yos up and down, suspended from my fingers above. “What made the Slinky bounce up and down like that?” I ask students. “Your hand. You took away your hand,” they say. So I pick up the box the Slinky came in and hold it the same way, poised on a flattened palm, held from above by the fingers of the other hand. With as much dramatic flourish as I can muster, I pull the lower hand away. Nothing happens. The box just hangs there, of course.…