Saturday, February 6, 2010

People , process and compartmentalization

The debate on People v/s Process is an an ongoing exercise and some feel you need a combination along with Technology ( at least in today's times ) to make things work .

Looking at it from a East -West perspective , the West is considered to be more process oriented, an average person will tend to follow rules and look for an orderly way to work things out and is generally organized .It is not surprising that over a 100 years during his US visit Swami Vivekananda found that they had excellent organization skills which was deficient in India .( This lacuna continues even today ) .

The East in contrast is considered more relationship oriented - which has perplexed many in the West though now they understand it far better . In China it is called Guangxi or relationship building . In India it is similar though my own understanding is that it is less structured and required more at operating levels and day to day transactions . It is necassary for getting anything done - from routine day to day transactions - at the bank , in schools , government offices etc . There is no element of corruption or 'grease payment' involved in these transactions , it is just that knowing a person because of family connections , friendship or sometimes just an acquaintance increases the comfort level between the parties involved .

In today's world this relationship orientation finds conflicts with the practice of organized or process oriented working ( which is a western concept and hardly imbibed by most Indians ) .Indians have resolved this by working in their own way and yet achieving what they set out to .All along they may not strictly follow any process or may even by pass it but yet achieve outputs and quality . If there is a process in place or rules prescribed to be followed , these are used not to enable a systematic way of working but only to comply and possibly record in terms of documentation which is done meticulously . This conflicting dichotomy between procedures and actual work is so well accepted that it has pervaded all forms working and public life be it of workplace , home or in dealing with the community or government institutions .So, rules exist , but are not followed or are disregarded.

This practice , attitude or trait may imply that most Indian institutions or businesses will at best be mediocre . Paradoxially it is far from the truth and this surprises an average westerner or even many Indians . On all fronts , be it education , business or industry we can see pockets of excellence and this is being noticed more and more now . How can we explain this ?

I call this ' compartmentalization ' - Indians are quite comfortable when they achieve excellence in one area but not able translate it in other areas which are very much part and parcel of their lives . So, they may achieve the highest grades in school or the university but unable to practice it in their work . One finds the world best companies which have achieved awards for the best quality but in general the quality of products or services is far inferior . Cleanliness starts and ends at home and personal hygiene is very high whereas public cleanliness is a far cry . One can go on and on with so many examples ...


karan a said...

Appreciate your ideas, but I dont agree that if we do not follow process driven way of working, the way westerns do, we will remain mediocre!

Process do not guarantee success, it ensures that work will be executed in desired manner.

Indians are first to endorse "Mixed economy" It wasnt in existance before we practised. I think the world recons our way of working. We cannot ignore building relationships or "people management" At the end of the day, they are the biggest assets for any organisation or nation.

Raju said...

Hi Karan

Interesting view and I am surely going to work on your comments - I am really curious to understand what works in India and why it works ? or rather what is good about the indian way or method .probably we have something significant to contribute to the rest of the world !