Why some systems won’t work in Indian context!

Some of us often wonder, why systems and processes, which have worked in other countries don’t seem to work in India. I have thought about this many a times. I have observed that in organizations, many systems are put in place, many trainings done, but still after some time they just become a farce. Data inputs may happen but validation and qualification remains at large.

When I started my career as a scientist and was supposed to be responsible for such validations and qualifications. Soon I started becoming aware of what was working and what wasn’t. I began to realize that systems efficiency depended on the organizational culture, and this is not as simple as it seems. It actually depended on the background of the people, the region and country they belonged to. This I have no research to prove but enough experience to hypothesize and write. Let me bring a very simple example from our society to you, Queuing up is a simple system put in place to resolve the issue of crowds. But this system works very differently in India. A queue is a system designed to allow better crowd and time management, who ever comes first is served first. In western countries this system may work as designed. People will queue up as they come, in order of the time they come in. However in India, a queue is a complex social system. It doesn’t matter what time you come, if you have the right contact, that person will queue up for you and others in your family. It is a great networking space, a space where you can show your affection for another by standing up for them. It may sound strange but this is an honest observation. Holding seats for friends is a strong value, so queuing up doesn’t make sense in India. Senior citizen queues also might have a similar role, where the senior citizen enters and holds space for rest of the family members or friends, who may arrive much later. You see relationships and standing up for them is more important than following systems. Building and maintaining relationships is a value, a very Indian value. So even though the queue may initially look like it is serving the purpose, it can hardly follow the rule of first come first serve.

An Indian queue system is adapted to Indian values, you need to understand and accept it as it is. Also systems are said to be self running and are not people dependent. But in the Indian context people decide the efficiency of a system and wherever people are, the subconscious will show up in their behaviors. A queue system would work beautifully in India, if only you have several people supervising it. This people plus system cost drives communities and organizations crazy. The need for belonging, acceptance, relationship, respect, emotional connect seems high in the Indian culture. When the subconscious needs all this, then, which need is the system fulfilling. Adopting systems from the west, doesn’t fulfil the Indian needs and hence most of the systems remain dysfunctional. Instead of adopting a system if we could ‘Adapt’ systems, which fulfil the Indian values, I think the system will work beautifully and will be self sustaining. The Dabba wallas did not base their system on six sigma, but it became a case study for six sigma. It worked because it was indigenous and designed by people who were to run it. Organizations and communities should focus on implementing simple systems created by people, rather than spending time and resources on systems that will take a long time to implement and are also not cost effective. I know the so called standardisation will get affected, but let us leave that to the moulds and machines. Any system involving people should take the people along.

Enhancing Employee Performance- A Fad or Good Intention?

employee performance
I find it funny when Human Resources talk about different methods of enhancing employee performance, but seldom focus on the way the employees are being treated in the organisation. It is the day to day interactions that increase employee performance and not some new initiative, which is an industry fad. Each employee interaction creates a energy, which then goes around and becomes organization’s energy. As an outsider steps into the organization, he can feel the charge that the organisation carries. The charge might be triggered by the noise of the air conditioner, laughter in a group, the receptionists smile or frown, color of the upholstery, anything.

Every organisation has a smell and taste, and that triggers our reactions to it. Mind you these might not be mere judgements but a deeper intuition of the energy the organisation possesses. If you as an Organizational development consultant just stay with the intuition silently, without forcing it out, you will start seeing data. This data need not be analyzed but keep collecting, like a child collects shells from the sea shore, both with curiosity and care. Each organisation will interact with you instantly, right when you step into its arena. This interaction is a overall outcome of interactions happening within the departments in the organisation and individual employee interactions. Of course each organisation will have both positive and negative interactions but if the size of interactions that are negative is more, you would be able to smell that. Such organizations are toxic dumps and suck the employees of their energy in the name of creating better profits. These organizations thrive on loose protocols and unclear systems, might becomes right and employees are treated as mere pawns.

If you believe you might be in such a organisation, remember to take really good care of yourself and not get demotivated. If you feel drained and completely sucked of your energy, take a sabbatical and go on a vision quest. In such organizations blame games are common and interactions are implicit. Trust and transparency is not present and no one has the courage to point out the real issue. Many top leaders in such an organisation are in a state of complete denial and stay focused on superficial, unnecessary routine tasks. In such a state no body pulls the carpet to see what’s causing the obnoxious smell, everyone wears uncomfortable nose clips and those who don’t are choked out of the space.

Any initiative to enhance employee performance in such a space will fall flat on its face and someone will have to take its blame. If you are in a Leadership role then you must smell your organisation, if you smell a dead rat, call for a open transparent discussion, and have an intention of cleaning up. Otherwise forget about employee performance. If you are an OD consultant in such an organisation, garner courage to talk about what you smell, if you don’t then any superficial performance initiative you do in this space will not succeed, and remember you or your organisation will be blamed. So be clear yourself and your intention before you step into any space. Trust and transparency are a corner stone to any employee’s performance, you falter there and you are in for a long drawn time consuming farce.

Bed Ridden Patriarchy and My Issues with Self Acceptance


I am the eldest of the three daughters and was raised by a single working mother. Being independent is not only a value but it runs in my blood. I was raised to believe I am no less than a man and there is nothing I can’ achieve. My growing up years were filled with brawls with my school boys, self defense practice and studies for earning money while I was growing up in Mumbai. There was also something else, which I can’t forget, a lot of pity from people. People who believed that not having a father or a brother made us helpless and hopeless. So I took the role of the elder brother and my mother became the father. So in our family actually it was mother and elder sister who were missing. But I guess no one realized that.
I would bully any boy or girl who tried to patronize my sisters and also bully my sisters into doing what I wanted them to do. Me and my mother became the patriarchs. I also created new story about my family structure just to ensure that I was not pitied by the society.
I grew up to be extremely successful in a man’s world, I made money, travelled the world and most importantly I was considered powerful. Since success of a woman was equated with dysfunctional marriage or no marriage, I proved the hypothesis null and void by getting engaged to a successful man of the same caste belonging to a extremely patriarchal family approved by the patriarchal society.
Now I was one with the society, my close family and larger family was awestruck with what I had achieved. I was now a part of the society and was trying to learn its ways constantly. But I was still not sure which role I was in my family.
 Men will eat first, they need to be served, I need to wear a Saree and seek my in-laws approval, I shouldn’t sit on an equal seat as men…I started to mould myself to fit in. I was a coward trying to rebel from within my self, not knowing what is it that I looking for. I was torn.
My mother and sisters were shocked at my self transformation from a bullying teenage girl, to a powerful career woman, to a subservient daughter-in-law ( the patriarch in me believed, that is how it should be).
I became an unhappy and angry wife and started having issues with my husband. Latent anger and rage started affecting me physically and mentally.
In this story I am not the central character. The central character is my father-in-law the carrier of extreme patriarchy which took me 500 years back in human evolution. He and my mother-in-law became my teachers who helped me realize what I really wanted and what I will not accept.
My father-in-law’s conversations were degrading and disgusting. He spoke of women like slaves and objects. I started having deep feeling of abject resentment of myself when he was around. He would just sit or lie down the whole day, only getting up for his bath or defecation. During his bath or defecation the warm water had to be filled by my mother-in-law, she was an epitome of a great self sacrificing woman- always ready with “Garam-Garam roti”
Today after eleven years of my marriage my father-in-law continues to sit and order around while my mother-in-law serves like a chained slave. Now he believes that as he is growing older, she also needs to feed him, put water in his mouth, give him a bath and wash him after defecation. This man has no Physical issues, no diabetes, no heart problem, no cholesterol, no obesity. But my mother-in-law does whatever he expects her to do. It fills me with disgust when I see them in the act . I cannot relate with them. I do not want to relate with them, I seem to have come to my senses after many years of trying to learn “How to sacrifice self for others?”. It is like a cosmic jolt to my own camouflaging Patriarchy.
Who brought me to my senses? Do not be surprised, It is my mother in-law. These days every morning she comes to me with tears and pain in her eyes like a whipped animal, and says “Forty Four years, this man has ruined my life. God why don’t you just give me death.” This man calls her to serve him every five minutes, so she can’t be anywhere but near him. When he says “I have had a great life, I have done a lot for my sons.” I just want to shake him up with all my rage. This is a man who stopped working at the age of fifty and has been sitting or lying on his arse since then. He talks endlessly about morality and what a great man he his, how the coming times will be horrible, how the food we eat is horrible, how Mumbai will drown in a horrible Tsunami, how everything is horrible. This man for me is bedridden hopeless patriarchy within me, which is acting like a vegetable but its voice will be there for another twenty years, testing our hope for a bright future.
I have tried to detach myself from the voice but now I think this voice is my path to self acceptance.

I still don’t know what to do about my situation? but I know what to be….I will be myself, I will follow my instinct and wisdom in  my daily interaction. If I do not agree to any statement I would practice courage. Although I know I will get to practice a lot about self preservation and self growth while they are around….but I still want them to leave my space…NOW!!