Friday, 27 July 2012

The Seven Sins of Indian Bureaucracy


Functioning of civil service   in  most of the states of India and at centre is becoming increasingly complex , large  , detailed and dynamic as literacy , education , knowledge , exposure and awareness increases  and global changes take place on  daily basis.
As a part of Christian ethics,The Seven Deadly Sins or vices have been used  to indicate  humanity's tendency to sin .These  sins are usually given as wrath, greed,sloth,pride lust ,envy, and gluttony.I have observed , interacted  with and  been a part of Indian bureaucracy for the past three decades .Taking a cue from these Cardinal sins as also from my observation and analysis  , I have drawn  my  list of   seven sins(with apologies to those who do not agree) that most of Indian bureaucrats commit  , often knowingly .There are always some exceptions(I have my deepest reverence for them though they are very few) , but they only prove the rules.This is not to say that the Cardinal sins are not present in Indian bureaucrats .The list below is the list of sins in the  bureaucrats the context of Indian governance system.
1.The biggest  and most  significant sin is the erosion and  the  loss of ideals (which many have at the start of service) and vision of public service .This is accompanied with lack of purpose .
2.The next  biggest sin  is an erosion of its values , integrity , courage to stand for convictions and increasing tolerance, acceptance , passive support and in many cases , active connivance  and wholesale involvement in  corruption .Often it takes the form of pressurising the junior civil servants to fall in line and co-operate in corruption .This also  results  in disrespect for laws , rules and due processes. This has its roots in "greed" of the  Cardinal sins
3. The third significant sin is being indifferent, inert ,lazy and slothful.The inertia sets within about ten years of service , though the exact length of service varies from case to case.This is accompanied with lack of motivation and  morale, loss of meaning in work  and initiative.This has its roots in "sloth" of the Cardinal sins.
4.The fourth  sin is the focus on short term  perspective , partly to avoid responsibility and accountability and partly due to short tenures .
5.The fifth  sin is getting politicised in slow degrees.This is partly to gain favours and partly  to develop God Fathers and God Mothers who  may grant protection in adversity .So we breed a class of bureaucrats who think and act less like civil servants and more like power brokers.
6.Most of the bureaucrats live in silos , lacking in the will and skill for co-ordination and team work .There is an increasing tendency towards departmentalism and empire building .There is a lack of competence and skills in dealing with complex situations that real life poses before the bureaucrats on a daily basis.This often results in paralysis in decision making and in taking action .
7.The seventh sin is the  trend of  denying accessibility to public and declining field level exposure .The bureaucrats , especially at middle and  senior levels , lose touch with the public they are recruited to serve .
                   These seven sins of Indian bureaucracy need urgent attention of all enlightened citizens.The first step is to understand , analyze and accept that these seven sins have become deeply ingrained , like drug addiction , in Indian Bureaucracy .We can deny or ignore them only at our own peril .(I have deliberately avoided giving the reasons and causes for this sorry state of affairs and  also avoided giving prescriptions and solutions  , to  sharply focus on the diagnosis which I believe is a correct one.)
 Some of my fellow bureaucrats may find this analysis  unduly harsh , but I have chosen to be impartial to the best of my abilities , in accordance with my belief that "Caesar's wife must be above suspicion."

Sunday, 22 July 2012

22 Rules Regarding Equalization of Opportunities

Recently , I had the opportunity to attend two events organized to support the persons with disabilities.The first was on the occasion of the start of new two years Diploma in Education(Special Education for the Mentally Retarded) being run by PYSSUM((Paramhansa Yogananda Society for Special Unfolding and Moulding), Research and Training Centre , Lucknow (UP), India.Trainee special educators were given the introductory talk .I was asked to give my views on "developing right attitude in serving the disabled".
    The second event was to facilitate the organizers and students of a workshop on Dry Flower Technology .It was a two day  workshop on vocational training organized jointly by National Botanical Research Institute and a non-governmental organization Shashwat Jigyasa for the differently abled students of St. Francis School for hearing impaired, Thakurganj , Lucknow(UP), India.
Attending both these events was a great learning and  enriching experience for me  , and in many ways , changed many of my perspectives and paradigms .I tried to see the  prevailing situation regarding disability and related issues from the first principles .I also had a chance to go through some of the landmark thinking done earlier in this field.
     The UNO observed the decade of disabled persons  from 1983 to 1992 as the decade of Disability .It came up with 22  Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities  in  1993(Adopted by the UN General Assembly, resolution 48/96, on December20,1993) .These rules are not binding on the member states but are an instrument for policy making and implementation regarding equal opportunities to persons with disabilities.Four  of these rules described the preconditions essential for equalization of opportunities for the disabled .Ten rules related to the implementation of steps  to be taken by the States  for equalization of opportunities .Seven rules related to monitoring and evaluation  of programmes and schemes related to equalization of opportunities .
                   When I see the situation in Uttar Pradesh , India , regarding the attitude towards disability , as also the over all situation , I find that we have   yet to do a lot  in many areas , though the 22 Rules were adopted by the  UNO  about 20 years ago . I  have reflected on these 22 Rules intensively and find that we have  some important activities to do ,derived from these rules , though there is no one to one correspondence between the rules and the activities .Further , the action points are not in the order of priority.In fact , many  of these are fundamental to the basic principle of equalization of opportunities , and are therefore equally essential .The 22 Rules are summarized as below.
Four Preconditions:
Rule1:Awareness raising
Rule2:Medical care
Rule4:Support services
Eight Target Area:
Rule8:Income maintenance and social security
Rule9:Family and personal integrity
Rule11:Recreation and sports
Twelve implementational measures:
Rule13:Information and research
Rule14:Policy making and planning
Rule16:Economic policies
Rule17:Coordination of work
Rule18:Organizations of persons with disabilities
Rule19:Personnel training
Rule20:National monitoring and evaluation of disability programmes in the implementation of the Rules
Rule21:Technical and economic cooperation
Rule22:International cooperation.
On the basis of above Rules , we can hold a number of workshops , discussion sessions, seminars and conferences to come out with a series of recommendations and actions to secure a more equal world for the persons with disabilities .These are only illustrative and not exhaustive :
1.Media workshops :
For portraying persons with disabilities in a positive way and also to find ways to make news accessible to  such persons.
2. Training in values , attitudes,competence , technology,skills and information on disability issues and programmes.This training needs to be imparted to employees of the disabled welfare department, professionals , teachers and community workers.
3.Development, production,distribution and servicing of assistive devices and equipment for all age groups of persons with disabilities.
4.Workshops of architects , engineers and town planners on accessibility.
5.Workshops of advocates, persons with disabilities and families on legal provisions relating to disabilities.
6.Workshops on computerized systems for the disabled and technology in devices , tools and equipments.
7.Workshops on whether education should be mainstream with integration of the persons with disability or should it be special education in special schools for the children with disability.
8.Workshops on vocational training for persons with disability.
9.Workshops on filling up quota of jobs and promotion policy in government and public sector for the persons with disability.Also employment of persons with disability in private sector.Placements.
10.Workshops on loans for small business , grants and tax concessions for persons with disability.
11.Workshops on injuries at work , rehabilitation and social security.
12.Social security to the persons who undertake the care of the persons with disabilities.
13.Workshop on marriage and parenthood of persons with disabilities.
14.Workshop on enhancing opportunities of participation of persons with disabilities in cultural activities.
15.Workshop on increased participation of persons with disability in sports and recreation .
16.Workshops on making religious activities and religious literature accessible to the persons with disability.
17.Workshops on creating data bank on disability.
18.Workshops on efficacy of complaint redressal mechanisms against non-discrimination to persons with disability.
19.Workshops on creating a Disability Development Fund in the state.
20.Development of terminology and  criteria for evaluation of programmes and services for the persons with disability.

I will be grateful if you record  your comments on this blogpost , or write to me at

Friday, 13 July 2012

Systems View of Leadership and Transformation of organizations

Ever since I read  and understood the systems  thinking , I began to rethink  about many of the  key concepts  I had formulated in my mind  since my younger days .One of these was the meaning  and role of leadership  from the systems view point .
An  important foundation at the base of systems thinking is that the reality is neither given nor  ever created alone by one person .It is co-created by a number of persons , interacting in   complex ways  in a system within a number of more complex systems.A forest is not just a collection of trees standing together .It is a system , in which different plants , animals and forms of life act and interact on each other and with outer environment.Reality can be understood , created and transformed only by understanding the systems.In systems , shared visions , mental models and team learning become critical.
 My quest for learning about systems thinking led me to its origins in biology .It was only in 1970 , for the first time ,E.Kast and J.E.Rosenzweig applied general systems theory to organizations and management .They wrote two books on this subject: 
 1.   General systems theory: Applications for organizations and management
2.   The modern View: Systems and Contingency concepts.
About two decades after this , Peter M. Senge wrote his famous "The Fifth Discipline" which established Systems Thinking as the cornerstone concept of  achieving  modern learning organizations.Senge called Systems Thinking as The Fifth Discipline , around which all the remaining four disciplines revolve .Systems thinking forces us to  rethink , redefine and reformulate the meaning of leadership, and of  skills of   leadership and transformation .
F.E.Kast and J.E.Rosen zweig have described the   ' Five Primary Components'(sub systems) of an organization as follows:
1.   Goals, Values, vision
2.   Technical subsystems
3.   Structural sub systems including organization design
4.   Psycho social sub systems (mental model, HR)
5.Management sub systems (information flow; strategic planning).
     A dynamic system is constantly changing and many variables interact with each other. In a dynamic system, leadership is a complex process with many unknown variables. Leaders must understand how organizations are co-created by others with us.              Leaders must be open to employees self-organizing around new ideas.They must believe in the principle of equi-finality. Objectives in an open system may be achieved in many different ways and with varying inputs. Leaders need not search for the one Best Method.Leaders must simply express purpose, vision and values, and then leave freedom for responsible individuals to make sense of these in their own way.
               Leaders must allow information to flow freely so as to permit multiple observers and multiple interpretations.Leaders make organizations open system and not closed ones.They develop organizational intelligence by obtaining adequate information from environment, about changes in environment.They acquire ability to process information, respond and change so as to maintain in a dynamic environment.
                                  I give three examples to illustrate  how information flow systems  work: 

Executive Information Systems
Senior Managers
Decision Support Systems
Middle Managers
Management Information Systems
Transaction Processing Systems
          Example II:   ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning Systems      involving Finance/ Accounting/ HR/ Manufacturing/ Supply Chain/ Project management/ Customer Relationship Management
Example III: GIS:     Geographic Information System.It can involve GPS:    The Global Positioning System
(GPS Device gives Location on Earth.)
It is merging of   (i) Cartography(ii) Statistical analysis
(iii) Data base technology
 This enables us to formulate the meaning  of leadership and Role of Leaders  from a systems view point.The leaders 
(i) Design purpose, vision and core values.
(ii) Design policies/ strategies/ structures/ information flow.
(iii) Design Learning Processes.
(iv) Teach view of reality at 3 levels- events, pattern of behavior, systemic structures.They teach us to distinguish between events and personalities on one hand and  the needs and demands of the systems on the other hand .
(v) Act as stewards of vision/purpose/openness to employees self organizing around new ideas.Accordingly , we arrive at an 
understanding of the skills required in leaders:       
(i) To build/formulate shared vision
(ii) To challenge prevailing mental models
(iii) Systems thinking seeing inter-relationships and processes     complexity, moving beyond blame avoiding                                  symptomatic  solutions high leverage.
(iv) To build a learning organization
 (v)To build team learning
But I must clarify that one skill which is essential , and which systems thinking does not make obvious is Personal mastery .
Leverage points and transformation:Leverage points are places (in the system) where a small change could lead to a large shift in behavior.Some of the leverage points mentioned by Donella Meadows are paradigms/mental models, goals,rules,Reinforcing feedback loops,Balancing feedback loops,delays, Physical structures and buffers.
Systems way of seeing or thinking and reductionist way (looking at things in terms of events , personalities,Details, Numbers, Parameters)are complementary.The systems view point is generally oriented toward the long term view. That's why delays and feedback loops are important. In the short term you can ignore them.
I acknowledge with gratefulness that  have been highly influenced for this understanding by stalwarts like  Peter M singe,M. Scott Peck,Erich Fromm,David Bohm and Max De Pree.