Last Sunday, while driving back home, I stopped by the roadside to click a photo of a tree that was absolutely denuded of leaves. I love taking this sort of photograph, as I play with them and try and create a slightly eerie image. The cow in the picture seemed to object to my photography, and chased me around my car.
We have lots of cows in Gurgaon!
Now, a week prior to the race with the cow, I was hauled up by the traffic police for crossing the speed barrier. Like the honest, law-abiding fellow that I am, I choked down the impulse to pay the cop a little something on the side, and paid my fine on the spot. While the policeman was writing out the rather lengthy receipt, he and I got a little chatty. After we had established some degree of bonhomie, I asked him about the cows on the street.
“Aren’t these cows a menace, just like speeding drivers?”, I asked.
“Not our problem”, he replied a little testily. I seemed to have touched a nerve. Was I treading on his territory, his turf? Was I questioning his abilities as a traffic warden?
“These cows are the responsibility of the municipal corporation”, he said, and dispatched me on my way. He had more fines to collect.
We, who are in the corporate world, or a part of the general public, tend to criticize the police, the municipal corporations, and my instinctive reaction was to think, “Pah! These government officials. Useless. And, this is why India is going to the dogs etc etc ad infinitum, ad nauseum.”
Now, let’s turn the spotlight. When we move out of our roles as members of the general public, and transition seamlessly into organization people, this is exactly what we do!
Most organization have organization designs that are designed to be silos, and God forbid if you tread on the other ones’s turf. The business guys believe that they are the ones who bring in the greenbacks, and so are off-bounds. Woe betide the hapless support staff or corporate departments (the overhead costs) who question them.
The corporate staff believe that they (rightly) have a role to play in managing the systems and protocols, and over time they believe that this is their domain. And so, silos are created.
To overcome these, matrix organizations have become the order of the day, and the person who is assessed, simply asks the question -“Are you the one who signs my bonus cheque? If so, I acknowledge you as my boss…”
The question is, in my case, “how do we ensure that the roads are safer to drive on? How do we ensure that driving becomes a pleasure? How do we ensure that we have proper pavements, so that people don’t walk on the streets? And, how do we ensure that the roads are in good condition? How do we ensure that people don’t break the rules, and how do we bring rule-breakers to justice?”
How do we ensure proper customer and stakeholder satisfaction? This can happen only if the various parts of the organization work well together, for a common cause, and if they truly start to respect the role that each has to play.
Most organizations that I have experienced don’t work this way, and I do sometimes think that “collaboration”, “breaking barriers”, and other such wonderful phrases lose their real meaning and become empty slogans.
Complex structures, hazy accountability, turf wars and the silo mentality that is so much a part of our world, ensures that an aggressive organization slowly becomes a passive, bovine one!
It is critical to have leaders at every level in the organization who can rise above themselves, and truly believe in the word – collaboration.