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Partnership for success (Column: Spy’s Eye)

In the Age of Knowledge that we live in many old concepts of management of an enterprise including those revolving around leadership, employer-employee relationship and the role of hierarchy in the organisation, have received a severe knock. Among the key determinants of the new norm are the recognition that a leader must rely on knowledge-based decision making and not personal ‘charisma’ for moving ahead, acceptance of the importance of lateral rather than ‘vertical’ interactions for improving the output and a realisation that in the competitive environ ‘time’ had to be regarded as a precious ‘resource’ — apart from manpower and funds. In these times, an enterprise will succeed if its leader knew how to bring the best out of all members of the organisation and create an ethos that makes everybody — high or low in the hierarchy — feel that they were contributing to its progress. In a word, success today is built on partnership.

It is fascinating to find that what is being presented as the framework of ‘best practices’ in the contemporary literature on management was quietly in play in our Intelligence organisation at the national level. The latter has always functioned on the basic premise that even a junior operator in the field considered himself or herself as the extended arm of the chief and carried out the task ahead with a confidence about success — and not with any fear of failure. Three things working here for the individual are — that it was a team work in which all had stakes, that there will be no ‘issue’ of credit sharing and that the line of consultation for guidance was open right to the top all the time.

Organisations today are struggling to establish the ethos of ‘partnership’ in their systems. Status-bound bureaucracy that would resist a switch over to the modern requirement of ‘flat’ organisations, skewed boss-subordinate relationships and a general reluctance to create internal transparency in the enterprise — subject, of course, to the call of security — continue to obstruct the move towards an organisational setting that built the environ of ‘partnership’. An Intelligence organisation is free of these impediments and that is why its achievements become the success of the entity as a whole while its ‘failures’, whenever these become a matter of public discourse, never invite criticism of its internal management as such.

In the business world, ‘partnership’ is rightly being mentioned as the mantra of success — it embraces the entire circle of stakeholders, vendors and employees and, in what is a new age realisation, seeks to bring in channel partners and customers in the loop as well. Decades ago, Toyota became the world leaders of the automobile industry by making the worker at the assembly line feel like a ‘partner’ in business and send up his feed back on any ‘deficiency’ of the process that seemed to call for remedial attention.

A vendor should not be treated as a mere supplier of products and services but should be made to feel sufficiently involved in understanding the business of the corporate body and should, in fact, be encouraged to develop the mindset of a partner who was prepared for a long range relationship. Interaction with stakeholders should be frequent enough and purposeful in terms of pooling together their readings of the business situation — particularly in regard to any future advantage or risk. Partnership creates a convergence on business aims and performance evaluation. In an environ of partnership, even taking crucial decisions about a ‘course correction’ or ‘diversification’ becomes easy.

The concept of partnership is the universal recipe for progress not only for a business enterprise but also in other spheres of national life such as education, health and development. Partnership of parents and teachers, of the students and the administrators running distance education programmes and that of educational institutions and the policy makers, are all required for improving the systems. On the health front, the emerging importance of preventive healthcare makes it necessary for the medical fraternity to encourage and help the state in sponsoring schemes that would benefit the average citizen. A democratic dispensation works for the development as well as an equal protection of law for all and there should be a non-political response from all sections of the society as well as the people in public life on these two important functions of the state. There should certainly be no politics on matters of national security since everybody — people as well as those running the government — were partners in safeguarding the nation. The Constitution of India mandates this.

Leadership today is incumbent on certain requisites — decisiveness, reliability, initiative, nerves and knowledge-based approach — and this means ‘a leader is made not born’. A leader in action brings to bear on his ways some well defined traits — power of authenticity, effectiveness of differentiation that enables him or her to distinguish one situation from the other, awareness of the fact that emotions sometimes guided an employee, impartial evaluations and willingness to handle the challenge of change. But more than any thing else the test of leadership lies in the leader’s success in enhancing the productivity of the organisation. This would happen if the organisation runs on ethical norms, treats every employee as a partner in the drive towards the collective progress and provides a workplace environ where everybody worked with urgency ‘even when there was no emergency’.

This last one connects with the new awareness of value of time as a ‘resource’. All of this becomes a primary responsibility of the leadership of the organisation. In short, success will come to a leader who was not reclusive but totally dedicated to building the enterprise as a grand cooperative that valued every body’s contribution regardless of the ‘rank’ in the hierarchy. It bears repetition to mention that an Intelligence organisation at the national apex — unknown to the world outside — benchmarks the play of ‘partnership’ within, for its success.

(The writer is a former Director Intelligence Bureau)

–IANS

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