Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Organization and Corruption

Why companies fail? Why companies fail to innovate and becomes a footnote in history?

Those are questions comes to my mind, when I read J Krishnamurthi's saying about corruption because being a part of a organization. His sayings can be summarized into organization and corruption is inseparable. An organization/institutions will corrupt by it own nature.

There are umpteen examples for this. I can't remember a organization or company which is not corrupted. Here corruption = utterly broken. i.e not doing what it intended to do.

I wondered, why this is happening? What is making the these group of people to do nutty things? Is it because they are mobs, Mob rule or herd behavior? All these theories say, there is some magic happen when people act collectively. I don't think, rational man will act irrationally when they form a group. But we see this all the time. So there is something happens when a mob formed.

For me, that something is questioning, lack of it. It can also be said as these institutions lack democracy. Only difference between democracy and mob behavior is questioning. In democracy, people have right to question, in mob rule that is not there. All the authoritative, autocratic, non democratic regimes are corrupt because there is no checks, no questioning.

Read the Monkey-Banana-Ice water story. Take from here, Please the whole article in that link.

Michael Michalko in the second edition of the book Thinkertoys, gives a very interesting example of behaviour that is based on assumptions. He asks the reader to imagine a cage containing five monkeys. A banana is then hung on a string inside the cage and a set of stairs placed in the cage leading up to the banana. Whenever a monkey goes up the stairs and grabs the banana, ice-cold water is poured on all the monkeys in the cage. Very soon, as the monkeys begin to associate touching the banana with being sprayed with ice-cold water they will try to prevent one another from trying to get the banana.
The cold water is then turned off and one monkey removed from the cage and replaced with another that doesn’t know anything about the cold water. This new monkey will inevitably try to get the banana, but the other four monkeys will attack him to stop him from doing so.
If another of the old monkeys is removed and replaced with a newcomer, this newcomer will try to grab the banana. The previous newcomer will gladly take part in beating him up together with the other monkeys in order to prevent him from climbing the stairs to the banana.
Slowly, all the original monkey can be replaced with new monkeys in this manner. The cage will now be totally filled with monkeys that know nothing about the ice-cold water, but they will all not try to get the banana and continue to attack any monkey that tries to do so. “No monkey ever again approaches the stairs. Why Not? Because as far as they know, that’s the way it’s always been around here. Don’t be a monkey. Challenge all assumptions.” These are Michalko’s words of advice.

Is institutions fail because they are not democratic? I think, they are.

Democracy means active participation in decision making. People dont be mute spectators if something goes wrong.  But in organizations? If you disagree with your boss, you quit. Simple solution, isn't it? One may ask, what if boss and I had differences but not to the point of quitting the company. Understanding the difference between election and revolution will add some clarity.

Election gives formal right to say what one thinks about that administration/Govt.It happens in correct intervals. People presented with a choice.

Revolution is some thing like a extreme step of quitting the company. You run out of all the options so you take the extreme step of agitating, protesting most of time violently and bring a change.

In all circumstances, I like the first option. If companies give the right to the employee to say in company matters by some process, then it is hard for the company to ignore the issues. In reality, most of the participation in decision making done by whistle blowing or speaking up. How many people will brave for it? Lot people wont take that road. They simply quit, move to another company and same story repeats endlessly.

There are exceptions to this common phenomena. Companies led by a visionary wont suffer by lack of questioning. But those are rare exceptions.

Now comes the implementation. How to make companies democratic?. I will try to answer that in another post.


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