Process Eats Individuality For Breakfast

This article first appeared in DNA India on 8th June, 2017.

Two recent news reports were the genesis for this week’s article. The first was an interview I read with the chariman of Welspun Group, Balkrishan Goenka. In the interview, Goenka talks about the aftermath of an issue that impinged on the credibility of the Group. In August last year, Walmart charged the Group as having mislabelled 7,50,000 sheets and pillow cases sold under the Fieldcrest label as premium Egyptian cotton products. In addition, Walmart terminated all business ties with Welspun and offered refunds to their customers.

Goenka describes how Welspun coped with the fallout of this incident on their company’s brand and image as well as the fact that owning up to their mistake enabled them to recover their credibility fast. What struck me though was Goenka spoke about how it was not the fault of any one individual but a more systemic issue. He also mentioned the incident forced them to adopt a more process-oriented approach at Welspun to ensure such issues never cropped up again.

Next, the storm brewing in India cricket with allegations that the coach Anil Kumble and the captain Virat Kohli did not see eye to eye with each other, also caught my eye. This was followed by the resignation of Ramachandra Guha, a member of the Committee of Administrators (CoA) appointed by the Supreme Court to oversee BCCI running, alleging massive conflicts of interest within the BCCI. He cited the case of ex-cricketers who were both commentators as well as managing some of India’s cricketers through their sports management companies. He also mentioned that the challenge with the BCCI was the personality-driven nature of all appointments with the captain for example having an inordinate say in the coach being appointed for the team.

What these two incidents brought home to me was the fact that organisations often face challenges, especially as they scale and become big, of becoming personality oriented. Personalities have an inordinate say in the running of the organisation. While this might work during good times, it can also quickly lead to a breakdown of communication and lack of accountability when crisis hits an organiation. As Goenka and his team realised, making an organisation process-oriented can help to ensure that there are enough check-points built into the system to pre-empt any catasrophic failures.

While there are legitimate concerns that organisations in a growth phase can be stifled by too many processes, on the whole, a lack of process-orientedness can cause more damage than the other way round.

Paraphrasing a popular quote by Peter Drucker on culture and strategy, process-orientedness eats individuality for breakfast!


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