Thursday, February 9, 2012

Transforming the Indian Bureacracy? Inverting the Pyramid

Transformation needs to happen at all levels. For transformation to happen, there needs to be an environment at the grassroots level of the bureaucracy. The whole system needs to change. But who is part of that system? People are. Who builds the good institutions? People do.

Sanjay Pahuja from the World Bank suggested that 'development' is about bridging the gap between those who have and those who have not. We do a lot of work to design a wagon - but who is going to do the work of pulling the wagon? The real work that needs to be done will increase the hard work of those who are engaged. There are vested interests in each system. People who seek to change the system are facing tremendous odds. They may risk their careers, their livelihoods and sometimes their family members. Dr Pahuja suggests that 'the people who will do so are insane people.'

These people are internally motivated. Using the Hall-Tonna values development map, Dr Puhuja showed how there always are those internally- and service-motivated people who do not need to get approval from the external world of authority.

We need 'insane people' who are internally motivated to create change. And we need to support them. This is not about one charismatic leader. It is about many people working together. We are motivated by different things. We need to support the resources for change agents so that they know they are not alone. Because creating 'transformational change' isn't exactly easy. He suggests that if we can support those 'insane people' who are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty we can create a tipping point in which other people will follow suit. How can we find and support such insanity?

I wonder, sometimes, how many of us are really insane people. The more I get to know people, the more I see how many ways all of us have courage - and capacities we are generally unaware of. In my evaluation of this project thus far, I have met many ordinary bureaucrats who have become heros for themselves and their communities. This was possible because they have learned to trust themselves and one another. They can authentically move up the values map.

Later, we heard from IBM - 'Making Change Work'. We need to change mindsets and attitudes. Technology is not the issue. Of course, this is much of the work that lies behind Values Technology. Hearing it from the mouth of IBM was still powerful: the problem is about management, people and attitudes. They have change as a track under their strategy and management process. They have a 'change manager', recognising that because change happens, there needs to be someone who can continually work with change. While I question this notion of 'managing change', it is certainly critical to acknowledge that change is going to keep on happening. Change is here to stay.

In this session, I sense increasing levels of honesty from the floor. One man asked Dr Puhuja, who works at the World Bank - we've done what you've told us for the past 20 years, and it isn't working. Dr Puhuja, who has worked in some hard conditions in the villages, spoke about the importance of focusing on the front-line people. He admitted the Bank faces some of the same challenges as any other.

As the questions become more honest, people are becoming more grounded and less abstract. As this occurs, some of my earlier skepticism is lifting. There is, indeed, real potential in this room: to really consider what needs to be done. I am curious, now, right before lunch, how this discussion of changing mindsets to enable passionate professionalism can occur.

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