Article (June-2017)


The Indian ethos and managerial decision making

Dr. Vinayshil Gautam

Designation : -   Internationally Acclaimed Management Expert. Chairman, DK International Foundation

Organization : -  


In the search for solutions one explores the past happenings and tries to examine, with which similar problem, which solution achieved success and which failed. Thus it is, that history has to be rewritten multiple times and has led to a whole craft known as historiography.

At a slightly more differentiated level, each geography has its unique agro climatic characteristics. Each agro climatic zone throws up its own culture. Thus rewriting of history is rooted in altering the vantage point of perception of looking at the past.

Add to it the factor that today the pace of technological change is breath taxingly fast and unprecedented. Herein 2 elements which stand scrutiny need to be restated. One is the need to tackle current problems in an evidence based manner, drawing also, from past learning. The second element is the recognition that there are cultural manifestations of agro climatic reality and these need not be converted into platforms of combat.

Be that as it may, it seems obvious, that to be effective in a contemporary domain one needs to know the 'plot' in which action would be embedded. This is a core management issue. It is here that best of management principles become contextually refracted.

For want of a more focused expression, such an approach, postulates an understanding of the ethos of the context where management action would be embedded.

The ethos of the Indian Subcontinent is unique. (Just as much as the ethos of any agro climatic zone is unique). Understanding this ethos is a management compulsion.

India is a land of rivers from Punjab to Assam and from the Ganga Yamuna Doab to flows of the Kaveri, Godavari, Krishna not to overlook Narmada of the west and the multiple rivers of the Western Ghats including Kerala. India is truly a land of the rivers.

Thus it is that all social practices in India emphasize bathing and washing as a ritual which accompanies everything from worship to eating.

This ethos has thrown up a basically an Indian concept of purity pollution. In no other part of the world is the concept of purity pollution so endemic, universal and so practiced on a voluntary basis.

This ethos lays the foundations of a value system, where everything from chastity to cremation has a 'value system' attached to it. It would be inappropriate to be judgmental about it. It is a fact of life that these values and ethos are there and are held out to every generation to emulate and practice. It is this ethos which also influences the practice of management and the extent and form of refraction.

The craft of decision making has to come to terms with this situation.

Consider the case of gender relationships in India. Certain dimensions of man-women relation relationships have been sublimated to a point of a-sexuality. The celebration of the gender relationships between a brother and a sister is a case in point. Perhaps nowhere else in the world, is a certain type of man-woman relationship (brother and sister) made so totally asexual as it is in India. This is yet another unique aspect of Indian ethos.

The above noted examples are not the only ones of its type. There is a need to attempt an understanding of Indian ethos in management and then work with a more focused effort.

The proposition is simple. Be it management of self; management of interpersonal relationships; management of group relationships or organizational functioning, the ethos of the context leaves its deep impact on managerial problem solving and decision making structure and style.

An illustration would further clarify. Organizational personnel in India are always supersensitive to organizational gestures. The writer of these line in course of one of his consulting experiences came across a case in performance management which would beat many imaginations.

In early 90's in a public sector organization, a person had been promoted from one level to another. The increment involved in the basic pay was approximately Rs 200. It was a not a princely sum but given the scales of those days it was a normal rise. He had served the organization for 27years. He was known to be a good worker.

He got so upset that he returned the letter of promotion to the office of the head of establishment section. The head of the establishment section in turn sent it to the Chairman. The Chairman spoke to the writer of the lines to seek an understanding of what had actually happened. When the person concerned was summoned by the consultant to ask what had happened the person concerned said "Sir I am grateful you asked what had happened for me to return a letter of promotion. This is a place in which official functioning has no human dimension. I have worked here with sincerity for over 27 years. My record is unblemished and when time comes for recognition, I am sent a photocopied letter with my name filled out, in an open envelope giving me a rise of Rs 200   and a minor change in my designation. Is this my worth? I would have valued it much more if the Chairman had invited me personally and not even given me a promotion, but told me how valued I was as an organization person".

 The incident needs no comment. This is a part of the Indian ethos. The right to be heard, the right to be told personally what one is ones worth, is central to the way the mind of the organization person works.

Alas! A lot of information exchange takes place through our learning channels but more attention needs to be paid to factoring in the Indian ethos in the practice of management.

There is nothing wrong with information exchange. However something seriously goes wrong when the context of action is ignored.