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The Ultimate Secret of Organisational Success

Truth Not always Obvious 

Prima facie, M[1] is ‘just another employee of the firm. He was one amongst the 20, I was hired to train. Outwardly shy, to the point of being withdrawn, he spoke only when asked to.

But, as the session progressed and activities rolled out, I saw him, a different person. He was the natural ‘centre of gravity and literally made group activities come through. Though everyone in the group was individually brilliant and did their very best, both individually and collectively, his sense of commitment to the group and accomplishing the task was palpable. He was commitment personified. As I watched the group[2] strive and accomplish various assigned tasks, I realised I was witnessing a group’s success mantra unfold at work. 

Profitability and Productivity 

Profitability is an inevitable survival ingredient for organisations involved in commercial activities. Business strategists consider productivity and profitability as inseparable Siamese twins and spin survival and growth strategies around the dictum ‘higher the productivity better the profitability. Most fly by night operators and even some mega brands pitch all their efforts only for profits insight. They never realise that profits alone don’t define brand value. 

Confined to productivity-profitability linear relationship, management machinery gets down to the act of conjuring numbers, which if achieved would ensure bottom-lines that is ‘owner’s pride’[3] and graphs that could be ‘competitors’ envy’. Such numbers once approved are driven down the hierarchy. However, in its journey downstream to the foot soldiers, the numbers start bloating up unrealistically. Everyone in the chain generously adds his or her bit of cushion. The managerial activity becomes creating, crunching and controlling numbers, accompanied by carrots and sticks. Fudging and cheating are common in such an environment. 

Carrot and Stick 

To ensure productivity and profitability, organisations arm themselves with sweeping powers to reward performers and weed out non-performing assets. Those who manage to reach stipulated targets survive to struggle the next quarter or fiscal, those who don’t, end up being discards. However, magicians who tame the unassailable, with numbers beyond targets are differentially rewarded. 

Crunch numbers right, convert them to targets, assign them to people, get them to achieve it. Reward those who comply, jettison non-performers overboard and ride to eternal profitability! Does it sound almost like a fail-proof strategy? No. Companies fail, flail and vanish. Even ruthless titans have bitten the dust! 

Compliance Don’t Guarantee Success? 

Stipulated outputs demand compliance with instructions on standards, procedures and all aspects of roles assigned including targets to be achieved. These are arrived at after due deliberations. If compliance was the key to success; then operational viability and profits should have lasted till eternity. It doesn’t happen. If retrenchment was a remedy, human resources discarded based on competence should not have found acceptance outside and headhunting would cease to exist. 

Clearly, there’s something more to success or failure than compliance; something not very obvious yet existential. It is a commitment. The commitment of individuals to the cause of the organisation is the soul that keeps entities going. A close look at the trajectory of organisations that have survived adverse conditions like recessions wars and political witch-hunts reveal that there were more than a handful of committed individuals who stood firm and steered it through rough seas and storms to greater glory.   

Incidentally, that sense of commitment I witnessed playing out as the group I was training, attempted to complete the task assigned. Seeing them operate, I knew this company is bound to make waves. 

Compliance Versus Commitment 

Adhering to instructions and standards is what compliance is all about. It is merely the execution of what is expected. Compliance has a legal connotation and brings along accountability, mostly legal. Compliance is closely associated with rewards and individual growth in a hierarchy. It is a demand that has to be met and failure has a cost associated. Commitment goes far beyond compliance. 

Commitment is all about ownership and a sense of belonging. It instils an additional sense of responsibility. It elevates individuals from being mere employees to being owners. The committed need mentors, not supervisors. Commitment is an attitude that breeds a two-way trust system and is often considered a personal trait. 

Cultivating Commitment 

Commitment, though an inborn personal trait, can be cultivated and nurtured by organisations to reap dividends. But for that to happen, organisational culture must be holistically conducive. Functional and progressive organisations invariably have few committed individuals spread across verticals. They are Islands of ownership and cannot be considered as products of organisational culture. 

For an organisation to be reap rewards of employee commitment, the majority of its employees must feel and shoulder ownership. Many companies allot shares to their employees to inculcate ownership and ensure retention. However, equating ‘sense of ownership’ with ‘owning shares’ is the biggest fallacy in vogue. This model of lured allegiance is being aggressively propagated. Unfortunately, ‘commitment on sale’ will move towards better prices. After all, that was not a commitment to start with. Monetising everything and handing over a document to establish a claim on the company’s assets and profits do not instil or cultivate commitment. 

Commitment is a sublime, amorphous entity that commences existence beyond lure and monetary rewards. It starts and ends with emotions. It defines how central an organisation is to the individual’s existential wellbeing. The easiest and the surest way of cultivating commitment is recognition of an individual as the organisation and driving home, his irreplaceable role and impact on organisational goals. When an individual feels his relevance in an organisation, commitment is mostly the outcome. Yes, there would be some who may ride it rough. But those would be exceptions and can be taken care of.

[1] The real name of the individual is kept guarded for sake of privacy. My enquiry about him later revealed that he is a very valuable asset of the company and makes his presence felt across verticals. 

[2] The dreamers’ group, design and convert our fantasies into working electronic devices! 

[3] Inspired by the tagline from an advertisement for a Television that has become extinct. Ironic though!

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of India and Defence Research and Studies

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By Major General Jacob Tharakan Chacko

Major General Jacob Tharakan Chacko, General Officer, with thirty-six years of service in Indian Army. During his tenure he was Colonel Commandant (Mentor) at Army Ordnance Corps and Chairman of Army Institute of Law at Mohali. He possess vast experience and knowledge in Military Logistics. He was also the Chairman at Parplegic Rehabilitation Centre. Mohali. He is an Author, Blogger, Facilitator and Organisational Synergiser. He is a Member of State Managing Committee, Amalgamated Fund for Rehabilitation of Ex-servicemen, Government of Kerala.