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Facilitating growth & transformation

ODA Quarterly SPRING 2012


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ODA QUARTERLY Copyright Š 2012 All rights reserved Managing Editor Santhosh Babu Published by OD Alternatives Consultancy Pvt. Ltd Designed by Dharana



PREFACE – Santhosh Babu


















BEING YOURSELF – Santhosh Babu






he world around is changing—and changing so fast that by the time we comprehend the essence of that change, things have changed again. Today’s leaders are faced with the challenge of managing such changes, leading through the process and adding value to the triple bottom-line: People, Profit and the Planet. The recession in the western world has put further pressure on Indian leaders as their western counterparts expect them to grow more business in emerging markets such as India. “The nature of the global business environment guarantees that no matter how hard we work to create a stable and healthy organisation, our organisation will continue to experience dramatic changes far beyond our control.” Says Margaret J. Wheatley, writer and management consultant. This means we need to effect a fundamental shift in leadership behaviour so as to foster innovation and to manage our world more effectively. The shift required is a movement away from typical response to supporting values and models based on the linear and structured cause-and-effect Newtonian physics worldview to the supporting values and models of non-linear dynamics (systems) and unstructured emergence, based on the science of quantum physics and complexity theory. Which means a paradigm shift in thinking at a fundamental level is required to precede strategic innovative organisational change from a central (top down) and controlled, structured approach to an open (bottom up) and holistic, systems worldview to organisational leadership, in an attempt to deal with the immense and complex environmental (financial, social and spiritual) challenges we are faced with. We at ODA aim to bring this fundamental mental shift in organisations and communities to make our society more sustainable, meaningful and suited for generations to come. Last few months we had the opportunity to work with leaders who could pioneer this shift and build organisations



that are purposeful, effective and sustainable. We worked closely with leaders such as Mr Gautam Thaper, Naina Lal Kidwai, Ranjendra Pawar, Mukesh Aghi, Gautham Pai, Pramath Raj Sinha, to name a few, and all had one thing in common. They were all keen and focused on building an organizational culture that would help navigate the prevailing uncertainties and build sustainable world-class organisations. This quarterly seeks to put the spotlight on our work and others work in helping organisations cope and transcend dramatic and turbulent changes. Do write to me. â–






ome of the work we have done over the years is the area of whole system change.What is meant by whole system change? It is a process that engages people from all aspects of a system – organization or community to enable emergence of what is most important, individually and collectively and increase the likelihood for achieving it by growing people’s capacity to care for themselves, others and the whole system. The definition implies that the intervention:

r5PVDIFTBMMBTQFDUTPGBTZTUFN r'PDVTFT PO FNFSHFODF PG XIBU JT NPTU important individually and collectively r&NQIBTJ[FT EFWFMPQJOH QFPQMFT DBQBDJUZ to care for oneself, others and whole system The elements of Whole System Change process are:  5SBOTGPSNJOH -FBEFSTIJQ UFBN BOE creating alignment 0OFUPPOF$PBDIJOHXJUI-FBEFST -BSHF(SPVQ*OUFSWFOUJPO


Follow Up of the Initiatives and Supporting Large Group Intervention One to One Coaching with Leaders

Transforming Leadership Team & Creating Alignment



'PMMPXVQPGUIF*OJUJBUJWFTBOETVQQPSUJOH Leadership Intervention -FBEFSTIJQ JO this context is the ability to create a new possibility that would not have happened as a natural extension of the past. Remember, &EJTPO EJE OPU DSFBUF UIF FMFDUSJD MBNQ CZ improving the candle, he created a new QPTTJCJMJUZ ǔF -FBEFSTIJQ BQQSPBDI JT based on the premise that future is not a logical extension of the past. Unless the leadership team is committed and willing to drive a transformation initiative, creating and sustaining change becomes difficult. Thus, transformation initiative begins with UIF-FBEFSTIJQ5FBN Our approach with Leadership Intervention: Once we engage with the client, we start our deep structure interviews with key stakeholders and members from all parts of the organization. This process helps us tap people’s aspirations, concerns, thought process and

beliefs about the current situation. Then, we move to our next phase which is a three day intense workshop with the leadership team. The workshop focuses on achieving the following objectives: r *EFOUJGZJOH UIF DPSF TUSFOHUIT  UIF positive DNA or the life giving force of the organization r $SFBUJOHBQPXFSGVMi1PTJUJWF'VUVSFu r $SFBUJOH ĂŞSTU TUFQT UP NPWF UPXBSET UIF Aspiration We believe that the leaders need to walk the talk and manifest a powerful future into the present and act “as ifâ€? the change has occurred. During the course of session, the leaders also gain insight that this is not just an organization transformation journey but also their leadership and personal transformation journey. The journey is similar to how Joseph Campbell describes the journey of “The Hero Mythâ€?.



The current reality

Predictable to stretch results

Campbell said that the story always began XJUIBO&WFSZNBOKVTUMJWJOHIJTIVNESVNMJGF Suddenly and unexpectedly, either by chance or by choice, he is either pulled out of his ordinary life or chooses to leave his ordinary life to launch into a great adventure, whose ending he cannot know at the beginning. The adventure, according to Campbell, then goes through several specified stages. Striving for his goal, the hero is challenged to his limit, reaching a peak culminating experience, that Campbell calls a “supreme ordeal�. The result is that the hero “gains his reward� and is forever changed by the experience, and the transformation is complete. We relate this to

Stretch results

Breakthrough results

Pie in the sky

our breakthrough model of leadership where a leader might not know the challenges he needs to face to reach his goals. We also look at what would be a breakthrough for the organization and for individual leaders. A breakthrough is something that you will not get as a natural extension of the past or by merely stretching yourself. Therefore there is a current reality, a stretch possibility and a breakthrough. Beyond breakthrough, there could be something that we call a pie in the sky i.e., impossibility. Coaching: In the context of Whole System 5SBOTGPSNBUJPO PVSDPBDIJOHGPDVTFTPOUSJQMF


Incremental Improvement Single loop learning


Way of Thinking



Reframing and Re-strategizing

Double loop learning

Way of Being


Triple loop learning


loop learning among the leaders rather than merely trying to create behavioral changes. Single-Loop Learning (Incremental Learning) Single-loop learning refers to learning new skills and capabilities through incremental improvement, doing something better without examining or challenging underlying beliefs and assumptions. Double-Loop Learning (Reframing) Double-loop learning occurs by fundamentally reshaping the underlying patterns of our thinking and behavior as a result we’re capable of doing different things. This goes beyond single-loop or incremental learning. Triple-Loop Learning (Transformational Learning) 5SJQMFMPPQ MFBSOJOH JOWPMWFT USBOTGPSNJOH who we are by creating a shift in our context or point of view about ourselves. It involves “learning how to learnâ€? by reflecting on how we learn in the first place. This is about learning how our “beingâ€? influences our beliefs and thus our actions. WHAT ARE LARGE GROUP INTERVENTIONS? WHAT ARE ITS KEY CHARACTERISTICS? Marvin Weisborad and Sandra Jannoff FYQPTFE NF UP -BSHF (SPVQ *OUFSWFOUJPOT Ç”F PSJHJOT PG -BSHF (SPVQ *OUFSWFOUJPO -(*  DBO CF USBDFE CBDL UP  XIFO UIF British government had merged ArmstrongSiddeley, a piston engine company, with #SJTUPM"FSP&OHJOFT BQJPOFFSPGKFUFOHJOFT  to create Bristol Siddeley. The new company was competing with Rolls-Royce to be market leader in jets. Bristol Siddeley’s problem was the lack of common plans and strategies and they wanted to create a unified strategy, NJTTJPO MFBEFSTIJQBOEWBMVFT&SJD5SJTUBOE 'SFE &NFSZ XFSF CSPVHIU JO BT DPOTVMUBOUT and on their work with Wilfred Bion, they developed the first Search Conference as a way of “unlocking the internal forces of

the group�. The group spent five and a half days together, involved 11 stakeholders and the event became known as the Barford Conference, and inspired the development PG'VUVSF4FBSDI ǔF UFSN -BSHF (SPVQ *OUFSWFOUJPOT -(*T  covers a wide range of methods, from the very TUSVDUVSFE 'VUVSF4FBSDI $POGFSFODF.PEFM  4FBSDI $POGFSFODF  UP UIPTF UIBU BSF BMNPTU PQFO 0QFO4QBDF BOEFWFSZUIJOHJOCFUXFFO TVDI BT 3FBM 5JNF 4USBUFHJD $IBOHF  8PSME $BGÊ 1BSUJDJQBUJWF%FTJHO "MMUIF-BSHF(SPVQ Intervention Methodologies believe in the System Thinking principles.My training as an ecologist helped me to look at organizations as complex living systems and I knew that unless I got the whole system in one room, organization transformation would be difficult.

All LGI methodologies advocate inclusiveness and widespread participation in the change process While there are many methodologies under UIF VNCSFMMB PG -(*  UIF DPNNPOBMJUZ JT UIBU they are essentially collaborative inquiries into what is important in the organization life cycle. "MM-(*NFUIPEPMPHJFTBEWPDBUFJODMVTJWFOFTT and widespread participation in the change process. These methodologies have been used in areas like organization development, organization redesign, restructuring, strategic planning, visioning, values and principles clarification, process improvement, customer/ supplier relations, mergers and acquisitions and leadership development. Although large group methods possess a common set of fundamental beliefs and values,



they vary in terms of structure, facilitator’s role, purpose of session, optimal number of participants, length of intervention, number of sessions, etc. WHY DO WE USE AN LGI FORMAT? 5SBEJUJPOBM  UPQEPXO DIBOHF NPEFMT have two major drawbacks: they create resistance, and they require a great deal of UJNF UP JNQMFNFOU -(*T BWPJE UIFTF UXP pitfalls. Unlike the traditional approaches, -(*T FOHBHF UIF XIPMF TZTUFN BU B TJOHMF point in time. Because they are based on collaboration, shared information, and


TZTUFN JOUFHSBUJPO  -(* NPEFMT FODPVSBHF the simultaneous participation of many individuals across the organization, and thus help to reduce resistance, inspire motivation, and build strategy ownership across the entire TZTUFN ǔF NPTU JNQPSUBOU BTQFDU -(*T JT that, diverse stakeholders coming together create whole system change faster. EASY TO EXPLORE THE COMPLEXITY AND TOTALITY Organizations and communities are complex living systems where every component of the system is inter-linked and connected. By


bringing all parts into one room, we explore the complexity of the system. This also helps each part of the system to understand and empathize with another part. Whole systems perspective involves understanding how all factors (people, processes, sub-systems, and UFDIOPMPHZ XJUIJOUIFTZTUFNSFMBUFUPFBDI other and to the whole.

of the whole system. The focus was to find out what is most important individually and collectively and how we develop capabilities to improve and nurture the system.

Below are some of the cases where we have used this model of leadership intervention BOE-(*UPDSFBUFPSHBOJ[BUJPOBMDIBOHFBOE transformation.

1. Sharing the concepts and assumptions such as: i. What we focus tends to get expanded, so it is important to know where to focus. ii. Without listening to other parts, we cannot understand the system fully   JJJ -JTUFOJOHUPFBDIPUIFSBOEDPDSFBUJOH is the task here.


AIRTEL NESA "JSUFM /&4"  /PSUI &BTU 4UBUFT BOE "TTBN  in spite of being the youngest circle has evolved as one of the best performing circle XJUI TUSPOH NBSLFU MFBEFSTIJQ /&4"T biggest challenge was talent availability. During the course of leadership intervention which was planned as a two and half day PŀTJUF JO ,B[JSBOHB  JO   UIF MFBEFST committed to a new possibility that was more than what they had just agreed in their Annual Operating Plan. Here we created a distinction between aspiration and goal BOE UIF BTQJSBUJPOT PG BMM UIF &YFDVUJWF $PNNJUUFF &$  NFNCFST XFSF NPSF UIBO the goal that they had agreed for that year. ǔFXPSLTIPQXBTPOMZGPSUIF&$NFNCFST After the offsite, the fourteen member team went through one to one coaching over the phone for the next three months. The coaching sessions helped them to tap their potential, increase awareness and create focus. This was followed by two large group FWFOUT FBDI IBWJOH BSPVOE  QFPQMF ǔF participants were all from mixed hierarchy BOE GVODUJPO &BDI UBCMF IBE FJHIU QFPQMF and we tried to make each table a microcosm

5ZQJDBMMZPVS-(*TUBSUTBGUFSUIFMVODIPOUIF first day. The first half day was spent doing three things:

 &YQMPSJOH UIF TUSFOHUI PG UIF JOEJWJEVBMT and the system, what aspects give life and what is the core positivity. This is done with minimal interference from the facilitator creating principles of self management in small groups. 3. Synthesizing key themes emerged and were presented to the larger group with agreement on a collective understanding of the key strengths and potential. The next day we talked about the breakthrough leadership concepts focusing on the importance of having a vision that is not an extension of the past, the ability to enroll others to this vision and walking the talk and role modeling. After this concept sharing session, participants got into mixed groups and explored what would be a power dream, vision for Airtel /&4" ǔJT ESFBNJOH XBT EPOF GPS UIF OFYU five years. Once we had a five year dream, we asked participants what they need to be doing this year to reach their dream. Most of the time participants express their dreams in the form of skits, poems, posters, etc., and this helps to tap their creative wisdom.




Whole system



Individual beliefs Perceptions Feelings Attitude Values

Individual measurable behaviour Competencies, skills, achievement motivation

Culture Norms Stories Shared beliefs and assumptions Organizations values

Strategy Systems Processes – People and technical

After the one year goal, we divided participants in their respective functions to create aspirations for their specific functions and initiatives that could lead them to the aspirations. By the evening each function presented their aspirations and initiatives they would be undertaking to reach their breakthrough aspiration. On the third day, we started with sharing the integral model of an organization and discussed the subjective and objective changes PVUMJOFEJOĂŞHVSFY UIBUXFOFFEUPDSFBUF in the subjective and objective parts of the


organization at an individual and system level. The session ended at lunch time with some of the functional leaders and participants making declarations about what possibility they would DSFBUFBU"JSUFM/&4" -PPLJOHCBDL"JSUFM/&4"IBTDSFBUFETPNF major breakthroughs in the last two years. A. Highest incremental RMS B. One of the highest Customer Sat Score $ #FTUJODMBTTFNQMPZFF4"5TDPSF D. Only Circle to deliver revenue and profitability beyond Annual Operating Plan & $POTFDVUJWF  ZFBST PG $43  DIBNQJPO award



KONKOLA COPPER MINES Post the acquisition of Konkola Copper Mines JO;BNCJB CZ7FEBOUB UIFPSHBOJ[BUJPOJOUIF last few years experienced multiple changes in the ownership pattern along with the associated cultural attributes. The organization truly has had a long transformation journey. During the transition process, post acquisition, there were issues around people resistance to change largely due to lack of professional practices, ownership, commitment and suspicion. There were internal politics at play and the transformation journey was taking more time than expected. The new management wanted to pursue four key initiatives: r *NQSPWFPVUQVU r 3FEVDFDPTUT r 4UFQVQPQFSBUJPO BOE r 1VSTVFGVUVSFHSPXUI

Keeping in view the need to change, align BOE HSPX  1FPQMF 5SBOTGPSNBUJPO XBT POF of the major issues to be addressed in the transformation journey. 5IF MFBEFSTIJQ UFBN DSFBUFE B QPXFSGVM and a compelling future that they wanted to share with the entire organization. -BSHFHSPVQJOUFSWFOUJPOTEFTJHOFEGPS people included the operators and workers who never in their lives had sat around a table and discussed the future of the PSHBOJ[BUJPO 5IFTF JOUFSWFOUJPOT IFMQFE each participant to quickly understand the whole picture, appreciate each other and create compelling and meaningful goals. CP Baid says, “I have found the leadership and large group interventions directly linked to Business and highly effective JO BMJHOJOH FWFSZPOF UP B A#VTJOFTT (PBM 5IFZSFBMMZBEEFEWBMVFJODSFBUJOHFTDBQF velocity among employees for the change in Zambia.â€? â–

Santhosh Babu is the Managing Director of OD Alternatives. He is also author of the book “Coaching: The Art of Developing Leaders�. 13





hile facilitating a two days offsite for a manufacturing company in Corbett National Park earlier this year, I had the opportunity of using aspects of polarity management to address conflict within the group of senior leadership that were slowing down their change progress. Polarities are usually at the heart of any form of organizational change and there are commonly two competing sides. It was a time when the company was gearing up for an Expansion Project and Business Diversification. The new project would be seeing more than double its production capability and increase its revenue by five times in the following three years. The group found themselves confronted by a seemingly unsolvable question, which was, consuming a lot of time and energy. “Should we focus more on change or stability to gain a stronger


foothold in the current market?� This was a polarity that needed to be addressed. One group of people in the room had identified problems with the status quo and had a vision for improvement and change. They believed that change and risk-taking was the way to go. Follow this path and they said you have innovative products and services and diversify the business. What were their worst fears? Focus on status quo and become rigid and stagnate, the last thing any company would need in such a dynamic environment. They wanted to move from the downside of the present pole to the upside of the opposite pole. A large percentage of this group was from the marketing sector. On the other hand there was another group of people who stood by the strength of the organization which got it to the position it


finds itself in today. They believed it was important to focus on stability. Done well the company could build on its past history of personal integrity and mutual trust, good systems and processes, quality product. What are they worried about? Just focusing on diversifying, innovation and change would jeopardize things leading to inconsistent quality products, lack of efficient processes. In this group there were a big number representing people from the manufacturing side of the company.

Polarities are independent pairs that can support one another in pursuit of a common goal

There were two groups – One goal, two solutions. Which one is right? They both are, as well as incomplete. These are polarities – situations in which both conflicting points of view are true. We are conditioned to define difficult situations as problems to be solved. Once we get the right answer the problem disappears. However, through life’s experiences we see that some problems are unsolvable and are ongoing. The key to resolving this conflict is to stop treating this challenge as a problem to solve but to see it as an independent pair in which both must be done – change AND stability. Polarities are independent pairs that can support one another in pursuit of a common goal. They can also undermine each other if seen as either/or a problem to solve. The idea is to get people to see and listen to the other perspective, tap the benefits of each over



THE RESEARCH IS CLEAR… ORGANIZATIONS THAT KNOW HOW TO TAP THE ENERGY IN POLARITIES OUT-PERFORM THOSE THAT DON’T time and enjoy this organizational energy working for the common purpose. So the whole group collectively began to map the strengths of the ‘change’ pole by looking at the positive results when they focus on the same. Some of the strengths were empowerment, innovative products and services, new ways of working, new customers, expanded business and more revenue. Similarly the whole group mapped the strengths of the ‘stability’ pole by looking at the positive results when focusing on the same. Some of these were: standardized processes, consistent quality in products and services, security, control and teamwork. Following this the groups were guided through another facilitated session during which they collectively explored the negative results of over focusing on the ‘Change’ pole to the neglect of the “Stability” pole. They came up with - inefficient processes, inconsistent quality of product and services, silos mentality. Similarly for over focusing on the ‘stability’ pole to the neglect of the other, the fears were – stagnation, rigidity, control, loss of market share and revenue. The whole group soon began to see and appreciate the larger picture and recognized the dynamics of polarity thinking in their


organization and how important it was to make this energy work for them to become a more successful organization. There was a shift in mindset. The exercise on mapping the polarities and seeing the benefits of both poles – change AND stability, helped them to be open to tapping the energy of the organization. In the following sessions, they came to agree upon action steps as well as early warnings (from the negative results of over focusing on either pole) that would help tap the power of the polarity they were experiencing. They began to see opposition as valued resources and capitalized on any resistance to change. They put plans in place to build on what they were already doing well and improve on what they wanted to do better. The whole group left the program feeling bonded and motivated to integrate their plans into their change strategy to take the organization to the next level. We see that the goal of polarity management is to make ones’ organization energy work for them rather than against them. By recognizing polarities at work, mapping them and tapping their energy organizations are able to move faster toward their preferred future. ■

Aubrey Nazareth comes from an education background and was dealing with young adults and teachers for twenty years before he joined Training Alternatives. He is a trained psychologist, NLP expert and a naturalist. Depth psychology, group work, counselling large group facilitations tools, and personality type theories are his specialty areas.




hat are the biggest concerns for a CEO? Winning customer loyalty, competing for talent, flexibility and adaptability to change, stimulating innovation and creativity, enabling entrepreneurship, tight cost control and succession planning come as the obvious answers.

and approval of our associates. The second and third concerns according to them were to keep managers down the line engaged and unified that results in energizing the workforce so that the organization is able to take a quantum leap and keep up high levels of performance.

We have interacted with CEOs in the past and asked them what was their biggest concern. Some said the first challenge is being authentic which is not easy at all. Many people in their organization have gone through training on leadership traits. Being your own person is the most challenging task, when you feel that everyone is pressuring you to take one kind of course and you are indeed alone, rather like a goal-keeper facing the penalty kick—alone, lonely and no one to depend on. It reminds one of the ‘loneliness of the long-distance runner’. Being authentic and true to oneself would mean having to accept one’s faults as well as strengths— accepting one’s weaker side is an essential part of this experience. The problem arises when we become too eager to win the approval of others. We often try to do that by covering our shortcomings. We sacrifice our authenticity to gain the respect, admiration

Bill George, Harvard Business School professor and former Medtronic CEO, in his book Authentic Leadership writes, “During my career, I got lots of feedback to modify my leadership style so as to fit in with organization’s norms. Several supervisors and human resource specialists urged me to be a different kind of leader. I listened carefully to their advice but quietly rejected it. Had I followed their advice I would have become a plain vanilla manager or even been seen as a phony”. For us in ODA Authentic Leadership is about 1. Knowing who you are 2. Taking and demonstrating your values 3. Knowing your purpose and aspiration 4. Helping others succeed and creating leaders 5. Creating a new possibility for themselves and others



Damini Sud met Kandarp Singh, Managing Director, Tetra Pak, South Asia Markets to talk about Authentic Leadership: Kandarp Singh is a corporate stalwart and authentic leader in his own right throughout his career in the last 20 years. He is Managing Director, Tetra Pak South Asia Markets. Tetra Pak is a multinational food packaging and processing company of Swedish origin. He has been associated with Tetra Pak for the last 17 years and has been in several leadership positions in Sweden, Italy, Switzerland and Dubai. Kandarp believes that since Tetra Pak is in the food business, it’s a business based on relationships. He did his chemical engineering from IIT Kharagpur and went on to get his MBA from Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow. While a student he was actively involved in theatre, which helped him to understand the pulse of the audience and helped him to build communication as a lifelong strength. He is currently also on the panel of Karmabhumi, a forum hosted by Six Seconds that fosters a vision for building a community of emotionally intelligent champions in India. He feels bringing in authentic leadership in contemporary work scenario is a shared aspiration on this platform that has been a strong advocate of bringing authenticity into one’s leadership style in tandem with building one’s emotional maturity. Kandarp believes that leaders he has reported to have been visionaries and authentic. He has learned a great deal through his interactions with these leaders in his life. Beliefs that Kandarp has about authentic leadership are represented here: Kandarp believes that leadership facilitation content is impacted by the cultural context. For instance in India, France, Italy, Germany


Authentic leadership content is cultural context driven where the authentic leader adapts while being deeply self-aware leadership style is command & control, hierarchical and aggressive, not just for multinational companies but also companies that have been founded in these countries. In Sweden business context is more consensus, organized and welfare driven. In United States it can be very self-oriented with an attitude of “I, Me, Myself”. While leadership is cultural context driven, it does not mean that a leader’s core changes but what it means is that a leader adapts to the cultural context and scope of the task at hand while being deeply self aware. It means that an authentic leader is adaptive and is able to adjust positions as and when needed based on the needs and demands of his/her team or task at hand. For instance, Kandarp remembers a time from his life when he had to switch from task to being relationship oriented to be able to relate more to the challenge in hand and provide an appropriate strategy to successfully handle it. Additionally, in Terta Pak that is a Sweden founded multinational with Indian leadership style, the organization structure has been flattened to make it more efficient. Authentic leadership is not fire fighting, it originates from awareness and planning about organizational future development while being deeply involved in human resource enhancement. Kandarp feels that succession depth in


Authentic leader is not beyond human – Kandarp Singh 19



Cultural Content is cultural context driven where the authentic leader adapts while being deeply self-aware

Not fire fighting, it originates from awareness and planning about organizational future development while being deeply involved in human resource enhancement

Authentic Leadership



Interpersonal mastery based on power of vulnerability, empathy and sharing

Operates from wholeness of self and 360-degree management of organization

any organization, being dismal is the top challenge of top leadership across the board. Growth in human capital through recruiting and retaining talent in the organization therefore happens to be the foremost priority for any progressive organization. In this scenario authentic leadership would be to not just look at organization structure in terms of faceless head counts in designation boxes, but in fact to build a real leadership pipeline where specific people are identified for key roles. He believes organization development is a key for long term and sustained organization success for an authentic leader.


He also believes that an authentic leader should give his personal time and energy in honing talent. He quotes Confucius, “everyone is good unless proven otherwise”, therefore no matter what, every individual in an organization should be supported by an authentic leader to develop to their full potential. He believes that creating leadership pipeline does not mean creating ones own clones and “Yes Sirs” but helping individuals to identify their individualistic ambitions and develop their own unique strengths in order to accomplish their self aspired goals. He found in his experience that external help, in terms of executive coaching, in his view has


helped him make long strides in developing talent in Tetra Pak. Also an alternate internal organizational mentoring in his personal experience has been a two way learning process as both the mentor and the mentee, even if diagrammatically opposite, have been able to learn a great deal from each other. In terms of long term organization development, Kandarp also believes that youth in an organization should be given a welcoming environment and an organization should adapt to being workplace of the future where for instance internet surfing or taking notes on an Ipad is not seen as a breach

of work etiquettes. He believes that after reading Nandan Nilekani’s book “Imagining India� that talks about the demographic dividend in India, organizations in India will only be able to take advantage of this positive factor if they adapt to the modern ways of youth population and do not alienate youth by drilling conventional ways of working. Authentic leadership is interpersonal mastery based on power of vulnerability, empathy and sharing. Authentic leader is not beyond human and Kandarp remarks that showing this spark of



vulnerability in interpersonal communication aids in making a leader approachable and impactful. In this regard he remembers an episode of his life while he was a young trainee in Procter and Gamble, where after over committing himself to work within a team, he found it extremely challenging to carry the burden both in the professional and personal spheres of his life. He after much deliberation and self-doubt went on to share this concern while being vulnerable and having the fear of losing his face before his then boss. To his surprise as a young professional he was not only understood but also appreciated for having the courage to have a crucial conversation that highlighted his vulnerability about his limitations. He opined that in Asian countries, even today it is believed that asking for help is a sign of weakness that should change if one desires to refine oneself as an authentic leader. He believes that leadership is authentic when there is something crucial at stake and yet we operate with a sense of awareness of not just our strengths but also our restraints and communicate the same with conviction. For an authentic leader it also becomes important to understand the perspective of the other person in a business scenario as that helps him to relate to the fears & motivations and accordingly steer the goal at hand to completion. Here empathy is a huge element that facilitates.

life. An authentic leader showcases qualities of initiating, relating, delegating etc in all dimensions of life consistently and effectively. He also agrees and subscribes to Jack Welsch’s belief that authentic leadership is leading not just vertically where one manages direct reportees downward and the Board upward but it is also about being a leader horizontally with peers within the organization and being aware of the challenges of peers within the markets where one operates. It means authentic leadership is about positively influencing a 360-degree panorama. CONCLUSION Kandarp in the end fondly remembered a time when he was asked to choose a leadership symbol and he shared that he chose a crystal ball, as for him it symbolized vision, transparency and fragility that for him are essential attributes of an authentic leader. He believes that authentic leadership is about personal ownership towards constantly developing oneself. He says that for an authentic leader it is critical to develop oneself at every time and aspect of one’s life, more importantly at top leadership level as the higher you go, harder you fall. ■

Another element that Kandarp highlights as an attribute of an authentic leader is that of sharing themselves and their experiences in order to make one more relatable. Openness and transparency about one self helps in making one a people’s leader. Authentic leadership operates from wholeness of self and 360-degree management of organization Authentic leader is not just a leader in professional life but as much in personal


Damini Sud is an individual/organizational development enthusiast. She works in capacities of a management consultant in the organization development space, facilitator and executive coach at ODA.


EQUINE ASSISTED COACHING – HOW CAN YOU USE IT AND WHY DOES IT WORK? The Indian Scriptures describe how the Sages captured their mind and turned it into a bright horse – a horse which leads its rider to the right destination. —April 2011 Issue, Real Simple Magazine


ecent research indicates that interaction with nature reduces stress levels, improves memory and gives us a sense of belonging to the larger ecosystem. This research is often related to the emerging field of ‘Ecotherapy’, where we are invited to engage in nature-based activities to restore our sense of well being. In Western Europe, Ecotherapy is already integrated into the health care system. Doctors may require patients to spend time at a farm, taking walks, swimming in a mountain lake or working with animals or flowers. Imagine receiving a written prescription like that from your physician! Bringing together the wisdom of nature’s restorative capacities, the strong results found from animal assisted work and the unique skills of coaching, fortunate practitioners are now engaging in Equine Assisted Coaching. While it stands alone with its own distinction, it is often recognized as a component of the broader field of Ecotherapy. Equine Assisted Coaching provides a perfect backdrop to more deeply embody the learning provided from more



traditional coaching approaches. It is said that the human-horse interaction can facilitate the personal exploration of feelings, the power of intuition, our capacity for relationship and communication and an energetic understanding of self and nature. Furthermore, horses can support emotional growth, a sense of self-efficacy, self-esteem, knowledge and well-being as well as improve the quality of life for people. (Bizub and Davidson, 2003). “I can’t do this. I refuse to be in a place where I have to prove myself. I am not wanted here. This horse does not want me to lead him. She’s thirsty, hot and wants to get out of this barn. I don’t want to make her do what she doesn’t want to. Just free her please – Now! This horse looks uncomfortable.” This was the running litany of objections I heard while in the indoor ring with my new client and our accompanying horse, Coach Beatrice, formidable white and brown draft paint cross, rescued as a baby from a ranch that used her mother’s urine to make pharmaceuticals. Knowing of her own good fortune, Coach Beatrice is an eager servant of this kind of work. For my client, this session was not as easy as she had hoped. But she did leave with a breakthrough she could not have anticipated, one that coaching alone may not have created. Leading (a horse) may demonstrate how (one) feels being led around by others. (They) may portray their feelings by either letting the horses be free or by wanting them to be more restricted. Leading also brings up issues of body placement in relation to others, noticing dangerous situations and being able to ask for assistance from others (Dyer, 2000, Lawrence, 1984). It is said that horses are ‘emotional prodigies’ who have the ability to sense what is foremost on our agenda, emotionally, intellectually and even spiritually, usually way before we can. This can be either intimidating or profoundly comforting, depending on what each of us uniquely brings into the ring. Some say it is a place of metaphor that has direct translation to the workplace, our primary relationships and to our own hopes and dreams. I have seen it myself and am humbled time and again by the feedback that these early domesticated animals offer us as we interact with them to bring about some result. If one steps outside of their sense of purpose, direction, clarity or alignment, the horse senses the ‘danger’ inherent in this apparent incongruence and responds in kind. In equine-based coaching, the horse might spook in response to



someone’s own fear level or they might act bored and proceed to distract themselves, often revealing a lack of focus on the part of the coached. As practitioners, we care as much for the human participant as we do for the horse coach’s well-being. We are therefore attentive to setting up safety guidelines, creating body awareness (called ‘arousal levels’), raising emotional intelligence and increasing sensory perception on the part of the coached. Indeed, as one approaches the horse, as with approaching a boss, a fellow employee or a loved one, it can serve all parties if one is aware of the factors at play and where the edges of theirs and the others’ boundaries lie. More often than not, we crash through one another’s comfort zone and do so without permission, perhaps assuming more familiarity than we actually have.



This may work in the short run, but can ultimately create an unsustainable relationship in which people have to ‘get away from’ others in order to really be themselves and relax fully. Sound familiar? This was evidenced in a recent 2.5 day Professional and Personal Development Intensive offered by Brinkerhoff Associates in CT, USA. The intent of the experience was to offer ringside coaching (in our offices in New Haven, CT near Yale University) as a kickoff to a longer term coaching relationship. It was primarily inquiry and assessmentbased in preparation for a mid-life career transition. Using the Bridges three phases model of transition, the process included (phase 1) creating a safe place to have a clear and honorable ending to what the client was letting go of, providing perspective as she navigates (phase 2) the chaos or neutral zone on her way to (phase 3) a new beginning. The actual client request sounded something like this: Help me figure out who am I really and how others perceive me in ways that have either held me back or will serve me in the next part of my life? She offered a personal observation, stating that she had spent years carefully constructing a professional demeanor and that I might have to work pretty hard to not be overly swayed by. We started the intensive with a long interview of her entire career history, based loosely on Dr. Edgar Schein’s Career Anchors. We videotaped the interview and after watching select segments, videotaped her responses to seeing herself. It gave her valuable information as she observed herself telling her own story. In the written pre-work and the interview, she protested the idea of showing up somewhere where she was not entirely welcomed. The horses would soon challenge this and give her an expanded view of how she rendered herself unwelcome even before she entered a situation. She liked to appear decisive, and yet through our time together it became evident that ambiguity created great anxiety in her and often forced her to prematurely close down her options. In fact, by 2 pm on day one, she looked at me and exclaimed “I am done!” and began creating her action plan. In her usual charming way, she said that she had already gotten her money’s worth and would it be ok to go out now for martinis! As her coach, I literally had to use an old adage from the American nomenclature, “Hold your horses!” I invited her to remain open to new options and insights. Perhaps the easiest, most gracious client I have ever worked with, Cathy appeared to be hiding behind her quick wit, social adeptness and ability to befriend her coach. As soon as Coach Beatrice took over in the ring, there



would be little room for anything short of total clarity, purposedriven action, boundary management and inner authority coming from my client. The horse itself seemed to struggle with intense disinterest, at times chomping at the gate and sniffing the corners of the barn. When Cathy failed to feel the welcome she so required, she lost her ability to extend herself, express her leadership, offer a clear connection or directionality. The dilemma of having been downsized many months before and losing her sense of direction and purpose was immediately present. If it is true that all things are accomplished through relationship, then it was going to be important for Cathy to find a new relationship to this situation in her life, currently showing up as Coach Beatrice’s disinterest. In Neurolinguistic Programming there is a concept that refers to the importance of ‘pace, pace, pace, lead, pace, pace, lead’. This is akin to David Rock’s neuro-leadership work in which he refers to the approach-avoid phenomenon. At any given moment, we are all sensing welcoming or anxiety producing stimuli that indicates weather or not we should move toward something or move away from it. In order to create a sustainable relationship and earn the privilege of leading another over time, be it animal or human, we must engage in creating and keeping genuine rapport, watching always for what we do that can be perceived as a threat.



Horses respond to proximity, pressure and permission, not unlike our clients. As coaches, we are charged with consistently exercising the competencies of: r 4FUUJOHUIFGPVOEBUJPO r $PDSFBUJOHUIFSFMBUJPOTIJQ r $PNNVOJDBUJOHFĹ€FDUJWFMZ BOE r 'BDJMJUBUJOHMFBSOJOHBOESFTVMUT To miss any of these steps is to misstep in terms of creating a safe container for your client to do the work. And so it goes with the equine-based work, Cathy found herself a self-proclaimed relationship expert without a real relationship to the horse. Why? “What got you to the successes in your life may serve as blinders for you to get where you want and need to go.â€? —Dr. Ichak Adizes (2005) We used an exercise before she went in the ring in which we identified famous people whom she most admired and who most repulsed her (John Scherer, 2009). The concept being that at some point in our lives, those qualities emerged from us in a destructive way and we could not tolerate being associated with them so we projected them outward onto others who wear our ‘worst’ self in a more public way. Often, these are qualities that we have completely separated from, vowing that we never wanted to hurt others with them or have a negative impact and therefore have no access to any of that quality. We thus overuse our strengths and often exhaust ourselves in the process. In Cathy’s case, she overused her strengths of cleverness, wit, humor, brilliance and the ability to deeply appreciate others (all ways she wanted to be perceived in the world) such that at times it came off as disingenuous. She had no access at all to the qualities that would have allowed her to overcome her sense of feeling unwelcomed and still accomplish her goals without over-accommodating the other and slinking away. The horses, emotional prodigies that they are, do not buy our ‘false self’ but rather call forth our authentic power which is a mix of natural strengths as well as our discounted parts. In my client’s case, her famous characters were a famous author, Anne LaMott, (her persona, the mask she wore in the world) who is humorous, witty, clever, brilliant, gracious, surprising and delightful and Lady Gaga, (her shadow, who embodied all the qualities she could not stand in herself and projected out onto others) whom she perceived as narcissistic, self-focused, overly needy, stupid and shameless. The dilemma quickly became apparent, that in order to


EQUINE ASSISTED COACHING | get Coach Beatrice to move, to keep interest, to complete a task, she had to dig into the least exercised muscles of her personality. Coach Beatrice gave flawless feedback and moved between uncharacteristic agitation and staring longingly at the sky and her friends in faraway places. My client became increasingly apologetic for her existence, growing smaller personally and minimizing the importance of her mission in favor of the comfort of another. I could see how this moment was her ‘personal prison’ and held the potential for her healing as well as her continued suffering. This was a moment that I recognize in my own professional development working with horses. When we recall our purpose and intent, we inevitably look up to find a willing partner ready to serve. Horses are infinitely forgiving. They seem to understand our humanity and our own ‘self-forgetting’. They will often wait patiently until we can recover and refocus on the task of at hand. With horses, as with life, we always have a fresh moment to begin again. What they seek is our clear direction which requires us to trust ourselves. They simply will not follow our lead if we are not ready to stand in our own knowing. In Cathy’s case, this was a particularly poignant moment as she had the day before recounted to me a long and illustrious career in OD, all the way to the top. At one point, she had landed in a bank in a major US city only to learn that she was a hood ornament. They wanted her there mostly to look good, to use her ‘magic dust’, say the right thing, be gracious but never require real action or change that would cause discomfort to any. On the precipice of her next career, to offer end of life services to those in need, she came to me concerned that she may not have the staying power or the capacity to set boundaries for this kind of work. In the ring, I had given her a whip which she refused to use. The horse and I tested her by walking toward her and asking that she use the whip to draw a boundary when she felt pressed into and crowded. In one of our exercises, we use the rule that when the horse is approaching us, we set the boundary. When we are approaching the horse, they set the boundary. She allowed us to walk directly into her and even push her backward, in spite of my direction. She claimed it was her Latin blood and that they liked closeness. When I reminded her of her new line of work, she found a boundary in herself and stood up straighter. I invited her to dig into her Lady Gaga and to employ her ability to ‘not know’ but stay present (an acceptable form of ‘stupid’), to be just enough and not perfect at this (an acceptable form of mediocre and shameless), self-possessed and standing tall (an acceptable form of narcissistic). By this time, there was still little movement so I said, “Please end the activity in your own way and when you are ready.” At this moment, I noticed she dropped her



fixation about how it was to be done, took a nice breath, summoned herself and Coach Beatrice with clarity and ease. To Beatrice’s delight, she finally had true guidance and a clear task to accomplish. Together, they were flawless in their execution. Cathy beamed. This was a wellearned culmination to our work. With the help of Coach Beatrice, Cathy more clearly understood the subtle energies that more often then she realized, controlled her. In that emotional confrontation, Cathy became more aware and freer. In the process she took with her an inner set of tools she can use to pursue her dreams. Equine Assisted Coaching can serve as a powerful tool to assist your clients in surfacing unconscious patterns and receive unmistakable behavioral learning. First, however, you are the one who benefits as you learn the trade. And who knows, you may just receive your own ecotherapy moments while you are at it. Good luck! ■ “Horses, just by their large, gentle presence, put people therapeutically in touch with their own vitality…” International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, 2005 pp. 373-383

Bibliography Bizub, A.L. and Davidson, L. “Its Like Being in Another World.” Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 2003. 26, 377-84. Bridges, William. “Managing Transitions.” Making the Most of Change. 2009. William Bridges Dyer, D.A. “Every Child’s Dream: Horses Helping Kids Grow Up, A Parents Guide.” Blacksburg, VA: 2000. Advantage ReSource. Ichak, Dr. Adizes. “Managing Corporate Life Cycles.” 2nd Edition. Adizes Institute. 2004. Ichak Adizes Scherer, John J. “Five Questions That Change Everything.” Life Lessons at Work. 2009. John J. Scherer

Lynnea Brinkerhoff is currently Vice President at Flath & Associates. She serves as trusted advisor and coach to those in personal and organizational transition. Lynnea uses long and short-term interventions to enhance organizational effectiveness; develop strategic goals, clarify individual roles and improve interdepartmental relationships. 30




esearch at the Institute of Heart Math tells us that the heart has an electromagnetic field 5,000 times greater than that of our brain, and that this electromagnetic field of the heart can be measured up to 10 feet away! This field is our body’s automatic response to spatial proximity; it is our own natural boundary and plays a dynamic, and for the most part unconscious, role not only in leadership development, but our lives in general! This information isn’t something we learn in school or any leadership development curriculum. In fact, for most of us, this feeling of interacting with our environment and trusting it through electromagnetic fields sounds like science fiction or new age mumbo jumbo. But it is at work on an unconscious level nonetheless and one of the most untapped resources in developing powerful leadership. Leaders, who cannot embrace the concept that much of their power and success, or lack of it, is based upon unconscious influences such as their heart’s electro magnetic field and its influence on their relationships, are finding that guiding an organization or team to success a much bigger challenge than it has ever been.



Traditional leadership development focuses upon qualities such as charisma, integrity, values, loyalty, mental awareness, ability to influence—all critical aspects of leadership. However, how does one teach and learn these skills? Leadership for the new millennium requires different skills, teaching and learning. This is where a ground breaking approach to leadership comes in; equine experiential learning. Horses are social creatures that readily and honestly respond to the challenges inherent in forming and sustaining relationships. As animals that are preyed upon in nature, they have also retained a highly developed ability to sense changes in the stance and arousal level of other herd members, an ability they easily transfer to interactions with human beings. Horses see through the slightest incongruities of emotion and intention; subtle as well as critical leadership skills! Working with horses provides a way for people to become aware of their heart’s electro magnetic field, their body’s natural sensory device, and the messages they are ‘sending out’ unconsciously. This information enables insights into why leaders continually create situations that don’t work. Like David, an SVP at a prominent oil company.

Horses see through the slightest incongruities of emotion and intention; subtle as well as critical leadership skills! David was in trouble; he had gone too far and stepped on too many toes. Although he was a brilliant innovator and delivered powerful results, it was costing too much through his leadership style. I recommended a private leadership intensive with the horses: Communication for Authentic Leadership. The intensive was a mix of experiential learning with horses and integration of newly discovered insights into traditional leadership materials. Shortly upon his arrival, I knew what horses we needed to work with; Simon, a 16.3 hand Thoroughbred gelding and the dominant member of the Equine Alchemy herd, and Seamus, a 17 hand Oldenburg paint—a frisky teenager at six and very adept at testing awareness and relationship. One of the first interactions with the horses was a simple leading exercise where David explored the ‘head, heart, and gut’ styles of leadership. The objective of the exercise is through leading the horse,





to gain insight into one’s ‘default’ position regarding which of these they most often act from. Simon was haltered with a long lead rope. David was asked to lead Simon around an arena while focusing on his head, heart, and gut respectively and observing the difference in the quality of the experience. Although David had witnessed a demonstration of Simon being lead with a slack lead rope by a petite woman, when he took Simon by the lead rope he proceeded to literally pull and yank Simon around the arena. At one point I became concerned for my horse; their stress level is a direct response to the stress of the client. Simon’s reaction to the stress mirrored David’s masculine dominance and therefore become highly agitated. I suggested that David let go of his tight grip on the lead rope, but he didn’t hear me; he was too involved in controlling the situation. Finally, Simon had to be taken from him for the safety of each! This was a powerful experience for David that offered opportunities for learning about his leadership style:

The equine leadership experience allowed him to understand and integrate the potential of boundary awareness and relationship in leadership through working with another sentient being that wasn’t on his payroll r

-FBEJOHGSPNUIF)FBE‡%BWJETEFGBVMUMFBEFSTIJQQPTJUJPOXBT to act from the head, or cognitive center, alone. His experience of the leading exercise was one of projecting his own fears onto the horse. He used phrases like “He (Simon) was testing me. He is trying to see who the boss is. I need to make sure he knows who the boss is, etc.” The entire time was spent establishing who was in charge by controlling Simon with an unnecessarily harsh hold on him. r -FBEJOH GSPN UIF )FBSU‡%BWJE IBE OP ADPOUSPM PWFS 4JNPO when he led from the heart, or the emotional center. For him, there was no connection with the horse if he couldn’t use force. As far as David was concerned, there was no relationship with Simon; just a task to be accomplished and a means by which to do that. r -FBEJOH GSPN UIF (VU‡8IFO %BWJE MFE GSPN UIF HVU  UIF power center, the interaction with Simon escalated into a power struggle that began energetically, but with a 1200 pound



horse, quickly became a potential physical danger. His lack of awareness and disregard for the relationship resulted in an exercise in power vs. force. David’s leadership style was criticized back at work as being too harsh with little or no relationship. Through this one experiential exercise with horses, David experienced immediate feedback from his leadership style in a way he could not ignore. When faced with a task, he had no awareness of the dynamic between him and Simon which resulted in his inability to be in relationship and therefore creating a block in accomplishing the task. David came to us not understanding why he couldn’t get done what he was so qualified to do. Through this exercise he was beginning to realize that how he was ‘being’ and not ‘being’ was creating his ineffective leadership style. David’s challenges in the arena mirrored his challenges at work and created an opportunity to shift this paradigm of control to one of awareness and relationship; a perspective that he so badly needed to evolve his own leadership style. The equine leadership experience allowed him to understand and integrate the potential of boundary awareness and relationship in leadership through working with another sentient being that wasn’t on his payroll. This was just one of the powerful experiences that David had during our work together that enabled him to step into a new level of leadership. Months later David still says that the equine leadership experience changed his life. He decided he needed a clean start for his ‘new’ life and left the oil company. After a sabbatical with his wife, David began another successful career with a new set of awareness and skills; ones that are serving him and his organization well. ■

Lisa Murrell is the founder of MetaSystem Consulting Group and Equine Alchemy. She is the author of “Inspiring Real Change: Using Systemic Experiential Learning to Develop Systems, Organizations, Teams and Individuals”. Lisa brings a ground breaking approach to leadership development through experiential learning with horses. 35




DA Alternatives have a long relationship with Airtel, spanning over 11 years. ODA had done visioning exercises for Mantra Online and Bharti Tele Soft since before 2000. We have worked with NASA, Goa & Maharashtra circles that have become best practices studies now. Furthermore, ODA has been undertaking change management and visioning exercise for senior management currently. Foundations of Leadership in this enriching relationship between ODA and Airtel, is a leadership program that has been conducted across 9 locations in India for the last 1 year from April 2011 to March 2012. There are about 560 participants from Airtel participating in 27 workshops. The workshop is designed for Band 1 and Band 2 of Airtel employees who had been given input from a single contributor perspective, but who now have reporters reporting to them or are part of large teams for their day-to-day work. The workshop also was created so as to foster training on leadership, as Airtel as an


organization, wanted participants to emerge as leaders not just in formal roles and designations, but also at every stage of their work. This program continues even in the 2012-2013 financial year with 6 workshops planned for April 2012 in Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Foundations of Leadership workshop is based on audio, kinesthetic and visual learning styles while its guiding principles being that it allows choice & self direction by the participants within the general theme of leadership during expectation setting stage. Additionally, it promotes positive self esteem as it integrates new concepts with existing knowledge of participants. Therefore the workshop fosters learning by reflecting on simulated leadership activities, and consequently deriving leadership concepts from it, so that the learners are motivated to use new ideas & skills learned in the workshop for decision making, and problem solving for their real on-the-job scenarios.





Bangladesh Ahmedabad Indore



Bengaluru Chennai


Number of – Workshops : 55 – Work Days : 120 – Locations : 12 – Participants: 1,000

Functional Skills

Transferrable Skills

Auto Pilot











In leading systems through reflection on diverse experiential activities on systems and social networking analysis participants get a hang of impacting systems 38


The workshop does not focus on functional skills required for current job requirements like marketing, finance, etc., within Airtel’s telecom domain nor does it focus on transferable skills like communication and MS-Office that can be utilized by the participant even later in other jobs. The workshop instead focuses on making a participant identify and make changes to his/her autopilot while making him reflect on “why I do what I do and the way I do”.

The program has been designed as a 3-day leadership workshop that helps the participant to go through three dimensions of leadership; namely - leading self, leading teams and leading systems. In leading self the participants discover moments of leadership in their life by identifying events where stakes were high and they operated from a true leadership space. They are encouraged to figure out their own personal values and their unique leadership styles. Additionally, leading self includes participants discovering their personality type through Ennaegram trait psychometric tool. In leading teams participants go through themes like group dynamics and conflict management while figuring out the difference between a logical conflict and a value based conflict as they discover their dominant conflict resolution style, and learning how to create a formal feedback mechanism in their teams after understanding their openness in team, by going through Johari Window psychometric tool. In leading systems through reflection on diverse experiential activities on systems


and social networking analysis participants get a hang of impacting systems. After going through the 3 modules of lead self, lead teams & lead systems, participants go through an extensive action planning stage that helps them to identify areas of their work, and people within their domain that

they would want to immediately start dealing with in a more effective way, by applying learning from the workshop. The last part of the workshop is focused on conditioning, which emphasizes that our patterns of mindset are tough to change but even a small stride in that direction could impact our work in extremely positive ways. â–


Avik Chatterjee

Damini Sud

Jagat Rathore

B.S. Channi



VISIONING ACROSS INDIA INC. “In the half-century after the Second World War, the business corporation has brilliantly proved itself as an economic organization, i.e. a creator of wealth and jobs. In the next society, the biggest challenge for the large company – especially the multinational – will be its social legitimacy; its values, its mission, its vision.” —Peter Drucker

THE SOCIAL AGE OF THE CORPORATE WORLD Peter Drucker – the Management Guru very aptly words for us the implications of strategic planning on the current landscape of the business environment. With the advent of the 21st century, Indian businesses have witnessed an upsurge in terms of socio-political and economic policies. The businesses have flourished, FDI’s been welcomed, multi-lateral agreements have increased and a brand new community of entrepreneurs has emerged. Altogether, this has certainly added a vibrant hue to Indian business landscape and has provided us the necessary bandwidth to be acknowledged as an upcoming superpower. But what can be the reason behind this tremendous growth? Is it because the ever-increasing


population of India, once considered the economic albatross, was swiftly becoming the economic benefactor? Or was it due to the fact that the Government of India’s liberalization policies, initiated the much needed technological-capital-social and human restructuring? This and many other factors have attributed to the era of growth and progress that Indian businesses are experiencing today. However, as Peter Drucker says, it isn’t really the industrialization that has created the space for success but also the changing mindset and perceptions of businessmen who now value their business based on its social net worth and not merely on profit. The new age business men look beyond


creating a profitable venture and focus on building a visionary and high-performing organization that may outlast its founder too. An organization’s life cycle is not limited to the family or clan but is socially pervasive. The agenda is not only profit but also creating meaningful difference in lives of its stakeholders. The customers are not only outside the organization but even the employees are now treated as internal customers and their well being is equally the concern. Why is it critical to have a visioning study for business organizations? The above-mentioned attributes represent the marked shift in our psyche as a collective and pronounce the importance of social

milieu in the present corporate India. Thus, as pointed above, in the modern day age, social perspective goes hand in hand with an organization’s business and profit orientation. To further reinstate this fact, we at OD Alternatives aspired to create evaluation criteria to assess which organizations create a social impact through their business and those who don’t. However, the challenge we faced, was to measure the difference between organizations that have social perspective as opposed to those that don’t? In order to figure this out, we at OD Alternatives decided to conduct an exploratory study of the Vision Statements of Top 100 Indian organizations, primarily with the assumption that a vision statement represents the core of an



organization and stimulates progress in the business and social realm. This approach of studying vision statements to assess the impact of an organization in the social realm was further validated by numerous similar studies done by scholars and organizations across the globe. For instance, Bain & Company’s survey across 70 countries states that Vision and Mission show high level of satisfaction as a tool to improve company performance. James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras, authors of the book Built to Last found that great companies have developed a “core ideology” and an “envisioned future.” According to the authors, this critical “core ideology” of an organization is expressed in both “what we stand for” and “why we exist.” Therefore, both the Bain study and the classic book Built

to Last emphasizes the importance of Vision for an organization and aligning the people around it, simply because vision lays out the company’s strategic course in preparing for the future. It defines the very purpose of an organization i.e. why it exists? VISIONING AS PART OF STRATEGIC PLANNING IN INDIAN ORGANIZATIONS Visioning in organizations is part of the larger process known as Strategic Planning wherein the organizations thinkers and planners get together and define the strategies or directions for future of the organization. Strategic planning as a process is the creative act of synthesizing experiences into a novel strategy. Strategic planning in practice therefore generally deals with the following key questions as presented in the figure below:







1. Vision states the purpose for which an organization exists. Vision is a greater purpose statement. 2. Mission statement is a tangible measure of vision. It is an internal statement for employees and defines the key measures of an organization’s success. The difference between vision and mission statement is elucidated in figure 2. 3. Values define how business is done in an organization. Values are ideas about the worth of importance of things, concepts, and people. It therefore also ends up creating the intangible collective culture of an organization. 4. Goals represent the quantified desired distant future that an organization aims at achieving and aligns its people and customers to.





The vision statement is abstract and intangible that is inspirational and often referred to as greater purpose statement.

The mission statement is concrete and tangible that is specific and can be objectively measured.

The vision statement functions for both internal and external customer i.e. employees and shareholders. It articulates an organization’s future direction.

The mission statement functions for internal customers i.e. employees. It articulates broad goals.

The vision statement focuses on “Why are we here?”

The mission statement focuses on “What do we do?”

Thus, for every organization, the core and first step of strategic planning is defining the process of why do we exist or what do we do. This process is known as Visioning. The vision statement is not a prescriptive statement that organizations compose after intense testing and diagnostics. Rather, it can be equated to Archimedes “Eureka moment”, where the organization’s key drivers engage people in a journey such that they bring order to the messy world of management and outline together what the organization wants to be, or how it wants the world in which it operates to be. The Vision statement concentrates on the future that captures the very essence of what

The Vision statement concentrates on the future that captures the very essence of what the organization intends to be by virtue of what they have been doing or specializing in

the organization intends to be by virtue of what they have been doing or specializing in. It is the fine-tuning and amalgamation of far sightedness, creativity and competence. Vision is a commitment and is often espoused in a manner that it engages people in a- journey ‘of’ and ‘with the’ organization. EVALUATING VISION STATEMENTS OF INDIAN ORGANIZATIONS A Story from the Middle Ages: Three stone masons in the Middle Ages were hard at work when a visitor came along and asked them what they were doing. The first stone mason was hard at work, sweat beading his brow. “I am cutting this stone,” he grumbled. The second stone mason, though less distraught, responded with a deep sigh, “I’m building a parapet.” The third stone mason replied with a radiant face, “I am building a beautiful cathedral that will glorify God for centuries to come.” —Author unknown Our philosophy of work at OD Alternatives clearly resonates with the opinion of third stone mason. We strongly believe that a compelling powerful vision when articulated



and operationalized can be the single most powerful tool for growth and effectiveness of an organization. As mentioned above, we studied the vision statements of Top 100 Indian organizations (see the list in the appendix). For this study, we delineated four criteria’s to evaluate a vision statement. These organizations emerged due to our experience of working with large corporate and conglomerates for 14 years and helping them formulate their vision statements. Some of the organizations whom we have helped in the past areVazir Sultan Tobacco Company, Khushi, EMC Software, Apollo International, NIIT Technology and Nucleus Software. For our analysis, we used four criteria’s to evaluate the vision statements of the organizations. The vision statements were found on the company’s websites on the Internet. We also interviewed some of the leading organizations to have a deep dive understanding of how visioning has helped them to create maximum business and social impact. Before we proceed to the findings, the four criteria’s are discussed in detail: 1) A vision statement is positive and inspiring The vision statement inspires loyalty and caring through the involvement of all employees. It displays and reflects the unique strengths, culture, values, beliefs and direction of the organization. It challenges people to outdo themselves, to stretch and to achieve. 2) A vision statement is future oriented A vision statement is directional. It is forward looking and includes a description of what the organization will look like in the future. It describes the strategic course that management has charted and the kinds of product/


market/customer/technology changes that will help the company prepare for the future. Thus, it provides a sense of direction in the long term that is, the means to the future. 3) A vision statement is focused and brief A vision statement is specific and provides managers with guidance in making decisions and allocating resources. It clearly sets organizational direction and purpose. It is regularly communicated and shared as it helps employees believe that they are part of something bigger than themselves and their daily work. 4) A vision statement caters to the 3P’s (people, planet and profit) and essentially solves a planetary problem The three P’s (People, Planet, and Profit) communicate sustainability in the socioeconomic and environmental domains. The 3P’s principle states organizations can now experience triple bottom line results because they are now focusing on ensuring financial success together with goal of sustainability for the environment and society. These are the three pillars that recognize an organization as complex, adaptive and dynamic and as part of the society rather than an entity of its own. INSIGHTS AFTER EVALUATING VISION STATEMENTS ACROSS INDIAN ORGANIZATIONS The foremost insight that emerged from evaluating the vision statements was how strongly aligned were they to the four established criterion. As illustrated in the earlier, organizations are now building themselves as socially adaptive and not merely with profit orientation. Hence organizations now have to function in a larger, wider and holistic manner. For the same, the 100 Indian organization’s vision


Number of Criteria’s fulfilled





Number of organizations fulfilling the criteria





Organizations in this category

Wipro; Yes Bank; Birlasoft, etc.

GSK; Havells;JK Tyre, etc.

Jindal; ITC; Nirma, etc.

Manipal; Hinduja; HT Media, etc.

statement was evaluated with respect to the following four criteria’s and the following findings emerged (Figure 3). Criteria’s 1. A vision statement is positive and inspiring. 2. A vision statement is future oriented. 3. A vision statement is focused and brief. 4. A vision statement caters to the 3P’s (people, planet and profit) and essentially solves a planetary problem. The most challenging criteria was the evaluation of whether or not the “vision statement caters to the third P i.e., Planet as compared to profit and people. Out of

The constant challenges for organizations today is to lead and manage business, flourish economically and socially yet at the same time seek to make the world a better place and create sustainable growth

the top 100 Indian organizations that were assessed, 21 per cent organizations stressed on solving planetary problems through their vision statement. It is evident that the majority of vision statements aren’t taking into accord the unprecedented changes that challenge the corporate landscape today. This is due to the fact that, we are living in an era where the consequences of our failure, be it industrial, human, social etc are magnanimous and the impact of corporate decisions is felt across the planet. Thus the constant challenges for organizations today is to lead and manage business, flourish economically and socially yet at the same time seek to make the world a better place and create sustainable growth. But as per our analysis, the majority of organizations that we assessed failed to do so. The criteria of whether a vision statement is “future oriented” also produced poor findings. Only 29 per cent of the vision statements conveyed a sense of futuristic orientation and projection in time. However, 66 per cent organizations had worded their vision statements briefly and clearly. The statement was easy to understand. Finally, the criteria that produced the strongest percentage were that most vision statements i.e. 82 per cent of Indian organizations did explicitly indicate that their vision statement is positive and inspiring.






Furthermore, another insight that emerged from this review of the vision statements of the Top 100 Indian organizations was the fact that a majority of the companies used words like global, leader, customer focus, deliver, growth, quality, shareholder, profit, excellence, commitment, goal, empower, efficiency, etc. in their vision statements as shown in Fig. 2. Following are some of the words that organizations use to articulate their greater purpose statement in the business space. Global as a term is most frequently used in vision statements and it represents different meanings for different organizations. For instance, Larsen & Toubro (L&T shall be a professionally managed Indian multinational, committed to total customer satisfaction and enhancing shareholder value. L&T shall be an innovative, entrepreneurial and empowered team constantly creating value and attaining global benchmarks & shall foster a culture of caring, trust and continuous learning while meeting expectations of employees, stake holders and society) uses global to claim word class excellence where as Asian Paints (Asian Paints aims to become one of the top five Decorative coatings companies worldwide by leveraging its expertise in the higher growth emerging markets. Simultaneously, the company intends to build long term value in the industrial coatings business through alliances with established global partners) uses global to enlarge their business partners. Customer is another frequently mentioned term and refers to both the internal customers i.e. the employees as well as the external customers i.e. stakeholders. For instance, Bharti Airtel (Enriching lives means putting the customer at the heart of everything we do. We will meet their needs based on our deep understanding of their ambitions,

wherever they are. By having this focus we will enrich our own lives and those of our other key stakeholders. Only then will we be thought of as exciting, innovation, on their side and a truly world class company) refers to external customers in order to create a sustainable business whereas, Hindustan Petroleum (To be a World Class Energy Company known for caring and delighting the customers with high quality products and innovative services across domestic and international markets with aggressive growth, and delivering superior financial performance. The Company will be a model of excellence in meeting social commitment, environment, health and safety norms and in employee welfare and relations) uses the term customer in order to guide them for being innovative and caring. To illustrate another example, Excellence is another commonly used term in vision statements of Indian organizations. And as found, for manufacturing industries like Sesa Goa (To be one of the top four iron ore mining companies in the world) excellence would mean preference to quality and achieving global recognition while for service industry like TCS, (Glorify God by providing our clients with exceptional IT services that exceed their expectations, while creating a fun, challenging and rewarding place to work for our employees) it emphasizes doing the best for their customers. Therefore, in conclusion, this story articulates the changing mindset of businesses and organizations doing business in India. There is a shift from profit orientation to welfare and sustainability. Even though the shift is gradual, it is noticeable. The primary visible feature of this shift is the vision statement of an organization that can be best understood as the bedrock on which an organization sustains, thrives and grows in turbulent times. â–



CASE STUDY VISIONING INTERVENTION FOR APOLLO INTERNATIONAL BY OD ALTERNATIVES Apollo International Limited (AIL) is a part of the over $1 billion Apollo Group, a leading business house of India. AIL was set up in 1994 to lead the diversification ventures of the Apollo Group into new business opportunities worldwide. The group has six key business areas including international trade in tires, tubes, flaps, general commodities and products; and newer exciting areas like gaming, logistics and digitalization of cinema theatres across the world. There was a need, as felt by the top management, to align all the businesses to a common purpose and establish a common connect. It was also felt that bringing all business to a single platform and creating a common culture would help the organization to gear up for the next orbit of growth. ODA INTERVENTION Our meeting with Mr. Raja Kanwar, MD, Mr. Kapil Agarwal, ED and the HR Head confirmed our view that a Strategic Planning exercise, as a first step to what we call an ODNA process, would be an ideal path for Apollo International as a concrete step towards building a professional culture. This Intervention focused on the Senior Leadership team. Two of our consultants spend 10 days on this, of which 5 days were on onsite facilitation. FIRST STEP As a first step, the senior Management team, headed by Mr. Raja Kanwar, decided to clarify and detail the organization’s values. This was facilitated by ODA through a two day offsite in Ananda in Himalayas. This offsite had participation from all the six businesses. The program explored the family values of the promoter group, the values of the leadership team and looked at the culture that they needed to build. We also used Enneagram as a tool to help the leadership team understand their personality types and connect with each other. The participant group then created the core cultural values of the organization, and we helped the group to translate those values to their behavioral indicators during the offsite. THE SECOND STEP The senior leadership team met after two months in Delhi with an objective of creating the Vision, Mission and the business Goals for the group and individual businesses. ODA facilitated a two day session where the group came up with the vision statement “Nurturing Entrepreneurs through Partnerships.” As part of the ODNA process, we helped the team work with the fundamental questions – “what business are we in” and “what is working well in the system.” This gave an insight to the



group that each business, in their own ways, was nurturing entrepreneurs, and the parent organization, with its brand, market reputation, organizational infrastructure and funds, was, in turn, supporting each of the businesses. From this core purpose statement, came the mission statement - “Nurturing and facilitating entrepreneurship to build a truly global enterprise by providing a platform of over three decades of business experience, reputation, corporate strength and environment conducive for growth of all.� The next task was to create Mission statements for all the six businesses, which was achieved by the end of the session. It was a great learning experience to see how a Vision statement could redefine the business and create energy. For example, the International Business Division (IBD), before this intervention, believed that they were in the Trading business. During the session, as we facilitated them to closely relook at their business, they realized that they were actually about “Bridging key demand-supply gap in developing countries.� Tyre Tech Global “Offering the world a wide range of technologically superior tyres and be a global player in commodities� UFO Moviez Limited “Enhancing the entertainment experience and enabling the industry to realise their true potential by creating a global platform of innovative services� LogiSolutions Limited “Providing customized solutions for all logistics needs� Lottus “Offering world class exciting gaming products to help people realize their dreams� International Business Division “Bridging key demand-supply gap in developing countries� Tag fashions “Crafting quality leather products for the global market� THE ACHIEVEMENTS t 5IFLFZPVUDPNFXBTUIFTUSBUFHJDSFBMJHONFOUBNPOHUIFEJGGFSFOUCVTJOFTTes with the parent organization, and a strategy framework for the corporate. t "TIBSFEWBMVFTZTUFNBNPOHUIFUPQUJFSPGNBOBHFNFOUDSFBUFECFESPDLGPS the stakeholders to work better together. t $PNNPOJEFBMTDPNNVOJDBUFEUPUIFDPNQBOZXPSLGPSDFIFMQFECPPTUMPZBMUZ  productivity, satisfaction, joy, and a sense of contribution across the levels.




HR SPEAK VISIONING ACROSS MARUTI SUZUKI INDIA LTD What is the vision statement of your organization? Vision of Maruti Suzuki: “The leader in the Indian Automobile *OEVTUSZ $SFBUJOH$VTUPNFS%FMJHIUBOE4IBSFIPMEFST8FBMUI A Pride of India� When was it created?

SY Siddique Chief Operating Officer

The Vision of Maruti Suzuki was created in 2000. How was it created? Identify the significant events that led to the formulation of vision statement. This was created through a multi-stakeholder participatory process. Views of middle to senior management were taken through a participative structured workshop process. Views of junior management and other employees were taken through Focused Group Discussion. This participatory process helped in creating ownership of the vision amongst the employees. Since the inception of the company has it been changed? If yes, when? The first vision was created in early 1985-1986 when the company started off. This was reviewed and changed in 2000. How do you educate your employees to ensure commitment to the Organization’s vision statement? 0VS7JTJPOBOE$PSFWBMVFTBSFJOIFSFOUQBSUPGPVS#VTJOFTT4USBUFHZ5IJT is helping us to translate our strategy into operational terms thus aligning our organization around our strategy. This becomes key factors in divisional,



department & individual’s KRA. This ensures strategy becoming everyone’s job at MSIL and thus ensuring utmost commitment of each and every employee. We also have a very strong on-boarding and induction process and the vision and core values of the organization are inculcated in the employees from that stage itself. Reward and recognition initiatives also help in driving the desired behavior and highlighting success stories. We have extremely strong internal communication channels in the organization which also help us to create re-enforce the vision and creation commitment towards the same. How do you create customer value through your vision statement? i$SFBUJOHDVTUPNFSEFMJHIUwJTBDSJUJDBMFMFNFOUPGPVSWJTJPOTUBUFNFOU0VS emphasis is not just on customer satisfaction but rather giving him unexpected payoff beyond his normal expectations. This element of the vision statement also USBOTMBUFTJOUPPVSDPSFWBMVFTA$VTUPNFS0CTFTTJPOTBDPSFWBMVFPG.BSVUJ Suzuki also appears in our competency framework and is a core competency which employee in the organization must display. What are some of the landmark stories that articulate your vision statement? 8FIBWFCFFO/PJO+%QPXFSBGUFSTBMFT$VTUPNFS4BUJTGBDUJPO*OEFYo times in a row. This is due to unflinching customer service standards set up in the QPTUTBMFTQFSJPE$VTUPNFSDPNQMBJOUTJGBOZBSFBUUFOEFEUPJOWFSZTIPSUBOE quick span of time. How has the vision statement guided/served as a roadmap in the growth of your organization? As stated earlier our strategy is flowing out of our Vision statement and core WBMVFT8IFOXFXJTIUPCF/VNCFSPOFJOUIFQBTTFOHFS$BSTFHNFOUXFOPU only plan to be number one in volume but also quality and customer satisfaction. The Strategy is converted into a 3 year Operational Business Plan. This is further broken into a yearly plan. Thus our roadmap is created which is rigorously tracked and thereby helping us retain pole position. This ensures continual growth and shareholders value creation.



HR SPEAK VISIONING ACROSS NIIT TECHNOLOGIES What is the vision statement of your organization? 5PCF5IF'JSTU$IPJDF When was it created?

Rosita Rabindra Head HR

t 5IPVHIGPSNBMMZSFXPSEFEBTTVDIRVJUFSFDFOUMZJOJUIBTFWPMWFEPWFSUIF years since our incorporation in 1981, when, as part of our charter of beliefs and values, we stated that “Each of us will ensure that in any association with society, society benefits more than a) what society gives us, and b) what society would gain from any similar association� and again that, “We will ensure our profitability, long-term growth and financial stability through the process of delivering the best, being seen as the best, and being the best�. t 5IJTIBTCFFOUIFHVJEJOHQSJODJQMFGPSBMMPVSJOJUJBUJWFTBOEDPNNJUNFOUTUP the market, our customers and society in general. In order to make it more meaningful and easier to articulate, communicate, and track, we chose the XPSETi5PCFUIF'JSTU$IPJDFwGPSBMMPVSTUBLFIPMEFST CFUIFZDVTUPNFST  employees, or business associates. How was it created? Identify the significant events that led to the formulation of vision statement. t 5IFNPTUTJHOJmDBOUFWFOUUIBUMFEUPUIFDSFBUJPOPGUIFWJTJPOXBTBXJEF spread recognition that, at our size, we needed to align all our capabilities and energy to achieve the ambitious growth we all desired. This alignment could either come from a forced mandate or it could come from a desire to achieve something together. We chose the latter. We thus needed something simple that could energize and align and give us something meaningful to work towards. t *UXBTDSFBUFEBUBEBZMPOHPGGTJUFGBDJMJUBUFEFWFOUBUUFOEFECZUIFUPQUFO FYFDVUJWFTPGUIFDPNQBOZ GSPNUIF$IBJSNBOEPXO5PHFUIFS UIFUFBN explored what mattered most and what we individually aspired to achieve, and finally what the simplest measures could be that would be timeless. Towards the end it was a matter of finding the simplest words that did not require much explanation but would immediately be meaningful internally and externally. t 5IF7JTJPOXBTUIVTDSFBUFEUPQSPWJEFBOFBTZUPVOEFSTUBOEEJSFDUJPO and aspiration for the company and all its constituent stakeholders. We wanted something simple which every stakeholder could identify with. For our employees all our actions are focused to being the first choice for our customers in our chosen verticals. For our customers they see it as



our aspiration and mission to be their first choice, thereby promising our commitment to deliver the best we can be. This has become a rallying point, that we as an organization can identify with and as it so simply stated, it has been easy to communicate and internalize. t 8FBMTPVTFJUBTBUBOHJCMFNFBOTPGUSBDLJOHPVSQSPHSFTTCZUSBDLJOHFWFSZ opportunity for business growth and seeing if we were indeed the first choice for customers and prospective customers. Since the inception of the company has it been changed? If yes, when? t "TFYQMBJOFEJOPVSSFTQPOTFUPRVFTUJPO XFIBEBEPDVNFOUFETUBUFNFOU of values titled ‘Our Vision�, created at the time of our incorporation 30 years ago. While it has served us well, and continues to do so, in guiding behaviour and ethical practice, internally and with society at large, we needed a clear statement of direction and aspiration to take us forward. t 5IVT JUJTBGUFSZFBSTUIBUXFGPVOEJUOFDFTTBSZUPBVHNFOUA0VS7JTJPO with a clear statement of direction, and have called it ‘Vision’. The ‘Our Vision’ continues to be the set of guiding principles and is the only formal encapsulation of organizational values and beliefs that we strictly adhere to, a ‘code of conduct’ for all. How do you educate your employees to ensure commitment to the Organization’s vision statement? t 4PPOBGUFSGPSNBMJ[BUJPOUIF$&0TIBSFEUIFSBUJPOBMFBOENFBOJOHPGUIF ‘vision’ with all his direct reports in face-to-face meetings and via video conferences with overseas colleagues. t 5IJTOFYUMFWFMPGFYFDVUJWFTUIFOEJEUIFTBNF DBTDBEJOHUIFDPNNVOJDBUJPO down to every direct report. t *UXBTBMTPDPNNVOJDBUFEUISPVHIUIFJOUFSOBMCMPHBOEJOUSBOFUBTBTFSJFTPG DPOWFSTBUJPOTIPTUFECZUIF$&0IJNTFMG t *UXBTJODMVEFEJOUIFDPSQPSBUFQSFTFOUBUJPOTPUIBUJOFWFSZDPNNVOJDBUJPO to existing and prospective customers it provided an additional statement of commitment and aspiration, that we would do all it takes to be their ‘first choice’ for whatever they came to us for. How do you create customer value through your vision statement? t 5IFWJTJPOTUBUFNFOUIBTFOBCMFEVTUPBTL JOFWFSZJOUFSBDUJPOXJUIPVS customers, what they see as the primary value levers in their relationship with



us and also to ask how they believe we are performing and where they need change. The identification of these value-levers has enabled us to analyze how best to structure our delivery engine to deliver the best possible value to the customers so that we help them meet their goals. t 5IJTBCJMJUZUPSBQJEMZBEBQU BEPQUBOESFDPOmHVSFCBTFEPOXIBUDVTUPNFST expect of us and our sensitivity to the same, has been acknowledged by old and new customers alike and has given us increased acceptance in the market, increased access to opportunities and has helped us to hold onto existing relationships despite competitor actions. What are some of the landmark stories that articulate your vision statement? t 5IFNPTUTJHOJmDBOUATUPSZPWFSUIFMBTUPOFBOEBIBMGZFBSTDPNFTGSPN at least four existing, long-time customers, where new business that would normally have been tendered out, thus inviting competitive bids and a prolonged evaluation process, financial negotiation, has been single-tendered to us, without inviting competitive response. t 8FIBWFBMTPTFFOJUTJNQBDUJOUFSOBMMZXJUINPSFBOENPSFUFBNTEJTDVTTJOH amongst themselves what they can do differently to be first choice for their customers, and this includes internal and external customers. How has the vision statement guided/served as a roadmap in the growth of your organization? t *UIBTTFSWFEUPQSPWJEFBWFSZTJNQMFUPVOEFSTUBOE ZFUDPNNPOZBSETUJDL GPS the whole organization to use to assess if any new initiative or improvement or re-structuring or acquisition will indeed make us come closer to being ‘first choice’. It’s served as an important means to align all new investments in the market and in management time. t 0VSTIBSFECFMJFGJTUIBUJGXFBSFUIFmSTUDIPJDFGPSPVSDVTUPNFSTBOE employees we have the most stable platform for growth, with employee and customer loyalty ensured. The best growth comes from referrals and this works very effectively for getting on-board both, new customers and employees.




Sugandh Gupta

Swathi Dhilip



VEDANTA INSPIRES A WOMAN LEADER IN SOCIAL SECTOR Pooja Saroj Madhok from ODA in conversation with Harveen Kapoor, Founder of Khushii


hile there is no one path to successful leadership and no dearth of modern day literature with frameworks to support frameworks, for one woman, it has been the age old Vedanta that has held her hand. When her husband gave her a book to read in 1992, she did not realize the pages would one day help write the story of her own life. Harveen Kapoor, born and raised in Delhi is the mother of two and married within a business family. In her other hat, Harveen is also the founder and Secretary of Khushii – a Non Government Organisation that represents a Kinship for Humanitarian Social And Holistic Intervention. In a sector that lends itself to the hands of the helpful, Khushii was conceived in 2002 when Harveen joined forces with cricket legend, Kapil Dev to create changes across both rural and urban India. Within the last decade, the organization’s activities have sought to impact nine areas across the country including: Art and Culture, Disability, Education, Employability,



THE VERY PILLARS UPON WHICH KHUSHII RESTS AND HER LEARNING’S ARE: “THAT AN HONEST LEADER CAN CREATE A HUGE CHANGE IN THIS COUNTRY.” Environment, Healthcare, Philanthropy, Rural Development and Senior Citizen Assist. ABOUT KHUSHII Drawing comparisons between rural and urban India, Harveen speaks of the importance of creating awareness and providing education. The very pillars upon which Khushii rests and her learning’s are: “that an honest leader can create a huge change in this country”. While doing so Khushii embarked on its journey through its first project that comprised of adopting a cluster of villages near Neemrana Fort and implemented variety of services within education, health-



IN REFLECTING ON THE DRIVERS THAT FUELLED HER OWN FIRE, HARVEEN MENTIONED CONNECTIVITY, CAPACITY BUILDING AND THE CERTAINTY OF CHANGE AS BEING HER KEY INGREDIENTS. care, employability etc through 641 local volunteers to positively impact 4 lakh beneficiaries in the area. Later down the line, on the Art & Culture front, Khushii took auction sales to a dizzy high of Rs 12 crore in November 2006, at an art auction which brought together the who’s who of India and a number of senior artists. In reflecting on the drivers that fuelled her own fire, Harveen mentioned Connectivity, Capacity Building and the Certainty of Change as being her key ingredients. Not surprisingly, Connectivity is what brought Harveen to where she is now. Working with a children’s charity in the 1990s planted the seed of thought that connected Harveen to what Khushii is today. Connectivity in the context of leadership can exist on numerous levels, from building bridges between internal and externals world, to bringing together an ecosystem of people, platforms and processes. In any leadership role it is pivotal to understand each of the elements before making any meaningful connections. “I give people what they want, in the hope that one day, they will want what I want to give them” is what represents Capacity Building for Harveen and the ability to help people help themselves. Her three rules for building such capacity are: 1. Encourage independent thought and action; 2. Support local labour; and 3. Foster empowerment The final ingredient relating to the inevitability of Change served to nurse Harveen’s belief of not being rigid, and open to new ways of doing things. As with most things, the place we end up in is usually different to what we envisioned at the start. Such an ability to be attuned to change and move in its direction is central to her leadership style of calmness and collaboration. For Harveen, when each of these ingredients were weaved together, the tapestry produced was not that dissimilar to one she realized she already possessed. Rather, it was more of an affirmation of all that she



already knew and was inherent in her, which came to her through her study and guidance of Vedanta. While reflecting on Vedanta she also highlighted that with any organization, let alone one in the social sector and not for profit, there are challenges. As Darwin says, “the fittest should survive” and the ability of a great leader to overcome hurdles is what defines one leader from another. For Harveen the 3 most defining factors in being a successful female leader and overcoming challenges are: 1. Having a supportive family – to create a platform to develop a strong and stable vision. It is important to know where you are going before you take the first step. 2. Loyalty of Staff – for every great idea needs a series of actions behind it. Khushii employs 140 people and has a very young and diverse board of directors to take the organization forward into the next decade and beyond. 3. Self-development – the constant ability to self introspect. Harveen refers to this as the ability to “separate the intellect from the mind and then function according to the available intellect and physical capacity in any given moment”. So with all this in mind, what is the future of Khushii and what will the next decade bring for Harveen? With a focus on collaboration and movement away from competition, Harveen’s passion now is to take Khushii to the next level and “work together to achieve more”. The launch of the World Action Forum (WAF) in September this year is her first step to doing just that! In doing so she looks back and remarks that, “I realise the seeds of the WAF were planted since the infancy of Khushii, connectivity has always been my biggest asset”. The WAF, through an annual summit, strives to create a platform to bring together NGO’s, corporates, policy makers, industry leaders and entrepreneurs across 9 sectors to work to create change on an even larger scale. For Harveen personally, this will mean directing a large amount of her efforts



in creating awareness and changing the mindsets of corporates towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes and acting as more of an ‘ideator’ and assuming more of mentor role for the organization, as for her “satisfaction and feel good factor comes when I am not focusing on myself but a greater collective, one person cannot cure the whole world” says Harveen. In terms of the future of the social sector, Harveen points out the restrictions of the countries infrastructure and the not-so-bottomless pit of available funds and predicts that initiatives such as the WAF will pave the path forward. “It is time to join hands and work with cohesive unity”, she says. To quote the words of Swami Rama Tirtha, “Unless you are a patriot you will never evolve. The first thing you must do is rise above family and love your nation”. Therefore, for Harveen we see that she has started moving to an even more enhanced role as not just a leader of self, her team and Khushii as an organization, but also as a leader of the social sector as she strives to create even a bigger impact on her country as a true patriot. Whichever way we may slice it, Harveen emphasizes that in the pie of leadership, the true flavor lies in the foundations of ones ability to influence and support others in achieving common goals. “In doing so through my lessons in Vedanta, my awareness and belief in the social sector has been strengthened, and through my work in the social sector, my love for the subject of Vedanta has been cemented” – a self fulfilling relationship that has been Harveen’s journey to date. ■

Shifting between continents and countries, Pooja has worked with a broad spectrum of clients, ranging from consulting firms to hospitality firms. She is extremely passionate about making a difference in people’s lives and coaching, personal growth workshops and teaching Yoga are the tools that come naturally to her. 60


BEING YOURSELF Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” —Oscar Wilde


an you train my Labrador to become aggressive?” I got a call from a senior HR professional who was part of a culture change intervention I did for his organization. As my interest in Dog training is known to most of my participants, I do get one or two dog related requests after every workshop. “Labs are very loving, people friendly dogs. Why did you buy a Lab if you wanted an aggressive dog?” I asked. “You see I wanted a black, good looking, heavy dog that is very intelligent. Then I also want him to be ferocious and aggressive.” He told me casually. Lots of people want to make their Labrador behave like a Doberman and vice versa. If we look at organizations, we can see how each organization is trying to change a Labrador into a Doberman or vice versa using their current competency framework. Then this employee, who almost started demonstrating the behavioural traits that are needed to be a high potential leader in his organization, leaves and joins another

organization where they try to make him another dog based on their competency framework. There are enough studies and examples to prove that each one of us have unique strengths and one could leverage the strengths to accomplish the task and be successful. All personality type theories and tools like MBTI and Enneagram mention that all types have the capability to be a leader using their own unique strengths.

All personality type theories and tools like MBTI and Enneagram mention that all types have the capability to be a leader using their own unique strengths 61


Gallup consulting and their research have proven that the best way to develop employees – and net the greatest return on investment – is to identify the ways in which they most naturally think, feel, and behave, then build upon those talents to create strengths – the ability to provide consistent, near-perfect performance. I can really resonate with this. It was in class Four at the age of nine that I realized I love public speaking, observing people and reading books. I also got lot of opportunities to observe people and read as I had asthma that did not allow me to go to school every day or play any sports. By the time I was in college I had developed my interest in psychology and had become a great speaker and editor of the college magazine. I focused on my strengths and went to become a teacher in Bhutan instead of becoming a bank probationary officer, a test that I wrote due to the pressure from parents and people around. My journey from teaching students in a primary school


in Bhutan to now being a visiting faculty for the Transformation leadership program at ISB (Indian School of Business) for their executive education has been by focusing and developing on my strengths. “During my career, I got lots of feedback to modify my leadership style so as to fit in with organization’s norms. Several supervisors and human resource specialists urged me to be a different kind of leader. I listened carefully to their advice but quietly rejected it. Had I followed their advice I would have become a plain vanilla manager or even been seen as a phony”, writes Bill George, Harvard Business School professor and former Medtronic CEO, in his book Authentic Leadership. Then what is stopping us from focusing on our strengths and moving on in our leadership journey? I think the challenge is in the mindset that only certain kind of competencies will help an individual


While it is important to have a competency framework that is unique to the organization and assess people and give feedback about where they stand in the organization’s leadership competencies, its is also important to acknowledge and appreciate the strengths each one has move up in the corporate ladder in his organization even though there would be enough exceptions. A CEO whom I coach is extremely methodical, practical, pay attention to detail, focused on the task, empower others and collaborate to get things done and he has been in the organization for the last Fifteen years. Then the organization wants him to be more charismatic, outgoing

and to have more “executive presence”– a term that can be defined in several ways. The fact is that he could be a powerful leader in his organization and get things done in his current role and in his future roles using his strengths if others around him stop bothering about how charismatic he is. While it is important to have a competency framework that is unique to the organization and assess people and give feedback about where they stand in the organization’s leadership competencies, its is also important to acknowledge and appreciate the strengths each one has. More importantly we need to develop a mindset throughout the organization that by leveraging the strengths, leaders could move to the next role even if they are not equally excelling in all the leadership competencies of that organization. There are enough examples, research and evidences. A Labrador who is trained to behave like a Doberman is not a happy dog. ■






INTRODUCTION: PERSONAL AND SYSTEMIC LENSES There is a pervasive bias in how we see, understand, and intervene in relationship problems, whether they occur in the family, the small business, the large corporation, or the community. That bias is to view these problems through a personal lens, one that explains them in terms of the characteristics of the parties involved – their personal styles, temperaments, values, motives, needs, levels of maturity, and such. And it follows that personal lenses yield person-centered diagnoses, which then lead to personcentered solutions: fix, fire, rotate, control and avoid being controlled or therapy for one or more of the parties. A much less understood and much less used lens – one that we will be examining in this paper – is a systemic one; the basic premise of which is: systemic context shapes relationships, and it does so to a large degree, independently of the personal characteristics of the parties involved. Whichever collection of people enters a particular systemic context, their relationships will be subject to and vulnerable to the tensions generated by that context. The systemic lens yields systemic diagnoses that in turn lead to systemic interventions. The underlying principle is: Don’t fix people; instead help people see, understand, and master the systemic contexts they are in. Let me be clear: None of this is to imply that personal characteristics play no part in shaping relationships; clearly they do. But if we are able to see, understand, and master the systemic contexts we and others are in, these personal issues diminish in importance, if not disappear entirely. And this does not work the other way around; that is, we can work on the personal issues, but unless the underlying systemic contexts are dealt with, the relationship issues are likely to remain, intensify, go underground for a period, only to recur.

The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate: 1. How systemic context influences our relationships with one another, and 2. How understanding context can help us avoid unnecessary breakdowns and create more satisfying and productive relationships. In Part I, I present four thumbnail descriptions of common relationship breakdowns and for each, ask the question: Is it personal or systemic? In Part II, I present an overview of predictable relationship vulnerabilities that develop in the Top, Middle, and Bottom organizational worlds, along with a description of the processes by which these vulnerabilities unfold. In Part III, I focus in on the Top world and the predictable relationship vulnerabilities that develop for whatever collection of people join together in that context. In Part IV, I describe the processes of seeing, understanding, and mastering context with particular focus on mastering relationships in the Top world. PART I: IS IT PERSONAL OR SYSTEMIC? Case 1: It was heralded as the partnership of the century: Mr. Organization paired with Mr. Entrepreneur. This was the combination and synergy that would re-vitalize a sagging organization. A few years have past; the partnership is dissolving due to “irreconcilable differences”. And the separation package promises to be one of the costliest in the history of the industry. Case 2: Two people went into business together; they had been great friends in college, enjoyed many of the same activities: sports, vacations, concerts, and more. They felt



certain that their camaraderie and shared interests would provide a solid foundation for business. Several years have passed; the partners rarely speak to one another now except in anger and with derision. They have what appear to be irreconcilable differences regarding the direction their business should take. There is talk of one partner buying out the other just to be rid of him. Case 3: Two people got married because they loved one another; they looked forward to a long life together building their home and raising their children. Several years have passed; the relationship is fraying with frequent disagreements regarding the children and finances. There are few signs of the original joy in the relationship; to the contrary, there is talk of separation. Case 4: Two distinguished social scientists, invigorated at the prospect of tackling some of the world’s most intractable social issues, founded an organization for that purpose. As work proceeded, the partnership began to fray over disagreements regarding the direction and priorities of the organization. There were struggles over control – who was top dog and who was underdog. When the pain grew too intense, the partnership ended.

Unless the underlying systemic contexts are dealt with, the relationship issues are likely to remain, intensify, go underground for a period, only to recur 66

IT ALL FEELS SO PERSONAL…BUT IT’S NOT What do these four cases have in common? Clearly, these are relationships that began in great promise only to end in failure, both emotional and financial. Hope turned to despair; love to indifference or hate. And it all feels so personal: characteristics that no one had noticed in the other before entering into relationship now are painfully evident. Something is wrong with one party or the other or both; or maybe individually they’re ok and it’s just a matter of an unfortunate mix. So what can one do, now that the other person is seen as hurtful or dangerous or irrelevant? The choices are limited: One can stay in the relationship and suffer it through, Or hurt the other party and try to avoid being hurt, Or try to control the other and keep from being controlled, Or avoid the other, Or separate from the other temporarily or permanently, Or try to “fix” one party or the other or both through some form of therapy or counseling. And, in extremis, there are the options of physical abuse or even murder. This paper provides different perspective on these relationships. The underlying principle we’ll be working with is: much that seems personal is not personal. These relationships can be understood and managed more successfully when placed in their systemic context. PART II: THE POWER LAB AND THE ORGANIZATION WORKSHOP: MY WINDOWS INTO SYSTEMS For over thirty-five years, my staff and I have been conducting two forms of leadership development programs: the Power Lab1 – a five-day total immersion experience – and the Organization Workshop2, a one- or two-


day event. In both programs, hierarchical systems are created composed of Tops, Middles, Bottoms, and (in the Organization Workshop) Customers. These system simulations have been created as learning environments for participants, but they have also served as unique learning laboratories for me. In Power Lab after Power Lab, I have had the unique opportunity to have access to all parts of systems from their beginning to their end, to observe the intense interactions that developed within and across class line. In dozens of Organization Workshops, I have had the privilege of listening to Tops, Middles, Bottoms, and Customers as they described their organizational experiences. And it is out of these many observations and conversations that my understanding of systems and my theoretical frameworks has evolved3. The Power Lab, as a multiple-day, total immersion experience, has offered a

unique window into the regularly recurring relationship vulnerabilities that develops among Tops, among Bottoms, and among Middles. Similar patterns occur in program after program despite the fact that people are randomly assigned to their classes. Who you are seems to be less a determinant of relationship than where you are. The basic patterns are as follows. Territorial Tops: Tops are prone to falling into territorial (turf ) issues with one another. A “mine” mentality develops in which Tops become defensive and protective of their separate territories. Bottoms in Groupthink: Bottoms are prone to falling into groupthink. A “we” mentality develops in which Bottoms feel connected to one another and separate from other parts of the system, and in their connectedness, there are strong internal pressures toward conformity.



Alienated Middles: Middles are prone to becoming alienated from one another. An “I” mentality develops, in which members’ separateness from one another is heightened, thus decreasing the likelihood of their ever becoming a group. When these relationship issues unfold, they generally are experienced as being personal and specific to this particular cast of characters, this organization, this setting. Clearly this can’t be the case since people are randomly assigned to positions and the same patterns develop in program after program. So, for example, had those Middles, who became so alienated from one another, by chance, been assigned to the Bottom group they would likely have become a tightly connected “we” subject to the pressures toward conformity. And had those Bottoms who were so tightly connected to one another been assigned to the Top group, it is likely that in time they would have fallen into painful territorial issues with one another. And in each case, the likely explanation of these relationship breakdowns would be personal.

gathers in one place, and members in each part of the system are encouraged to describe what life is like in their part of the system—the issues they are dealing with, pressures they are facing, feelings they are experiencing, and the nature of their relationships with one another. After many dozens of such experiences—keeping in mind once again that members are randomly assigned to positions—clear patterns emerge. The Top context is a world of complexity and accountability. There are lots of issues to deal with, difficult issues, unpredictable issues, choices and decisions to be made about the shape and direction of the system as a whole. And, whichever collection of people enters that Top world is accountable for the system. Figure 1. Four people in a top context of complexity and accountability

Clearly, something other than personality is going on here. Seeing person-in-context There is an understandable bias in our experiences of one another. We see people and their behaviors; what we tend not to see are the contexts in which people are living, and it is these contexts that shape our experiences of ourselves – Mine, We, or I – and the nature of our relationship vulnerabilities with one another – Turf, Groupthink, or Alienation. The Organization Workshop has given me a window into the uniquely different Top, Bottom, and Middle organizational contexts. One feature of the workshop is the TOOT (Time out of time), a point at which the action of the organization is stopped, everyone


The Bottom context is a world of shared vulnerability; there is some THEM that make decisions affecting one’s life in major and minor ways. They reorganize, shut down operations, come up with new initiatives, change healthcare plans, and on it goes. Whichever collection of people enters the Bottom world is subject to that shared vulnerability.


Figure 2. Four people in a bottom context of shared vulnerability

to avoid breakdowns while creating satisfying and productive partnerships. We’ll get to that later, but for now let’s see how contextblindness leads to relationship breakdown. From adaptation to breakdown The process by which breakdowns develop is as follows: Step 1: Entry. People enter the systemic context basically unaware of the context. Their focus is more on the people they interact with and the work they do. Step 2: Adaptation. People adapt to the context. This happens without awareness or choice.

The Middle context is a tearing world in which people are pulled away from one another and out toward the individuals and groups they lead, manage, coach, or service. Figure 3. Four people in a tearing middle context

In the top context of complexity and accountability people adapt by differentiating, dividing up responsibility. Differentiation enables them to manage the complexity that might otherwise overwhelm them. It is a functional, adaptive response to the context they are in. Figure 4. Four people differentiating in response to complexity and accountability

Context shapes our experience; when we are blind to context, breakdowns happen without our seeing them coming. When we see, understand, and master context, we are able



In the bottom context of shared vulnerability individuals adapt by coalescing. They bond with one another, becoming a collective WE, which reduces their experience of vulnerability. Again, this is a functional response that happens without awareness or choice. Figure 5. Four people coalescing in response to shared vulnerability

Step 3: Sclerosis sets in. What began as adaptive responses harden into rigid boundaries. Differentiations harden into turfs. Each Top becomes increasingly knowledgeable about and responsible for his/her territory and decreasingly knowledgeable about and responsible for the territories of other Tops. And each becomes protective and defensive of his/her turf. Figure 7. Differentiation hardens into turf

In the middle diffusing context, individuals adapt by dispersing out to those individuals and groups they lead, service, manage, or coach. They go their individual ways doing their individual work. Dispersing is an adaptive response to the demands of their work. Figure 6. Four people dispersing in response to a tearing context


Coalescing hardens into groupthink. There is strong pressure to maintain uniformity in the WE. Deviation is experienced as potentially weakening the WE and is suppressed. The pressure to conform is both exerted on members by others members and is self-imposed.


Figure 8. Coalescing hardens into the conforming pressures of groupthink

for their relationship issues. In this section, our helicopter will descend, enabling us to focus on how these processes play out in the Top world. This takes us back to the cases we began with. Varieties of Top Worlds Early on, I raised the question: What do these four cases have in common? One answer was: They are relationships that began in great promise and ended in failure. When viewed from the perspective of context we have another answer: As different as these cases may seem, they are all examples of breakdowns in the Top world.

The dispersion among Middles hardens into alienation. Middles become increasing isolated from one another; they become loners, not part of those above or below and not connected with one another. They become competitive with and evaluative of one another. Figure 9. Dispersion hardens into alienation

PART III: PREDICTABLE RELATIONSHIP ISSUES IN THE TOP WORLD So far we’ve taken a “helicopter” view of the process. We’ve seen people in context, seen them adapt to their contexts, and then harden in their adaptations, thus setting the stage

The loving couple, the old college friends, the dynamic executive team, and the committed change agents have all entered Top contexts, worlds of complexity and accountability. Worlds with multiple, often unpredictable issues to deal with, worlds in which there are fundamental decisions to be made regarding the form and direction of the system. In each case, the Tops adapted; they divided responsibility and accountability; if they hadn’t, the complexity would have been unmanageable. Then the trouble began as members gradually hardened in their adaptations; systemic adaptations became private territories that yielded predictable, painful consequences for the Top team: bitterness, conflict, separation, the breakup of what had promised to be successful partnerships. Breakups in the Top world tend to be particularly bitter. Middles and Bottoms find themselves together, generally having little or no part in choosing one another. With Tops it is quite another matter; they have chosen to be together because they love, like, admire one another and believe that their union is special, capable of producing outstanding results for them and their systems. It is the fall from those heights of expectation that is so particularly painful.



There are two types of relationship issues that develop with regularity in the Top world: functional issues and directional issues. FUNCTIONAL ISSUES Functional issues develop as members harden in their respective territories, becoming more knowledgeable, more responsible, more protective, and more emotionally attached to their own territories while becoming more disconnected from – yet still dependent on – the performance of those responsible for other territories. These are some of the painful issues that arise.

individual territories than with overall system issues. What kind of system are we? What kind of system should we become? Do we expand or maintain what we have? What kind of culture do we have: authoritarian or participatory? Do we venture into new directions or stay with what we know? Do we take risks or be cautious? Leap into the future or inch our way forward? Are we firm and demanding of our employees/children or soft and laissez-faire? Irreconcilable positions develop.

Support: Members feel that they are not getting support from one another. There is ambivalence around support, sometimes needing it yet being averse to acknowledging the need. In the extreme, members may enjoy watching the other suffer.

What is both fascinating and troubling about these directional issues is that partners become polarized with firm, fixed, and oppositional positions despite the fact that there are no obviously correct solutions to the issues they are fighting over. These firm positions (opinions) arise out of fundamental uncertainty. There are no obviously correct answers to authoritarian or participatory, caution or risk, expand or conserve. None of these are answers; they are only possibilities that arise in response to uncertainty. We could go this way or that. What may begin as slight differences – for example, with both parties having mixed feelings regarding daring versus cautious growth – gradually escalate into ever sharper differences: one takes a risk position which stimulates the other to caution, which leads the first to press harder for risk, which frightens the other into insisting more firmly on caution, and on and on it goes. What begins as two mixed risk/caution positions ends as pure RISK versus pure CAUTION. At this point partners feel threatened by one another, blocked, angry. Forward movement no longer seems possible and that is the end of the Top team.

Directional Issues Directional issues are the most likely causes of the collapse of top relationships. Directional issues have less to do with

In the following section we will examine what the possibilities are for seeing these Top relationships not as person-to-person but as persons-in-context.

Relative Significance: There are tensions over whose turf is the more prestigious or important to the system. Who are the really important members, the ones who make the key contributions to the system? Who are the high and low status players? Respect: Whether you are the more or less significant member, there are tensions around respect, with members feeling that they are not being respected for their contributions. Trust: Because members are focused primarily on their own turfs, they can be unaware of what is happening on other turfs. Trust issues arise. Is the other doing enough of what he/she should be doing? Is the other doing too much of what he/she ought not to be doing?



PART IV: SEEING, UNDERSTANDING, AND MASTERING CONTEXT One of the greatest challenges of social system life is to see context. To do so runs counter to our more common personcentered worldview. We need to understand that we are not simply people interacting with one another; we are people-incontext, whether we are Tops coping with complexity and accountability, or Bottoms with vulnerability, or Middles with diffusion. We need to understand the potential these contexts have for shaping our experiences of ourselves and others, for taking us into turf warfare or groupthink or alienation, all of which not only cause us personal pain but also diminish our contributions to our systems. Love is not enough, nor is friendship, nor is the possibility of dynamic synergy. The challenge is: See, understand, and master the context.

Differentiation and Homogenization For our Tops, this means mastering this space of complexity and accountability. Systemic Awareness: The first and critical step toward mastery is to shift thinking from personal to systemic. This involves learning about the nature of this top world and the ease with which the complexity of that world leads to differentiation which leads to sclerosis which leads to issues of respect, trust, support, and ultimately to the collapse of the relationship. Developing systemic awareness is likely to be met by resistance. For those entering the top space, there can be supreme confidence and faith in the power of their love, friendship, or special gifts. Sure this happens to others, but don’t worry about us, we’ll be ok. And for those deeply mired in the final stages of turf warfare, where the history is long and the pain is deep,



the shift toward systemic understanding may be too difficult to effect; Too much history to forget, too much pain to forgive, too much righteousness to surrender. How does one create systemic awareness in a way that helps Tops rise above the particulars of their situation to see the abstract? It is when the abstract mirrors their specific reality that the opening for learning and change is present. So maybe this is not about us; this is what happens to people in the top space. Then it’s possible to shift from blaming and fixing one another to working together to understand and master the space. Differentiation is not the problem. Differentiation is a necessity in the Top context; in fact, the challenge for Tops is to maximize their differentiation. The more differentiation there is, the greater the ability to deal complexly with a complex world. So differentiation is good. The challenge is: How to maximize differentiation without falling into turf. And this takes us into the first principle for mastering the Top space: Wherever there is differentiation, equal attention needs to be given to homogenization. As we elaborate our differences we need to work on our commonality4. So the challenge in the Top space is: differentiate and homogenize. 1. Shared vision. Creating a powerful shared vision is an essential homogenizing process. We are jointly responsible for this family, business,

The more differentiation there is, the greater the ability to deal complexly with a complex world 74

or organization. What are our fondest wishes for what this system will become? What are our dreams for what it will be for its members and for what they will accomplish? The vision needs to be experienced as the root from which our differentiations grow. When trouble hits, as it inevitably will in the Top world, it is the root to which we can return. 2. Shared information. Regular sharing of information is a basic homogenizing activity. This can be a matter of simply letting others in – really letting them in – on one another’s worlds. What are you dealing with? What issues are you facing? Are there matters the rest of us should be thinking about? Are there things you’d like to be able to talk through in the presence of your partner(s)? Sharing information can take a more intensive form as in mutual coaching described below. 3. Mutual Coaching. In mutual coaching, Tops spend time dedicated to coaching one another on matters of importance to them. At times, you lay out your situation – it could be a project that is of major importance to you, and I function as your coach. And when I’m your coach, I am 100 per cent committed to your success. At other times, I lay out my project and you become my coach, 100 per cent committed to my success. The magic of mutual coaching is that it strengthens both differentiation and homogenization. A top team that consistently engages in mutual coaching, in which all members are committed to one another’s success, will have come a long way from the defensiveness, protectiveness, and competitiveness of territoriality. 4. Walk in one another’s shoes. Homogenization is strengthened when Tops spend time in one another’s arenas, experiencing directly the nature of one another’s contexts. In certain settings it may be possible to rotate responsibility – crosstraining at the Top.


5. Become forces rather than positions. Directional differences are likely to arise in the top world. How fast should we grow? How much risk should we take? How should we treat the employees or children? Do we change or stick to what we know? As we have seen, such issues readily lend themselves to polarization. Polarization is another form of differentiation without homogenization, where there are increasingly different positions with decreasing commonality. One approach to undoing polarization (a pure differentiated state) is to get back to an earlier more homogenized state. For example, when the issue of risk versus caution first came up, it is likely that both parties had some mix of risk and caution. One party may have been 7 parts risk and 3 parts caution, while the other had 6 parts caution and 4 parts risk. We have seen above how from that mixed state polarized positions evolve as parties play off of one another. The challenge is to get back to that mixed, more homogenized state. Once both parties acknowledge the complexity of their feelings, there is less need for members to be either one position or the other; it becomes possible for each of them to be more complex in their approach, and for them to work together on more complex risk/caution strategies in which both parties are committed to a strategy of risk and caution. This orientation enables partners to function as forces rather than as positions. So, for example, a member whose inclination is toward caution might in any given situation become a force for risk because it is clear that that is what the system needs at that particular point. This approach to undoing polarization can be applied to any of the directional differentiations likely to arise in the Top world. The basic strategy is differentiation and homogenization. Lost possibilities One can only speculate about the lost

A member whose inclination is toward caution might in any given situation become a force for risk because it is clear that that is what the system needs at that particular point possibilities in the failed relationships we began with: no promised synergies between Mr. Organization and Mr. Entrepreneur, no continuing camaraderie between the good friends starting up a business, no rich family experiences for the couple entering marriage, and no combined contributions for the social scientists planning to change the world. Maybe nothing could have prevented the eventual collapse of these relationships. On the other hand, their blindness to the nature of the Top world and the effects it was likely to have on their relationships was certainly a contributing factor. One can imagine these relationships beginning from a different base, one in which the parties were committed to understanding and mastering the Top world – one in which they were committed to developing their relationships through differentiation and homogenization: working on shared visions for their systems, being committed to letting one another in on the issues they were facing, making efforts to walk periodically in one another’s shoes, becoming coaches committed to one another’s success, and, when differences arise, avoiding polarizations by functioning as forces rather than becoming increasingly rigid positions. When the above relationships collapsed, people separated basically unchanged. Likely there was pain, bitterness, and



righteousness, but little or no growth. They leave as they entered, with their differences intact. Something very different happens when Tops work together to master this Top world; they cannot help but grow personally as they connect with the other: seeing, understanding, and empathizing with their worlds, entering the other’s world, working with the other attempting to solve difficult problems. Just as the possibilities of the partnership are likely to be realized, so are the possibilities of its members. And it is likely that these changed selves can also be brought into other relationships. A NEW WORLDVIEW In this paper I have attempted to make the case for a new worldview for understanding and managing our social system relationships. The person-centered worldview that dominates much of our thinking distorts the reality of relationships, leading to misunderstanding, faulty diagnoses, misdirected solutions, lost opportunities, and broken relationships. All of which are costly and all of which are unnecessary if we are able to shift our view from person-to-person to persons-in-context. That is the power of context. ■ NOTES 1. The central feature of the Power Lab is The Society of New Hope which is composed of the Elite (Tops) who own and control the bulk of the societies resources – money, housing, food, court, and employment opportunities; the Immigrants (Bottoms) enter the society with little more than the clothes on their backs, and the Managers (Middles) enjoy intermediate living conditions so long as they continue to manage the institutions of the Elite. The Power Lab, a total immersion experiences that runs over several days, is described in Leading Systems: Lessons from the Power Lab. 2. The central feature of the Organization Workshop is Creative Consultants, Inc.,


an organization composed of Tops with overall responsibility for the organization, Bottom groups whose members produce the organization’s products, and Middles who are assigned to the Bottom groups. Outside the organization are Customers and potential Customers with projects they need service on and money to pay for results. The exercise runs for several hours. In the middle of the exercise there are TOOTs – Times Out Of Time; these are settings in which Tops, Middles, Bottoms, and Customers share their experiences with one another – what life is like for them, what their worlds are like, issues they are dealing with, their feelings, and the condition of their relationships. 3. Although my doctorate from Boston University is in experimental social psychology, my understanding and evolving theory of system life has been developed out of these many experiences with the Power Lab and the Organization Workshop. Using the criteria as put forth by Thomas Kuhn (see below) I make the case that the Whole Systems Framework I have developed is a legitimate candidate for new paradigm status. (See There is no New Paradigm…Yet.) 4. Differentiation without homogenization is at the root of many of society’s persistent problems: ethnic conflicts, religious strife, racism, sexism are among the costly consequences of differentiation without homogenization, the elaboration of difference to the neglect of commonality. REFERENCES Oshry, B. (2007). Seeing Systems: Unlocking the Mysteries of Organizational Life (2nd edition). San Francisco, California: Berrett-Koehler. Oshry, B. (2000). There is no New Scientific Paradigm…Yet (Toward a Most Practical

THE POWER OF CONTEXT | Science of Social System Life). Boston, Mass.: Power + Systems. Oshry, B. (1999). Leading Systems: Lessons from the Power Lab. San Francisco, California: Berrett-Koehler. Oshry, B. (coming in 2009). “Context Blindness: What we don’t see will hurt us.” In W.J. Rothwell, R.L. Sullivan, J.M. Stavros, and A. Sullivan (eds.), Practicing Organization Development (3rd edition). New York: Wiley. Oshry, B. (coming in 2009). “Coaching in a Leadership System.” In J. Passmore (editor), Leadership in Coaching: Working with Leaders to Develop Elite Performance. Association for Coaching, U.K. Oshry, B. (1994). In the Middle. Boston, Mass.: Power + Systems. Oshry, B. (1992). The Possibilities of Organization. Boston, Mass.: Power + Systems. Kuhn, T. (1996). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (3rd edition). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Related articles on the Oshry framework can be downloaded from

Barry Oshry is the President (also Chief Theoretical Officer) of Power + Systems, Inc., an organization his wife and partner, Karen Ellis Oshry (Chief Connector), established in 1975. He is the developer of the Power Lab, a total immersion leadership development program that, since 1972, which has attracted adventurous learners and leaders from across the globe. He is also the developer of The Organization Workshop on Creating Partnership.


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