Organizational excellence – Importance of institutional structures

January 10, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Posted in Blogroll, Organizational Excellence, Structured freedom, Systems Thinking | Leave a comment

I am a big fan of SWAMINATHAN S ANKLESARIA AIYAR who writes a column “SWAMINOMICS” in Time of India Sunday edition. Last week, he wrote on importance of creating the right institutional structures to combat the menace of corruption in public life. Let me share a few important points that I liked in this article along with my takeaways on how these relate to the importance of right institutional structures in an organization for it to move towards excellence.

He felt that “Exposure of criminal cases is not enough” and suggested the institutional change “We need a new law mandating that all cases against elected MPs and MLAs will be given top priority, and heard on a day-by-day basis until completed.” In his opinion, “This will make electoral victory a curse for criminals—it will expedite their trials, instead of giving them the political immunity they seek. If such a law is enacted, we may well see criminal legislators and ministers resigning in order to get off the priority trials list.”

Second institutional change suggested by him relates to speedy justice. “Many countries have tried to speed up justice by enacting laws that oblige judges to speed up various procedures like adjournments. Research shows that almost all these initiatives have failed. What has succeeded is institutional change to promote judges who complete the maximum number of cases. Once this incentive is in place, judges themselves devise all sorts of speedy procedures and shortcuts which become precedents and so are adopted by all.”

The third change suggested is “We must extricate the police from the control of politicians, and have a truly independent Police Commission, which will stand up to politicians as firmly as the Election Commission. Law and order is a state subject, so we will need police commissioners in every state, under a national police commissioner.” He has given a compelling logic that home ministers of almost all the states give least priority to crime detection because for them the priorities were to “use the police to harass political opponents, use the police and prosecutors to tone down or dismiss cases against their own parties and coalition members, and to provide VIP security.”

Common thread in all these three suggestions is focus on normal human behavior. Rather than trying to create respect for the structures or fear of consequences of not doing what is expected, it is far more effective to leverage human nature. Everyone likes freedom and is ready to accept that the freedom is within the limits of the institutional structures. When the structures go against human nature, there is resistance or a desire to subvert them. But when the structures are intuitive, they are effective. This is the concept of “Structured freedom” and it goes a long way in promoting the organizational excellence.

I would really appreciate any thoughts / experiences from you that either support or challenge what is said above.

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