The new organizational imperatives

The frontiers of knowledge, data, and analytics opened by information technology and its latest offspring, artificial intelligence (AI), have impacted all organizations big or small, and altered the known practices of human resource development as well as corporate ethics.
The new organizational imperatives

DC Pathak

(The writer is a former Director of the Intelligence Bureau. Views are personal)

The frontiers of knowledge, data, and analytics opened by information technology and its latest offspring, artificial intelligence (AI), have impacted all organizations big or small, and altered the known practices of human resource development as well as corporate ethics.

Work from home, digitization of content, and increasing reliance on'machine learning’ in decision-making have diminished the scope of interactiveness within the corporate body, discounted a leadership that drew sustenance only from claims of ‘long’ experience, and created a tendency among the employees to work in silos, which would only be at the cost of commitment to the common organizational 'mission’.

Skill development focusing on the handling of information and its meaningful dissemination has become a prime mandate for human resource utilisation, and the call of leadership has become more demanding in terms of its ability to constitute teams that are both inclusive and productive, realise the new importance of ‘time’ as a resource, and reset the framework of organisational ethics, reconciling freedom of work with the goals of the composite body.

This is a situation where the causes of personal growth, autonomy in decision-making, and belief in the known corporate objectives must all merge to serve the best interests of the individual and the organisation as a whole. This looks simple, but it is not easy to achieve. A few points need to be closely examined.

The first relates to the philosophy of management itself. The one advocated in India is the ‘paternal nurtural’ style, where the leader grooms the subordinate and feels happy with the growth of the latter.

 The senior in turn commands respect as an ‘elder’ and is happy to provide guidance wherever it is sought. The senior has at least a minimal idea of how the junior is placed outside of the work area so that an ‘empathetic’ approach was followed even when the evaluation of performance was being done according to 'strict’ norms. In the West, the boss-subordinate relationship is confined to the place of work and could even be arid and marked by aloofness; in fact, the senior’s interest in the junior’s personal life beyond a point might even be resented by the latter.

At best, the senior there could act somewhat like a 'Coach', which is regarded as a highly respectable function in the West.

The universal paradigms of leadership will, however, always be applicable to the role of a boss; trustworthiness, practicing what one preaches, and total impartiality in giving credit for good work will figure at the top of these.

A good leader prepares his successor for handling higher responsibilities and considers this a legacy he would leave behind; this should not change even where the sway of knowledge and data compelled an advanced degree of decentralisation of decision-making. Also, the fundamental accountability of the ‘guide’ will always be there—the failure of a PhD programme, for instance, cannot be totally free of blame for the ‘Advisor’. The second pertains to the adverse impact of technology on interactiveness within the organization. All business is human activity, and it is human to be in need of communication with colleagues at work and friends in society at large.

In all organisations, there is a body of technology-savvy younger inductees and the core of ‘old hands’ who have grown with the organisation and even seen the transition to the information age, knowledge economy, and global competition. Their importance lies in their experience as shrewd observers of how the ways of doing business were changing amidst things that they knew would always be constant, such as the basic correlation between ‘productivity’ and ‘profitability’ and the fact that ‘brilliance’ would be empty without ‘diligence’.

It would not serve the best interests of the organisation if these two segments of the manpower resource worked in segregation—one believing in 'superiority’ based on ‘status’ in the hierarchy and a ‘higher package’ and the other claiming to be the best in their field at present and aspiring to be on the fast track of rising in the corporate body.

It is for the top leadership of the organisation to make for interactiveness between the two while constituting teams, defining the expectations from the team leaders, spreading awareness of the organisational'missionn’ everybody had to workfor,r andrevising, ifnecessary, the yardsticks of performance evaluation for the high and the low in which significant importance was attached to the ability of the senior to get the junior to produce more.

It is not uncommon to see a shallow-minded senior trying to impress his juniors by boasting about his expensive vacations and new acquisitions. A far-sighted leadership at the top should be able to detect such tendencies and discourage them by bringing them under the umbrella of organizational ethics.

A third organizational matter of concern arises from the advent of AI as the new instrument of growth for business and the upgrading of delivery in vital spheres of life such as healthcare, education, finance, banking, and even agriculture. This happens through the AI’s enabling strength of analysis of data at a pace that was humanly impossible to achieve.

‘Machine learning’ helped to create new IT products and services, and the Large Language Model (LLM) in particular came as a boon in diversifying businesses, enhancing 'outreach', and securing collaborations and partnerships. AI has created a revolution in manpower management as corporations rush to up-skill their human resources, reorganise teams for specific delivery tasks, and practice cost-effectiveness as a means of adding to profitability. The top leadership of the organization is itself in need of a reorientation to handle strategy formulation in light of the new frontiers revealed by the arrival of artificial intelligence as a tool of business management.

A data-driven, customer-centric approach is the new mantra of success in business. An understanding of the promise and perils of AI is still far from adequate in the rush of things created by this new facet of information technology. AI is already proving the point that a technology, however useful for humanity, is prone to exploitation by malcontents, fraudsters, and criminals for their own gain. This is already happening, and that is why world powers are deliberating on the prevention of misuse of AI and the creation of an international framework of controls on the development of AI. India is at the forefront of this initiative.

India, with its large number of IT graduates and youth attuned to working online, has the potential to answer the challenge of unemployment and produce startups.

Fourth, the mandate of the Age of Knowledge that being well-informed was a prerequisite for success has become more stringent because of the equally important counsel that whatever appeared on the Internet should not be regarded as the gospel truth. In fact, the advice is to always verify the information on a crucial matter through other means before accepting it.

In these days of misinformation and the use of social media in the ‘influence war', nothing should be blindly acted upon without a recheck. Fake news is the order of the day and is used as an instrument of ‘proxy war’ among the nations as well as in the free-for-all kind of business rivalry. This extends to deepfake and other forms of identity fraud committed through the misuse of AI for financial, social, and even political objectives. India, like other countries, has to gear up its crime control machinery, at least at the central level, to mitigate the threat of fake identities coming into play in all spheres.

Law and order and police are state subjects in the Indian scheme of things, and hence what the Centre can and must do is organise training courses for senior state police officers, most of whom belonged to the IPS, on the new dimensions of technology-based crimes so that a certain level of uniformity about crime control could be ensured through the length and breadth of the country.

A central institution like the Rashtriya Raksha University, which is controlled by the Ministry of Home Affairs, should also take the initiative for framing and conducting such programmes. All this underlines the importance of comprehensive knowledge for informed decision-making in all spheres of life.

And lastly, organisations today need to know that their prospects were impacted by national and geopolitical developments, both in terms of the opportunity for growth that the latter offered and the risk profile that they created for the former.

The scan of the external environment that preceded all business planning has become far more tedious, and the work of the business intelligence unit engaged by the corporations has accordingly acquired far greater importance than before because it goes much beyond the study of competitors and involves an understanding not only of the national policy framework but also of the emerging ‘issues of war and peace’ visualised internationally. It may include predictions of any major disruptions of supply chains, breakdowns of collaborations, and the advent of any new technology that would boost competitive advantage. For most organisations, cyber security is now a major concern, and a cyber security administration has to be put in place by them as a legal requirement.

Finally, it can be said that internal cohesion, loyalty of the personnel, and transparency of rewards for good work are interrelated matters, and the leadership must consciously build the organisational ethos around them. With the evolution of the new system where ‘work from home’ is part of the organisational functioning in varying degrees, a robust model of supervision, interpersonal communications, and feedback has to be worked out, and this again is the call for those who were on top of the pyramid. In a nutshell, the new-age organisation is more demanding for the leadership than it is for the complying personnel, salespeople, or internal researchers. (IANS)

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