Our interesting learnings and reflections from the incredible India.
On the way to our office
During our three days visit in Pune we had several intensive one-to-one discussions and small workshops with many people in various roles participating. We wanted to thoroughly understand the cultural aspects and the feelings of the people especially from the management paradigm perspective. When we concluded our findings and learning on the final day for the whole team, every word in the presentation was generated by the teams and individuals in Pune during the 3 days – not as one might too often see, people from Western world coming to tell how things are or should be.
Our Swedish colleague Niklas Jägerklou taking selfie with the Indian team in the final meeting where we shared findings & learnings
Because of the Britain Imperialism and other things in the history, India is probably one of the most hierarchical cultures in the world. This came up in our discussion with local people and is explained in several texts like “Indian business management style” article from World Business Culture.
In the discussions we learned that the hierarchical mindset is present everywhere in different institutions and universities etc. which obviously makes it strongly rooted into systems and minds.
In the discussions we learned that we all look and interpret the world through our own glasses, which we have built during our whole life journey in the surrounding cultural context. Therefore, the management paradigms obviously also look and feel different. For one person observing certain operations might feel like highly hierarchical with heroic leadership behaviors, while another person with different glasses might interpret the same thing as more flat organization with servant leadership. Our interpretations are very much relative to the surrounding environment. Many institutions and several companies in India operate with quite extreme command & control model which affects the glasses Indian people have interpreting the operations.
In the discussions we got several interesting concrete examples on how the prevailing culture is impacting real life business situations in our context. Some example findings:
No matter what kind of glasses we wear, the deep, fundamental psychological needs and thus, emerging emotions and feelings are the same. We need other people around us. We need feeling of safety, inclusion and acceptance in the community we belong to. Furthermore, feeling of purpose, learning and personal development as well as having enough autonomy are the elements making us inspired and thrive as human beings.
We believe that in a society where the safety net is weaker, competition is tougher and consequences are stronger, psychological safety is the first key element to enable people start to behave in a new way. If psychological safety would not be in place, there is no willingness to seek for new, better ways to work. The balance of risk and opportunity in trying something new is heavily biased and your mental model rewards you for not challenging anything, just playing it safe and surviving. We had some wonderful discussions about what are the ways to increase psychological safety in our context. Increasing transparency, sharing learnings, failures & successes as well as developing leaders’ understanding about tools of creating an environment of safety are few of them. Naturally, the whole chain of command needs to support the initiative, or otherwise the next level in the ladder will kill the new behaviors fast.
Despite the quite clear and big distinction between the cultural frame and the new paradigm, people were very inspired about the new way of thinking. People also mentioned that in general things are changing and operations are getting less hierarchic all the time. One finding was also that the individuals who have experience in agile development & environment in roles such as scrum master are typically much more used to servant leadership and less hierarchic operations.
On a human level the new paradigm was perceived positively. There was strong willingness to explore this further. At the same time there were clear concerns on the practical implementation due to country specific cultural aspects.
It was great to see the maturity and openness in the discussions about management and leadership in Indian context. People proactively lifted up their concerns and worries, but also at the same time expressed their belief and enthusiasm exploring this further. For moving forward it’s very important that the people in India take active role and start developing suitable variant of the paradigm in their context. It is a huge transformation and needs to be done carefully with high respect for the culture and big ears for listening the people.
Having high versatility and teams across the globe in societies like India makes this transformation journey challenging but also at the same time even more exciting!
With passion and humility,
Co-authors Jaakko Hartikainen & Mikko Virtanen
Our blog series:
No 1: Call for Paradigm Shift in Management
No 2: Magnitude of Change when Shifting Management Paradigm
No 3: Why do so many companies manage people like machines and why is it one of the biggest problems of our times?
No 4: How to drive paradigm level change? Our learnings and one crucial breakthrough innovation
No 5: Incredible India and breaking the hierarchy
Jaakko Hartikainen is a senior business leader with broad experience in building next generation digital services, agile way of working and new business models. His passion is to place humanity at the heart of everything and build sustainable success for increasingly complex world by empowered people and teams.