It is rather significant to note that Indian wisdom, like all other traditional wisdoms, has always emphasized self-mastery. Self Growth is a phrase coined in the contemporary knowledge milieu. Its origin may have something to do with the notion that self-mastery is nothing but repression of natural impulses, leading to neuroses and other mental disturbances. But self-mastery in fact essentially implies cutting our little, unruly, unregenerate, turbulent egos to size. As an Indian man of wisdom aptly remarked a century ago, our egos, as they are, are ‘unripe’ egos. We have to de-egoize this ‘unripe’ ego, so that the ‘ripe ego’ – the Self shines forth. Our egos not only carry chips on their shoulders; often enough they carry spikes too. Conflict in organizations, no matter what rational outer form it is given, almost always is rooted in the spikeful egos of the actors. It is common observation that self growth processes and methods boil down in no time to personal ambition, power play, and so on in pursuance of ‘hard’ objectives of promotion, foreign trips, tangible perquisites etc. The important point is missed that self growth in the real sense rests squarely and solely on self-mastery. And that is a life long process of inner scrutiny, confession and atonement which alone can expand the puny egos to their destined potential of the ripe ego or Self.
Let us give an example of how incapacity to de-egoize leads to the rejection of steps which could improve organizational effectiveness.
We have undertaken a study of the organization structure of a profitable public enterprise. It was poised for a quantum jump in size. To the Chairman Managing Director reported eleven people, amongst whom four were Board level: Executive Directors. Two of them were heading the two manufacturing plants, and the other two were functional Directors (Personal and Finance) in the Head Office. The company was going to add two or three new plants in other locations in the course of the next few years, which first of all, implied that the CMD was likely to end up by having about fourteen to fifteen people reporting to him. This issue on the basis of the principle that the CMD’s role should be prevented from being swamped with information, overload, as it was essentially a long range perspective providing role,. Besides with competition from private enterprise expected to be stiff, the marketing scenario would also change considerably, calling perhaps for a new Marketing Director, which would further widen the span of reporting to the CMD. It can be suggested here that the creation of two posts of Deputy Managing Directors – one for operations and the other for Services. The two functional directors (Personnel and Finance) would report to the DMD (Services), while the plant heads and the Marketing Director to the DMD (Operations). In addition, there would be a few General Managers in other areas who would also be reporting to either of the DMD’s.
At a presentation seminar, the above proposal was discussed threadbare. It was finally rejected on the ground that none of the existing Directors could accept a situation where they would be reporting not to the CMD, but to a DMD. We asked what their decision would be if they were to join the Company afresh and there was already a structure with a CMD and two DMD’s? The reply was that in that case perhaps it would not have been so difficult to accept the arrangement. We also got the indication that had the proposal suggested, say, four DMD posts so that each one of the existing Directors could be slotted into one of them, then too the new design might; have been acceptable. All this showed that although they realized that the proposed design was probably better for the future of the enterprise yet their ‘unripe’ egos could not be softened to elicit assent to it for a bigger cause. They apparently read demotion for themselves in the proposal.
In this very study it was also discovered another stubborn ego-centered problem. By a quirk of history the head Office was created rather late in the day in this enterprise. The plant level heads had by and large been their own masters. With the creation of the Head Office, centralization of policy matters was inevitable. But the first reaction from unit heads to almost any step taken by the Head Office was to declare that they were also Board level Directors and equal to the Functional Directors. Thus, unripe egos have constantly interfered with the process of conceding the Head Office its due role.Such stands may not be in the interests of the Company and the CMD must take a stern decision in restructuring the organization. He can adopt any legal means like obtaining share and stake holders consent and make the necessary changes.