Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Great Indian Lethargy: Smart Cities & Erstwhile Regulations

With Prime Minister Mr. Modi laying out an ambitious plan for India, urbanization in India has seen an upward trajectory. We have a lot of investment being pumped into urban development programs. Modi’s Smart Cities Initiative and AMRUT urban missions will see investments exceeding 50,000 crore rupees going into India’s cities. Meanwhile, with a lot of buzz being created about urbanization and smart cities – some companies have created dedicated business units to tap the market. Each one of them, trying to market their product as the backbone of any smart city.

With so much money going into urban development, before anything else, it becomes essential to review our attitude as a nation first, to truly built a smart city and remain true to the definition thereof. We are a nation, with most of our leaders bred upon wrong dynamics of leadership. With little to no regard, about demographics of state/population they represent or natural/industrial resources they are to work with, every leader seems to think they hold a hammer of the same size, and unfortunately everything looks like a nail!

Such are the concerns related to tackling urban planning, that every plan will quickly turn into a potential candidate for reforms. There is a more basic need to reform our attitude towards urban planning and community - possibility of which has proved to be a Sisyphean Construct that governments across the globe, including India, are rolling up the hill.

In the Indian context, the landscape of regulatory environment is primarily an outcome of the division of subjects, where the Union and the State governments could frame laws, as provided in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India. The problem of ‘stock’ and ‘flow’ of the regulations, is such a complex maze – and it is further thickened by the plethora of laws and regulation therein, which have simply failed to keep pace with time. We are trying to build smart cities – but are working with erstwhile regulations, the basic construct of this approach is appalling.

Another major issue emanates from the way the appointments in the regulatory agencies, and also the organizational structure, are made and held. On this count infusing professionalism through right selection and capacity building are the key issues – this will revitalize the waiting and decision time, and also the payment flow to vendors or stakeholders involved.  There is huge information asymmetry that adversely impacts the regulatory environment. While enterprises above a threshold may have the wherewithal to deal with the complex regulatory environment, to build smart cities, small and medium enterprises will play a much greater role – and greater coordination amongst ministries and the policy makers is the need of the hour.

With heavier regulation, chances are higher for corruption and sprouting of larger unofficial routines to get work done, but no better quality of public or private goods. One essential step forward for better urban planning is more democratic and limited governments - both at the Central and State level, with lighter and streamlined regulations to comply with.

If these fractures are not corrected, urbanization and development of smart cities will reduce to an obstacle race with one principal worry - uncertainties about the number of obstacles, the nature of obstacles and the location of the obstacles. This uncomfortable realisation will drive away investments and stakeholders. Functional autonomy with necessary accountability is a better recipe for urbanization and development of Smart Cities – to tackle the lethargy in the system and adapt to present day realities, for achieving desired objectives.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Are you having a nutritious conversation – essentials and why?

As Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind argue in this piece; leadership in the 21st century is like a conversation - they refer to it as “organizational conversation” leadership model.

Most of us have started to realize the necessity to drive our engagement with our employees and other stakeholders in a conversational manner. But I wish to go a step further – how many leaders of today have started to check if they are having a nutritious conversation?

Do you ever think about why we have a conversation? The easy answers are because we want something and need to communicate, to express our opinion, get to know the other person or when we really have nothing else to do or without any productive reason i.e. sometimes you might engage in a conversation because you are bored, sad or happy, just because it's lunchtime, or because that the other person looks so good.

Those are some of the emotional and physical reasons why we engage in a conversation but do we ever put much thought into what makes a good conversation – to meet our expectations from it. Why nutrition value of a conversation forms an important quality that we should not ignore?

Having a Nutritious Conversation helps us in meeting our goals and meet/exceed expectations others have from us. The conversations we engage in, should be filled with necessary elements to provide the needed energy, excite and encourage the other person to function, with needed caution and a gentle reminder of possible ramifications if the ball does not roll at the right pace and in the right direction – thus meeting or exceeding our expectations.

Just like we need to put fuel in our car or recharge your cell phone battery, everybody needs to be fed with right conversation every day. In any organization, as I mentioned in my previous piece - leadership should come from within each of us and at every level. When each of us will truly appreciate the need for having a nutritious conversation,  each piece in the organizational jigsaw not only completes the void it is expected to fill, but also engages with other pieces in a nutritious way thus contributing to the overall organizational conversation.

Let’s have a healthy and a nutritious conversation!