Frightfully Well Carried Out

This morning, I read the Caravan magazine cover story on the organisational restructuring Rahul Gandhi is carrying out at the Youth Congress. It is very good and you should read it too. What I found particularly interesting was this bit:

The “transformation effort” kicked off in earnest in May 2008, with a workshop conducted by Jayaram for 40 young Congress leaders. It was this seminar and a series of subsequent meetings—about “what the organisation should stand for, its goals and its ideals”, in Jayaram’s words—that set the course for the overhaul of the IYC. What Rahul and the other young Congresspeople envisioned was an open, democratic, clean, technologically advanced party. “We wanted to produce good politicians who are like professionals,” one participant in the meetings told me.

All this is well and good, but openness, democracy, and cleanliness are hardly goals in themselves. Organisational structure and processes are means to an end.

To make things clearer, let me draw an analogy to the corporate world. A company’s goals could be to create great products, to give its customers a cheap deal, or prosaically, to maximise shareholder value. Similarly a political party might want to create a welfare state, or to increase economic freedom, or prosaically, to get into power. These are all valid goals. A company which said that its goal was to have really great internal processes, but mentioned nothing about its products or customers is probably not going to do very well at the market.

The Caravan story does allude to this:

After suggesting that the “professionalisation” of politics, with its recruitment strategies drawn from the world of business management, had produced politicians wary of taking a stand on anything controversial, Mehta drew a contrast with the 1970s. “There was a massive wave of young people into politics,” he said, “but they had clear political identities at a young age. You knew what Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad stood for in 1974. I don’t know what Rahul Gandhi stands for.”

By a happy coincidence, I discovered a bit of Yes, Prime Minister dialogue this evening that sums up this whole issue of really fantastic organisational processes for the sake of really fantastic organisational processes:

Sir Humphrey: My job is to carry out government policy.

Jim Hacker: Even if you think it is wrong?

Sir Humphrey: Well, almost all government policy is wrong, but…frightfully well carried out.

This is actually better than the Youth Congress. At least Sir Humphrey could comment on government policy. With the Youth Congress, we don’t even know what the policies are.

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