Trying to look beyond.
evolving toward metasystems, 25 years.
Previous 20 years (1973-93), evolving:
infantry officer, Indian Army.
Two postgraduate qualifications;
Defence Studies, Defence Services Staff College, Wellington (Nilgiris) India, Madras University, 1984
Management, Institute of Rural Management Anand, Gujarat, India, 1991
Collaborates with task based teams created specifically for a given assignment.
Now looking beyond metasystems.
Active trader in the Indian stock market, using self-developed strategies and software.
M. S. Ashok
CIRRUS MANAGEMENT SERVICES LLP....India
There are two significant differences between for-profit and not-for profit enterprises. The first mainly seeks gains and benefits for a small defined set of internal stakeholders, while the second seeks to externalise gains and benefits to people whose identity is often nebulous and undefined. The other important difference is that putative beneficiaries of for-profit businesses usually have some degree of power and control over the enterprise, but this is rarely true in not-for-profit enterprises.
Distributive equity is important for both kinds of enterprises. A business that creates value only for itself is soon overtaken and becomes irrelevant. A charity that does nothing for people is no charity at all.
Success is intoxicating and can distort judgement. A little success in early stages can be very intoxicating. Business enterprises making profits, especially small businesses, rarely have the inclination or capacity to re-examine themselves, let alone re-engineer or reinvent themselves. Many businesses - not just the small ones - are inward looking, barely able to see their place in the larger context of value chains and sub-economies. They fail to notice burgeoning opportunities and threats all around and soon become self-limiting. Many die out after brief, brilliant flashes.
Much the same happens with charities, CSR and other not-for-profit enterprises. There are no pressures to perform and deliver. When they report on their work, their figures are usually about how much they have spent, how many people have been “reached”. When it comes to impact, they offer anecdotes and testimonials on “success” stories. Analytical performance reports, especially on efficiencies, scale and depth of impact are all but absent. They rarely analyse distributive equity within their value chains. They too soon become self-limiting. Many die out as soon as subsidies and grants dry up. Pioneering work by brilliant and selfless individuals, excellent ideas and lessons are lost, sometimes forever.
The metasystems approach is about continuous learning, sharing, improvement, re-engineering and reinventing, improving distributive equity, growing and diversifying. It helps venture capitalists, governments and donors to determine which enterprises to support, which is producing results, how an enterprise could do better, how much more it could do: and which enterprise deserves support and subsidies, for how long, under what conditions. The generosity of donors must never be taken for granted. Recipients of grants must continually prove their eligibility.
Why are so many not-for-profit or not-only-for-profit initiatives inefficient; projects, programmes, government organisations and NGOs? Why do so many deviate from stated goals? Why do they become sink-holes for subsidies and grants? Why do many resort to exaggerated claims of impact not logically attributable to their activities? Why can they not produce incontrovertible, independently verifiable evidence of impact and attributability? Who audits their impact and what do audits change? What indeed constitutes impact?
Why are cooperatives riddled with politics, and why are they often captured by small interest-groups who marginalise the powerless? Why is so much of CSR no better than any of the above, with claims of impact weak and almost never challenged?
If an enterprise is running well, that is not good enough. How to make it better, how to “actualize” its full potential? If it is underperforming, how to improve it; if it is failing, how to save it: and if it has failed, what to salvage?
The history of human endeavour shows that real sustainable impact is indeed possible. When a Jenner creates a smallpox vaccine, it leads to a world entirely free of smallpox. When a Salk creates a polio vaccine, it leads to a world that is (nearly) polio-free. Once microchips are created, more and better chips follow.
Why is so little about failure and underperformance of enterprises discussed in public forums; so little to be found in academic dialectics? People in general are understandably reluctant to talk about flaws, mistakes and failures. What is available on enterprises is almost always a dressed-up version of the underlying reality. Is it possible to address such difficult questions without threatening or damaging individuals, especially those acting from the best motives? Medical science shows that it is possible.
The metasystems approach addresses such questions with concern and sensitivity. Metasystems is about delivering value; more value, making things better than they are at any given time. It is about finding ways to generate continuous improvement, or at the very minimum when things are going wrong, to arrest decline and prevent deviation from defined goals.
This concept is the outcome of 25 years of experimentation underpinned by two decades more of military experience.