I think the greatest invention of all time is organisation itself because by working together as one, the NADRA team achieved far beyond anything anybody could accomplish individually. Pakistan needs leaders that can bring about radical management innovation in organisations.
At a time of unprecedented economic turbulence, a politically charged atmosphere and social upheaval, organisations need, more than ever before, to operate at peak levels. This is an uphill challenge for anyone, especially those who take it on as a new assignment. The new government needs leaders who understand both how to achieve organisational excellence and how to sustain it.
Even organisations like NADRA need to consistently innovate to stay relevant and that’s the reason we are introducing new products like smart cards. Back in 2008, we were left with just two months’ salary for our employees and now we are a profitable organisation. All this, despite the fact that government institutions owe us billions of rupees. We said no to governmental budgets a long time ago and started financing salaries and technology upgrades from our own earnings through national and international projects — to become a totally self-reliant organisation. Anybody who gets an identity card for the first time, gets it free of charge — a product that was our major revenue earner. About 30 million identity cards have been made free of charge in the last five years. Adult registration has been increased to 73 per cent, with female registration almost double in 2013, compared with 2008. An identity card is transformed into a secure and smart entitlement card that provides accidental life insurance and possibly many more services in the future. Helping document the economy, digging out tax evaders, combing out ghost workers, identifying bogus voters, highlighting ineligible zakat beneficiaries, targeting poor families for financial inclusion and identifying vulnerable flood victims for cash disbursements are a few NADRA solutions that require out-of-the-box thinking.
Perhaps, the most important question facing the new government today is this: how do you build an organisation that performs flawlessly and evolves rapidly, one that delivers sterling results today and changes fast enough to be relevant tomorrow as well? The opposition parties will quickly and mercilessly exploit any operational weakness. Pakistan is entering a ruthless phase of wrenching change: an era in which the future is less and less an extrapolation of the past. Thus, what matters is not just an organisation’s competitive advantage at a point in time, but also its evolutionary advantage over time.
Evidence shows that only a third of the organisations that achieve excellence are able to maintain it for over decades. Even fewer manage to implement successful transformation programmes. These statistics have devastating implications. In government, the majority of reform programmes will fail if organisations won’t be allowed to operate without political influence and bureaucratic slavery.
In this hyper-competitive environment, with a hyperactive media and judiciary, every organisation is either going forward or going backward; there’s no standing still. Getting better is no longer enough. Today, a company must be capable of being different. The real problem in Pakistan is the legacy of bureaucratic processes standing out as a sore thumb in every organisation, doing little to serve the cause of proactive change. Radical management innovation is the answer and we don’t have the luxury of time to go through the analysis paralysis.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2013.
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