organization design

Effectiveness of high powered reviews

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Legend has it that emperor Akbar used to come out in the night, dressed as a beggar, roam the kingdom to find out what was ‘actually happening’ and what his people were ‘actually saying’ about the ‘state of affairs‘ in his rule.

Now consider the following two scenarios – one from a political arena & another from corporate space

Scenario 1:
A high powered minister/politician wants to go to the ‘field’ to find out what’s happening and take stock of the various projects sanctioned by his government.

We all know what would happen next.

  • The people responsible, for the ministers tour, would plan the tour in such a way that he get to travel only through those areas where work has happened
  • Some ‘patch work’ would happen just prior to the visit; in the form of road getting repaired, garbage cleaned up, whitewash of few buildings. This would also mean that significant effort/resources are diverted to make this happen.
  • Actual people asked to stay away/prevented from meeting the minister so that he doesn’t come to know of the reality and instead briefing done by planted attendees
  • And life goes back to normal after the visit & the minister believes in what he saw – progress and satisfied people…

Scenario 2:
Well meaning, with all the noble intentions, senior management decides on ‘periodic project reviews’ by a panel including the CEO and top most bosses of the organization. This is done for the senior management to get a pulse on what is happening on the ground (at a project level).
The projects are selected and a calendar published well in advance so as to avoid any last minute surprises and make the best use of the bandwidth availability of the senior management.

What do you think will happen? Have you seen anything happening, in Scenario 2, that is different from what actually happens in Scenario 1?