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On the path of Values to Value®

– Narayana Mandaleeka (MGPL), TCS


The world in which we live today is complex and ‘change’ is a constant occurrence. The boundaries between technology, society, management and economics are rather blurred and often not perceivable. In the end it may be noted that entire systems act as a whole, implying that the systems are interconnected. At the same time, the perturbations that occur as a result of change driven by known and unknown events alter the stability of these systems. Under these scenarios, the challenge is to understand the interconnectedness and the cybernetic character that drives the systems and to make them self-sustaining in spite of these constant changes. Managing change is thus a challenge.

The need today is essentially a systems approach which primarily focuses on shifting from the parts/elements/components to the whole; from structure to process; from complete description to living with approximate descriptions- in order to address organizational issues.

Thus, a sustainable solution to managing change is to understand this interconnectedness and the impact of change rather than trying to manage visible symptoms of the change. All systems are thus cybernetic in character and solutions to change need to be addressed in a cybernetic way in order to deliver sustainable solutions. Cybernetics and Systems Science regard society, organisms, ecologies and such as complex systems, having multi-dimensional networks of information systems known as “cybernetic systems”. Systems theory is structure related (how the parts are organized – hierarchy, levels). Cybernetics is function related (how does the system control, communicate within and outside). The two are complementary (2 sides of the same coin).

Norbert Wiener’s work on cybernetics which he initially conceived as “communication and control” has become relevant in this vastly expanded complexity, as an approach to meet the challenges developed by these perennially occurring perturbations in the ecosystem.

The need is to understand the complex interconnectedness and wiring between social issues, management technology and aspects of the ecosystem. Cybernetics has therefore become highly relevant to our work in Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

TCS found relevance in Norbert Wiener’s theory of cybernetics for business organizations.

In any organization, the key challenges faced by today’s manager are coping with rapid change, complexity and uncertainty. The managers need to learn a “new way of reasoning” rather than think they need a “new way of performing”.

Most visionary leaders agree that Systems Thinking is critical to solving complex problems. Managers also need to find a balance between the opposing interests of the firm’s different stakeholders.

The multidimensional character of any system plays a very important role in defining viable holistic solutions and in ensuring homeostasis, viability, self-sustainability.

TCS’ approach to problem solving and ensuring sustainable solutions to its clients is based on finding holistic solutions. It uses the various qualities that systems exhibit. Research has built numerous methods and models. The approaches are guided by principles of holistic systems like such as (1) In any system, the whole is more than the sum of the parts (2) A system acts as a whole (3) Only variety can deal with variety and in holistic solutions the variety of the interacting systems is matched (4) Problems are always holistic but solutions are as holistic as they are defined.

When one understands things holistically, the future of humanity depends on the sustainability of a complex system involving three interdependent, highly fragile sub-systems: the natural environment, the social/political system and the global economy.

Any “Responsible Business” should be equipped to think into these aspects and work towards sustainability. On this aspect the very survival of a business organization hinges. This way of thinking will bring about the right amount of efficiencies and effectiveness to a firm’s operations.

This is easier said than done. The bed rock for all these actions are values that the firm internalizes and that shape its attitude, behavior and thinking into the daily routines of people. “Thus engraining values that promote overall excellence and well-being ensure that an organization is able to sustain the creation and delivery of value”.

By adopting Values to Value® as a working framework and philosophy to design the offerings that interest the clients, organizations stand to gain in excellence. The second term in the above working philosophy, “Value” refers to the stakeholder value that should result holistically. A key component in problem solving is to understand the problem from different perspectives. Learning takes place by designing the solution with this understanding and performing as per the design. In reality, achieving the goal may not be as simple as it is thought to be. In complex and uncertain situations the goals may be evasive until a good enough understanding of a situation is arrived at. With each successive action cycle learning deepens understanding and prepares the team for the next cycle of action bringing work close to targeted outcomes. Thus achieving goals is a journey involving reflection on the results, conceptualizations of reality followed by experimentation and innovation. The goal itself may be changing with the changing environment (in the contexts of businesses or otherwise).

TCS has embarked on a concept called “Trusted Business Adviser” (TBA), to unify several ongoing research initiatives under one umbrella program known by the same name. A TBA organization delivers the value that it promises to its clients by translating the qualities that it develops in solutions that it conceives for its client by engaging its associates with complementary competencies imparted to them by a definitive process.

There are several research streams enabling an organization to become a TBA treading on the path of Values to Value®. That makes for another topic itself.
MGPL photo

Narayana Mandaleeka (MGPL) is with Tata Consultancy Services Limited, the largest software services company of Asia for the last 32 years. He led business development for TCS in Silicon Valley, California, during 1997-2000. He initiated and managed the TCS’s research collaborations with leading universities in US, working from California until 2002. His research interests include business systems and modeling, innovation management and contextual search engines. Mr. Narayana holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore. He holds memberships with international professional organizations such as ACM, GloGift, INCOSE, American Society of Cybernetics (ASC) and he is a Senior Member of IEEE. He is also a Fellow of IETE. He holds patents for his work in the Business Systems & Cybernetics Centre (BSCC). He is a Vice President & Chief Scientist at TCS, Hyderabad, heading BSCC at TCS, Hyderabad. He is a past Chair of the IEEE Hyderabad Section (2010-11) and IEEE’s Computer Society for Hyderabad (2008-09). He was the General Chair of IEEE India’s flagship conference Indicon2011 and has served on several conference program committees. He won the “2012 IEEE Outstanding Volunteer Award” for Region 10 (Asia Pacific, Sub Continent, and Australia).
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