Thursday, March 12, 2009

Who is Important, Part 2

The Organisational Chart

One of the first things that a commitee will do when given a task is to lay out an organisational chart (OC) of the committee. Likewise, whenever the college has a change in focus, they will spend hours in discussion coming up with a new OC first. Every submission made to the government regarding new programs must have an OC in the front. In fact, even some marketing brochures have had the OC!! (As if prospective students cared!!) If you haven't picked up on it yet, the OC is important because it shows Who is Important.

One of my first exposures to this OC-focus was when I first attended committee meetings regarding the college's ISO standards. The local auditor was scheduled for a visit, and there were many files that were not yet ready to be audited, but the committee rather spent several hours agonising over the Organisational Chart. An OC, you see, shows the visitor Who is Important.

Another committee meeting in preparation for the audit went for four hours simply to decide upon who would sit where during the opening meeting with the auditors. Although the opening is essentially formal and, therefore, fairly inconsequential (to the auditting task), it mainly showed the auditors the OC! Yeah, you got it: so they would know Who is Important.

Another anecdote comes to mind. For a while we had a man "working" as the Registrar, whose assistant's computer was the printer server. For several weeks, I had to use that particular printer and I transfered my files via a USB-drive. (This was before the college installed a wireless network.) In using the computer, I noticed that for several weeks the assistant had the college's OC on the task-bar, and it appeared that he was mostly making incremental changes day-by-day to the Registrar's Office OC. Mostly, it seemed that the size of the boxes containing the Registrar's name and the other assistants kept getting changed. Some made larger; some smaller; some moved higher up; some moved further down. This is so odd to me since I have worked for many years in various organisations in the west, and I never once saw an Organisational Chart within those places!

The question of Who is Important, is so key to understanding the Malay work environment, that it will be taken up again in another post. The downside, of course, is that the task gots lost in all of the politics involved in establishing Who is Important in the office. Malay organisations and companies are known for their ineptness (from a global perspective) and this erstwhile focus on Importance is one of the major reasons for the failures.

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