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Changing the Status Quo


Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) is a happening place. Seminars organised by CLAWS in the last year were very topical, interesting, informative, and thought provoking. During a seminar on “Liberation of Bangladesh:  1971 – Reflection and Recollection”, the attendees had the privilege of listening to the views of General Shamsher Singh Mehta, (Retd), amongst many other distinguished veterans. The General talked briefly of the ‘tank column that he led to Dacca’ during the war, choosing to spend more time and energy to inspire the generation next on the occasion. He emphasised persuasively on what he called the need to ‘change the status quo’, a thought that inspired me to pen this article.

Causing, absorbing and managing change is the raison d'être of the leadership, both in war as well as peace. General Mehta is definitely proud of the change his generation brought about, and he has very good reasons for it. He and others of his time not only witnessed, but participated in the army’s transition from the ‘ignominy of defeat of 1962’ to the ‘liberation of Bangladesh’, and that too in just nine years. The impact of the change has never been more visible, and therefore is very much audible in the tone, tenor and confidence of the General’s assertions. But what can we say about the period post ’71 till date? Changed we have certainly in the period, but has the change been for good? If yes, then how much have we improved, and what has been the rate at which we have improved our performance?

In absence of wars, positive changes can be identified or credited to organisations, if their performance is measured on a continuous basis. However, measurement is complex, frustrating, difficult, challenging, important, abused and misused; yet as Lord Kelvin once said, “if you cannot measure it, it does not exist"[1]. We may want to measure to get answers to five questions; which are, ‘Where have we been?’, ‘Where are we now?’, ‘Where do we want to go?’, ‘How are we going to get there?’ and ‘How will we know we got there?’[2] An extract from elaborate list of reasons in support of Performance Measurement detailed by Halachmi [3] are appended below:

If you cannot measure it, you do not understand it; if you cannot understand it, you cannot control it; if you cannot control it, you cannot improve it; If they know you intend to measure it, they will get it done; If you do not measure results, you cannot tell success from failure; If you cannot see success, you cannot reward it; if you are not rewarding success, you are probably rewarding failure. If you cannot see success/failure you cannot learn from it.

The army is not new to performance measurement. The army captures confidential reports of several hundred thousands of its non-commissioned, junior Commissioned and commissioned officers on an annual basis. The database of performance for all categories is maintained meticulously – integrity checked periodically – and forms the basis of all human resource management related functions in the army. I do not think a parallel, both in terms of magnitude and quality, exists anywhere in the country. What is more important is that all ranks are extremely sensitive to what is being recorded in respect of them and even in a short exposure to their confidential reports, they can, for example, reckon that their report averaged 8.33 this year, while last year it was at 8.25. This performance measurement system stimulates improvement, competition and the will to break performance barriers. No wonder, the Indian Army is best in class as far as human resource is considered (presence of other causal factors is not denied).

However, surprisingly, the science of performance measurement has not gained wider acceptance in other departments and functional facets of our organisation. To illustrate the point, let us take two specific cases: one of selecting an officer and the other of selecting a unit, both for prestigious assignments. While it can be said without any ambiguity that the officer can, and will, be selected largely on the basis of his overall profile or a quantified indicator of his performance, on the other hand selection of a unit from a pool of several hundreds of units adjudged ‘Fit for War’ can be anything but objective. Things would have been entirely different if, for example, performance of unit ‘A’ was quantified by use of a performance evaluation framework as 8.79 and that of unit ‘B’ as 8.65.

What is true for organisations/units is also true for our processes. The Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) defines the process of capital procurement. The procedure was first documented in 2002. The scope of this procedure has since been revised and enlarged through periodical reviews resulting in the promulgation of the DPP 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2013. The contentious issue here again is the measurement of impact of change.  Do we have a quantified metrics to judge the efficacy of the DPP, as it has evolved? By what degree has each of the six major revisions improved output of the procedure? Can we say with some confidence that Version 2005 brought in an improvement of x% over Version 2003?  Have we ever made an endeavour to measure efficacy of changes made, year over year?

‘Changing the status quo’ is important, but what is equally important is to measure the pace and direction of change. To make this happen, there is requirement to identify ‘Key Performance Indicators’, group them into a cohesive quantified ‘framework for measuring performance’ of organisations and processes, such that we can chart the trajectory of improvement, as a consequence of change; change from the status quo!


The author is a Senior Fellow at CLAWS.


Views expressed are personal


[1] Sink, D.S., (1991), “The role of measurement in achieving world class quality and productivity management”, Industrial Engineering, June

[2] Lebas, M.J.(1995), “Performance measurement and performance management”. International Journal of Production Economics 41 (1995) 23-35.

[3] Halachmi, A. (2005), “Performance measurement is only one way of managing performance”. International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 54, No. 7, pp. 502-516.


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Sanjay Sethi
Former Senior Fellow
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