Making Real Organisations

imageI had a session on this topic with managers of a large MNC recently. They were interested in the thought, vision and strategy involved in creating an organisation.

You cannot help but personalise such an endeavour, if you want authenticity. It all starts from a considered and declared choice. ‘Who am I’? The real authentic model! I will live ‘MY’ life; not someone else’s. It is only one life to live after all and why short change yourself.

Once you understand the ‘Who am I’ part (facing the truth is tough!), it becomes easier. The next vital question is ‘Why’ do something? It’s essential to connect the ‘Why’ to the ‘Who am I’. You want to do things which are fulfilling your aspirations. There is a very good talk on TED by Simon Sinek which explains the ‘Why’. He then goes on to secondary questions, like ‘What to do’, to satisfy the ‘Why’. And once you decide on the ‘What’, you can go into implementation and talk about ‘How to do it’. (Simon Sinek ‘Start with Why’)

The ‘Who’ is our soul; ‘Why’ is the vision; ‘What’ is the concept/strategy; and lastly ‘How’ is the tactics.

Most organisations function only on the ‘What and How’ level. Its not authentic and it’s generally not sustainable. At some point, to exist beyond plain commerce, they will have to dive deeper to learn about themselves.

My legacy, driven on by the ‘Why’, is doing ‘What’ my soul wants to do. Not what ‘someone else’ wants me to do. If I deliver on what someone else wants to achieve, that is no success. I may have wasted my life.

So from childhood I wanted to do certain things. Money or position was a minor achievement in life. Fun, adventure, helping others were the big reality. Respect for characters like Abdus Sattar Edhi was intense. On the other hand, I had little admiration for corporate executives, especially the gung-ho variety.

To use Engro, as illustration of the above process.

The foods business started on the simple dynamics of per capita consumption. Same calculations are used by other consumer organisations in Pakistan. It’s commerce, core capitalism and fulfilment of apparent needs. Nothing wrong with that, but not my game. Why take this role at all? It amounted to two things :-

A) Its about Pakistaniat. Recreate the progressive Pakistan of the 60’s, to make us seem worthwhile again. Also to do something for rural area prosperity and emancipation of people.

B) Run an organisation in Cyrus the Great mould. A people’s organisation. Here people will carve their own destiny, they will belong and have ownership. There is no London or New York to report to. This is just us. We have freedom to think and freedom to do, because this is ours. If we fail, the CEO shall be answerable, as long as it is shown that due diligence was practiced and their was no malafide intent.

In the end this ownership drives the company. It ends up growing at huge CAGRs. It ends up winning international and local awards. In the end it also becomes very profitable. Because profit is a by-product of engagement of employees. The commercial purpose is achieved, but it’s culturally done in a human way and people are still happy.

In summary

An entity is created (NewCo)

A Vision is carved out.

A Value system is instituted to cater for the workings of a free, feeling and adventurous organisation. NewCo must hold a moral high ground.

The HR strategy is based on above Vision and Values. NewCo needs risk takers; flag flyers; people with heart; people not so interested in normality, but wanting iconic things.

Put them together and make them buy into the Vision.

CEO personally must live the daily aspect of Values. He has to walk the talk.

Out of this comes a common purpose. In this common purpose there is belief.

Out of this belief comes passion. Passion leads to ownership, diligence and hard work.

In achieving all the above, a team is formed. When team dynamics come into play, We are on a roll. The team will propel each other towards the target. Any target is now achievable. Every now and then, senior management will have to give direction, nudge, cajole, pamper a bit; but the cart will goimage rollicking along on its own now.

That was Engro Foods. Not once, but twice and with different management and people each time. I have also witnessed the same formula work in Shaukat Khanum Hospital.

*the pictures are from


About sarfarazar
I have been lucky! A long career with large scale organisations and some acclaim. Also, took time off to write, mentor and do some education and social development projects. I continue to mentor and help younger people in life. Inshallah, hope to write on various subjects in my blog.

4 Responses to Making Real Organisations

  1. Muhammad Imran says:

    Excellent thought. Well said

  2. AJK says:

    Thanks for a nice read SAR.
    Please share your views on forced ranking system, widely used at engro. Nurturing talent is huge challenge to the organizations of today & passion alone can’t hold them for long, since we weren’t suppose to stay in one role for a longer period of time. Any comparative analysis or words of wisdom will be highly appreciated.

  3. sarfarazar says:

    Forced ranking is used by very few organisations. The Engro employees are used to it, because they grow up in that environment. Those who join from outside (like myself) take time to settle with it. I personally prefer bunching grades (A, B, ….E) rather than speciifc numbers. I can remember a particular year when a 109 % sales performance individual came at the bottom number, because the performance was comparative. Creates a bit of pain, but also does drive performance.

    Your second query. On the contrary, I think passion is the only thing which is sustainable and can drive people. Positions, money, etc are very very secondary factors. They are consolidators. So in my case most of my life, the only time I have lost employee engagement..i would say about 3 years out of 32..have been when I myself have been disengaged (quite my personal failure, not my colleagues failure). The one which drives employees away most is bosses. I would say 80 % of the time (nothing worse than a bad boss).

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