No matter what difference people share in political persuasion or other policy perspectives, they are motivated by a spirit of public service. With such a motivation, how can the people create conditions even if they have different perspectives on what is the objective or purpose of good government? How do you create conditions for the people to teach and learn from each other?

The answer, according to Professor Karthik Ramanna, a Professor of Business and Public Policy at the University of Oxford, was the notion of driving transformational change through three different layers.

Professor Karthik talked about how to create a space where people with different perspectives can come together to work towards common goals at the Friday Forum held in Thimphu on October 13.

He shared his experience driving transformational change through various case studies. He said there are three layers of transformational change: What does it mean to drive transformational change in terms of layers of society, at the layers of different organisations, and at the individual level?

Driving transformational change is a complex task that engages individuals, society, and organisations at all levels. At the societal level, there are three key factors to consider: collaboration, checklists, and culture ( 3Cs). According to Professor Karthik, transformational change for societies should have all the businesses, government and business for loss and profits synced with each other.

“One of the reasons why the transformational change in society often fails is because we try to set up a business to do perhaps the role of government or we try to set up a business to do the role of profit and loss or likewise the government tries to set up to do the role of business or the role of profit and loss,” he said. “Each sector has its own unique role to play in society.”

Business in society is an important force and the focus should be on the purpose of the business which is driving excellence in society. The core purpose of the government in terms of transformational change is securing the basic level of freedom like the basic right to property, basic right to speech, political persuasion, and so forth. Those kinds of core freedoms are functions of the government.

There are also so-called positive freedoms which might be referred to as opportunity freedoms which enable people or provide people with an opportunity to be entrepreneurs or providing opportunity to be successful in the commercial serial. He added that investment in education is one such opportunity for freedom that the government can provide.

Following the collaboration, the other important key factor in society is a checklist. There is no formula on how to drive the transformational drive or particular book on the checklist, but there are several works of literature and knowledge that can shape the checklist. The professor added that the checklist is important and useful for the government as they think about making sure that they get the right kind of coverage across three sectors in driving transformational change.

The 3rd C or ‘Culture’ becomes significant because not everything is covered by the checklist, and the culture drives us to decide where the checklist isn’t there. If the checklist is not explicit in the context of a checklist which is often one of the hardest decisions for people then the way we make decisions is through the culture. Culture which is basically the set of shared beliefs that determine or define how it is that we want to live as a collective society.

“How would we know what is the right decision to make when there is no checklist, when there is no rule book, that is where your culture comes in,” Karthik Ramanna said.

At the level of public sector organisations, the challenge that is often faced is a lack of resources. He said that case studies show that it is understood that for any organisation to succeed, a set of cultures is a must. That the company never compromises on quality, has a strong culture of its own to run the organisation, gives full discretion to the staff by showing they trust them to do the best and asks staff to move out after years of experience to create space for new ones.

Professor Karthik explained that what this show is that they have real clarity around vision, mission and values. “Vision and mission are vital and should be spelt out well. The vision is sort of what are they trying to do, the mission is sort of giving them a sense of objective or why is it important to them, and the third value is basically telling how they are going to do.”

He also said that when a person is hired, the individual should be given the full autonomy to perform, let them be themselves, and create an alignment to the same vision and mission of their organisations. There is also a need for a mechanism to hold someone accountable in the company for their action and have some purpose of rotation so that people do not become too comfortable in their roles. “There are principles.”

The professor said in any transformational change, it is important to create trust among the employees giving them the sense of being involved and that they will not be punished because of their input or decision they made. The decision to transformational change should not necessarily be from a top-to-down system. “It is important to see you are hiring the right person or whom you are surrounding yourself with.”


Contributed by

Yangchen C Rinzin

Yangchen C Rinzin is a Kuensel Reporter and currently a Research Fellow with the Centre for Bhutan and GNH Studies