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Study of Organizational Culture and the Indian Army

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Published: Tue, 19 Dec 2017

THE INDIAN ARMY is the land based branch and the largest component of the Indian Armed Forces. It came into being in 1947 when India gained independence, and inherited most of the infrastructure of the British Indian Army that was located in post-partition India. It is a voluntary service and though there is a provision for military conscription in the Indian constitution, it has never been imposed. The Indian Army is the world’s second-largest standing army whose primary mission is to ensure the national security and defense of the Republic of India from external aggression and threats and maintaining peace and security within its borders. It also conducts humanitarian rescue operations during natural calamities and other disturbances. The President of India serves as the Commander-in-Chief of the Army.

CULTURE is comprised by the customs, heritage and achievements of a particular segment of society. Organizational culture is the psychology, attitudes, experiences, beliefs and values of an organization and its employees. In this case, we talk about the army. As an organization, its culture is the sum total of the activities and ideas shared by this group of people with its common requirements, customs, laws and traditions. These are percolated across the Army by the thoughts and feelings of the people concerned and are reinforced by actions of individuals and sub-groups to present a whole picture of a common and shared perception of a uniform blend of ideals working and striving towards the achievement of a common goal. By ultimately working in accordance with and in response to a single ‘will’, political and military they attain the objectives laid down for them in peace, and particularly during operations in war. This is how the Army is designed and it is mandatory that this design is followed in the best manner possible for maintaining and preserving the solidarity and cohesion of the force and its professional competence.

The two epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata constitute the framework on which the edifice of Army is built. The elements of culture have been imbibed a lot from these two epics. Even in the Indian army just like Mahabharata, the good of the nation is put first rather than the individual. In terms of power distribution just like the Ramayana the Indian Army is a well structured organisation. There is a central authority of power which releases orders, the people at various levels follow orders from the superior and respect them at the same time. There are clear cut guidelines for each and every army personnel to follow and deviations from the same are not appreciated in the Institute. Army as an institute lays special emphasis on attention to details as they need to be sure of everything before going out for war. The armed personnel have both facets in their personality they are aggressive when required and can be stable when required. The Indian army has people orientation also as part of its culture. It believes more than the artillery the men are their biggest strength. They have proper training facilities to inculcate them into the culture of the Indian Army.

To further understand the culture of the Indian Army we interviewed three Army personnel. The following is a gist of the three interviews –

What are key facets of Culture of the Indian Army?

The key facets of Indian Army include a sense of bonding, they are a unit which is closely knit, an extremely disciplined bunch of people with high levels of motivation. They have high respect for what they do and their peer group. In practise, a lot of times the Indian Army does not receive its promised share of returns and hence the general moral of the troops takes a dip. This can be attributed to bureaucratic interference.

How does the organisation structure impact culture?

The organisation structure helps them integrate with the culture, since it clearly defines roles of individuals. At the same time it also brings in a sense of respect towards their seniors.

How do the forces men get to know about the culture of Indian Army when they are recruited?

Culture is imbibed in the men right from the days of training. It is a rigorous training method followed at the IMA/NDA/OTA to train these bright young individuals to become men of the Indian army. During the training period through their interactions with seniors the recruits learn more than the functionalities of the Indian Army. They say it is one the best ways in which culture is imbibed in the minds of these young individuals.

What is sought after in Indian Army the larger Interest or Individual requests?

It’s the interest of the nation that is the most important thing for any of the armed forces men. He puts the nation before everything in his life.

How clearly are roles defined in the Indian Army?

Roles are very clearly defined in the Indian Army. A hierarchy structure is in place. The posting of individuals happens on the basis of role requirement and then finding the best fit.

Does culture also evolve and is there scope for new traditions?

Indian army is an institute which believes in continuous development for the better, at the same it believes in maintaining its rich heritage. In a nutshell it amalgamates the old and new and ensures the best is created. But it likes to hold on to its past a lot.

Any knowledge of cross culture impact of the people as they come from various backgrounds?

It is probably the best example to understand homogeneity in heterogeneity. The backgrounds which people come from are diverse but at the same time at the centre of their diversity is unity which binds them to guard their nation’s boundaries. Due to varied backgrounds, individuals learn to appreciate others and also at the same time learn to celebrate differences.

How important is detailing as a facet of culture in the Indian Army?

The most important facet of Indian Army’s culture is detailing. One cannot go to battle field without knowing every detail of war. Special emphasis is laid on detailing right from the training period of each and every personnel. An eye for detailing is extremely important as well as highly appreciated in the Indian Army.

How does the Indian army communicate its culture to the outside world?

Each army personnel is the brand ambassador of the Indian army. He/She is role model for today’s youth and carries himself accordingly. Besides Indian army leads by example in every aspect it gets itself involved in. But in totality the army is a very closed organisation and not appreciative unwarranted interaction with the outside world.

How do you deal with someone who does not follow the culture of Indian Army?

For somebody who is not in line with the culture, they are various stages of ensuring that the person is brought in line with the culture like warnings and annual reports. But if all the options don’t work out then Court Marshall is also an option which is exercised where the armed personnel is made to forfeit his position and honour associated with it.

FUNCTIONAL AND DYSFUNCTIONAL ASPECTS

The mission statement of the Indian Army is not a very clearly defined one. On a broader perspective the Indian Army stands for the following ideology:

The Indian Army doctrine defines it as “The Indian Army is the land component of the Indian Armed Forces which exist to uphold the ideals of the Constitution of India.” As a major component of national power, along with the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force, the roles of the Indian Army are as follows:

Primary: Preserve national interests and safeguard sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of India against any external threats by deterrence or by waging war.

Secondary: Assist Government agencies to cope with ‘proxy war’ and other internal threats and provide aid to civil authority when requisitioned for the purpose.”

Following is the tabulation of the functional and dysfunctional aspects of the Indian Army:

Functional Aspects

Dysfunctional Aspects

It is a highly integrated organization

Interference by the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy tries to influence decision making and hence some decisions tend to go haywire, creating confusions for the people around.

The motivational levels of the personnel of the Armed Forces are extremely high which is needed for the job profile that they have.

Red Tapism. There is a lot of lethargy in some departments to get the things to action. This is quite unacceptable for an institution like the Indian Army.

There is immense respect for an individual as well as for the team spirit.

Distributed decision making. This causes some crucial decisions to be delayed.

The organization has an excellent training programme, which grooms the complete personality of an individual instead of focussing on one aspect.

Budget allocations are not defined within the Organization. Hence, the allocation is not even sometimes.

They have extremely high standards for selection to the Indian Army, and despite a manpower crunch they have decided not to lower the selection criterion.

Indian Army needs to attract the correct talent, which currently it is unable to do. This can be attributed to the lack of proper and correct information to the youth.

Very good quality of life for the people who are a part of the Indian Army.

Lobbying for promotions. At the senior level, there is a lot of push and pull for getting the coveted positions. This creates an unhealthy environment in the organization.

Indian Army ensure a good post retirement life.

Low incentive remunerations. Anomalies in the pay structure for the armed forces are a common occurrence.

Indian Army provides opportunities to experience various cultures and live in various places as a part of their tenures.

ACTION PLAN

Based on the derived dysfunctional aspects, we can note that the discrepancies occur on two fronts:

  • External influences
  • Internal functions

The issues caused by external influences include:

Interference by the bureaucracy – The Army should set such high standards that its perceived image is one where it only serves its mission and cannot be influenced. This image will deter all kinds of informal requests and interferences. This can be done by giving more autonomy to the forces in the framework of the organizations serving the country.

The issues caused by internal functions include:

Red tapism – The Army witnesses excessive regulation and rigid conformity to formal rules that at times prevents swift action or decision-making. The organization should allow for flexibility in structure of actions and decision making. Also, it can include cutting of red tape as a policy promise.

Hierarchical decision making – Orders issued by Army personnel are of critical importance, and thus the decisions to these orders need to be taken on time without any delays. This can be done by empowering officials at different levels so that decisions can be immediately taken and there arises no need to wait for sanctions from the top order when it is urgent.

Uneven budget allocations – Studying and understanding of every department’s needs, will help carry out equal and effective budget distributions. This will ensure availability of all needed resources to all departments.

Poor perceived image – The army’s current image is unable to attract attention of the youth for new recruits. This can be fixed by better communication and public relations exercise.

Lobbying for promotions – It is crucial for every organization to ensure that there are no unethical practises taking place. To prevent any lobbying for promotions, the Army should give due appraisals based on merit at the right time. It should also devise a protective mechanism for all those who report these unethical practises; this will help report all such malpractices.

Unequal remuneration compared to other Government Organizations – This brings about lack of motivation in the Army officials. The Government must ensure that the relative appraisals in all its organizations are at par.

Acknowledgement

We would like to express our gratitude to Dr. Shubhra Gaur for giving us this opportunity to conduct research on the Indian Army and its Culture and to study the various functional and dysfunctional aspects associated with this organization.

We would also like to thank Maj.Gen.(Retd) D.V. Kalra, VSM for helping us understand the culture and working style of the Indian Army..


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