Late #ebbfmember Nousha Ram on the traits of successful leadership for these complex times: agile, principles-based and collaborative ( Part 1 of 3 )
Interview written by Arlette George
As we collectively uncover the nature of meaningful work for the 21st Century, Nousha Ram, who worked in complex technology project delivery as a Partner at Deloitte Canada and was a member of ebbf’s advisory council had, what may be called, regenerative insights that address many of the issues faced by leaders and teams in these times. We start with the first episode of this three-part interview.
A new agile approach is needed
The essence of Nousha Ram’s role was to help companies maximize the value of IT investments and have IT interact with and improve business strategy:
“You need to understand that you can invest in X, Y and Z over three years, spend $10 million to create A, B and C and still create something irrelevant, and that is of course considered a failure. This you want to avoid. You need to know what would make more sense…” Businesses wanting to invest in IT are faced with a dilemma namely, ‘How do we get from here to there when” as Nousha Ram said “We know long term planning is no longer an option in today’s fast changing environment”.
We used to address this problem using Learning Theory and Psychology to forge process-oriented tools. Cognitive Learning with its concepts rooted in pattern, prior experience and memory were studied and then combined with Psychology Gestalt Theory which places an emphasis on ‘the whole of human experience’. Eventually, what emerged from this melting pot, precipitated by the loss of the privilege of long term planning, were iterative, incremental methods of management in the design & build activities of engineering and information technology.
A more flexible new mindset is now needed in the work place, and it continues to expand and evolve: “So” said Nousha Ram, “we work in cycles for businesses to succeed in a time of accelerated change.” To try to encapsulate this type of process-oriented approach, a single word helps us summarize the ideal , the word is, of course, Agile.
Agile approaches in IT have become so successful in driving innovation, and subsequently business, that we currently stand on a new threshold, one that people speak of with both fear and fascination: the introduction of artificial intelligence into the world of work. And yet, the orientation that Nousha Ram brought, offered a bright optimism and unexpected moral uplift. She cited Lewis Mumford as an influence. He helped originate a vision for how people could work to create technologies that functioned in an ecologically responsible manner, and differentiated this process as, biotechnics, to describe a use of technology that drives for balance, wholeness and completeness in the betterment of society and, which could be likewise, mirrored in the behaviours of individuals.
An interesting feature of Nousha Ram’s career path was her trajectory, built up on maths and engineering yet now investing large portions of her time mentoring and coaching team members to their highest potential. Why might this be? What is the connection? She explained: “Cross-functionality has become intrinsic; teams of different functional expertise work as a self directed network towards their goal.”
We know that the aim of any multi-disciplinary approach is to increase the level of creativity and allow new, fresh thinking to take place, it is also necessary to avoid incoherence and dysfunction, which can unfortunately emerge in these sorts of open-ended process-oriented systems. To describe how she worked with teams to avert these sorts of risks, Nousha Ram quoted Shoghi Effendi:
“The permanence and stability achieved by any association, group or nation is a result of — and dependent upon — the soundness and worth of the principles upon which it bases the running of its affairs and the direction of its activities.”