Success Defined by Information

Lessons from the British Administration in India

"Success is determined by information." The system worked because everyone was provided with the necessary information to do their job. The best example of a large and successful organization based on information and lacking middle management is the British state administration in India. The British ruled India for two hundred years—from the mid-18th century to the mid-20th century. To manage the vast and densely populated region, the British state administration never employed more than a thousand people. The British lived in isolation; the nearest compatriot's estate could be one or two days' journey away. During the first hundred years of rule, there was neither telegraph nor railway. The structure of the administration was horizontal. Each district officer reported directly to the provincial secretary of state. And since there were nine provinces, each secretary of state received reports from a hundred officers. Monthly, district officers compiled a full report for the provincial capital's secretary of state, detailing the fulfillment of their main functions. If the actual situation did not match the planned one, reasons were explained. Upcoming actions for each key task in the next month were then indicated. Officers asked questions regarding policies, commented on long-term opportunities, and potential dangers. The secretary of state sent back responses with comprehensive comments. TIP OF THE DAY: Find something in common between your organization's work and the British state administration in India.

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