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Baby steps in conflict zones
July, 13th 2006

An atypical publication from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India ( is Government Consulting - Taking the First Steps. What is unusual is the assertiveness right from the foreword.

"Consulting, especially Government consulting, is no longer something that is reserved for big consulting firms, or for offshore firms," writes Kamlesh S. Vikamsey.

As an example, he mentions how the Department for Industrial Development (DFID), when it entered India, used to offshore about 63 per cent of its work. "Today, the situation is totally reversed and more than 70 per cent of their work is done by Indian firms."

Prefatory remarks by Sunil Goyal sound positive. He speaks of the numerous assignments for the conversion of accounts of urban local bodies (ULBs). B. Chakravarty and his team have worked on the text of the book, dividing the contents into topics such as selection of consultants, writing the technical proposal, financial proposal, presentation, negotiation and so on. The format is the reader-friendly Q&A, made friendlier by a simple style.

For instance, the first question says, "I belong to a small firm, and I have concluded that this area is not for me." The ICAI whispers back: "Let us tell you a secret... The trick lies in trying to get contracts in post-conflict countries." That should make you sit up and read further: "Immediately after a conflict, there are very few who want to go in and work; and those who give out contracts will give them to anybody who wants to come. This is the time people get even seven-day contracts, and after one or two of such assignments they have got `international consultant' all over their sleeve."

Essential addition to your kit, even as you head towards Iraq, shall we say?

Polyarchy in project management

What is the result when fragmentation (that is, the level of individualisation) is low and contestation (or the level of internal debate) is high? `Collegial organisation,' say Stewart R. Clegg, David Courpasson, and Nelson Phillips in Power and Organisations, from Sage ( Collegial organisations are those in which "there is dominant orientation to a consensus achieved between the members of a body of experts who are, theoretically, equals in their level of expertise but who are specialised by area of expertise," according to Walters, cited in the book. Low fragmentation and low contestation lead to `collectivist-democratic organisations'. When both are high, you have `polyarchic organisations'. And high fragmentation with low contestation is the recipe for bureaucratic organisations.

"Polyarchy is an ambivalent power structure enabling both the official recognition of a plurality of members and political actors, the right to disagree with the leaders, and the simultaneous concentration of political power," explain the authors.

Contemporary examples of this can be found in project-based organisations ("which are the organisational corollary of knowledge-intensive economies"). Polyarchy is a political truce that allows oligarchs to take care of `the political-strategic agenda and make crucial decisions.' Worth an in-depth read.

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