My journey with Indus Action(IA) began in 2016. We were a team of 7 people back then; 7 people spread across two cities. I was part of the expansion team, where I played a role in growing our mission in a ‘network model’ across the country. Slowly over time our team also expanded from 7 to 14 to 27 and we are now close to 50 people collectively working on the mission. My role largely revolved around people and operations and gradually I started taking more interest in cultural aspects at IA.
At IA, we constantly strive to be a Deliberately Developmental Organization (DDO). This concept is adopted from a book called An Everyone Culture. We did not know much about the book when we started off, it was a recommendation from a friend/mentor to IA. We started reading this book together and discussed parts of it during our weekly team meetings. As an organization, we believed in adopting principles from this book and then customized practices that were suitable for our context.
Some of the key principles that form the foundation of our culture are Home, Edge, and Groove.
In Picture: Snapshot from the Book An Everyone Culture
We strive to make people feel at ‘Home’ by creating a space for individuals to bring their authentic selves to work without the fear of being judged. We start off every week with PEN calls where the entire network comes together to build in capacity and think through operational challenges in a collective and a generative manner. Fridays are days when the entire team comes together to strengthen org culture where we have various activities/ sessions to cater to the needs of the individual and the organization. In the Pre-COVID times, team lunches formed an important and essential part of our org culture.
We strengthen our ‘Groove’ by setting up strong practices to communicate regularly around our daily commitments and practices. We have scrums* regularly to ensure that our work grows along with people. During campaigns** we get together every day for short 30-minute scrums to debrief the activities of the day and rework on strategies for the next day to be more efficient. These discussions do get heated up at times but keeping the mission at the center and separating the individual from the action help us go about these in a generative manner.
We strongly believe that adults can grow as well and hence as a result we constantly keep working on our ‘Edges’. Everyone at IA is very open to giving and receiving feedback. We have set up structures to ensure this happens through weekly check-ins, monthly reviews, and quarterly 360-degree feedback cycle and performance reviews. The fact that it is not just your manager giving feedback but peers as well makes it a fruitful experience.
My biggest takeaway from being part of an organization that strives to be a DDO has been Pain + Reflection = Progress.
This keeps me going and motivates me to set big, audacious goals, fail at different steps, reflect on the journey, take corrective measures, and then ultimately succeed.
Reflection forms the core of our DNA. As a team, we step back every Thursday and reflect on the week gone by both at a personal and professional level and share it with the team by penning it down on a shared sheet. A lot of stories and bonds emerge through this sheet which leads to making us stronger as a team.
One of my favorite times at IA is the ‘Step-back’. The entire team takes a pause and steps back from work. We usually spend 10 days in remote places across the country which are a source of inspiration and a place of immense learning for us. During these 10 days, we explore our deepest selves and revisit our operating principles. The step-back also gives each of us a chance to know our peers at a different level which may not be the case on a regular day at work.
To summarize, IA has provided me with a ‘Home’ where I can be myself while I navigate my deepest weaknesses and fears and emerge successfully, growing both, personally and professionally. As we say, once an Actioner, always an Actioner. This place has given me a family and I am ever grateful to all the members of the team.
In Picture: Happy Times. PEN DAY. Dated April 11, 2019
*Scrum: Focused group discussions to improve the overall efficiency of the team and discuss the opportunities and obstacles on the way towards a goal.
**Campaign: 100-day sprints to drive urgency within Government systems and internal ways of working. In these 100 days, actioners push themselves in a non-stop manner to increase the outcomes of the system manifolds.