12 Jul 2020 17:13 IST

IIM Calcutta scrambles to bring in changes in systems, academic design

Stung by allegations of misgovernance Board writes to alumni; assures them of fundamental transformation

Allaying apprehensions over possible misgovernance in the management and operations of the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM-C), the Board of Governors (BoG), in a recent communication to its alumni network, has clarified that the institute has been focusing on bringing in fundamental structural changes in processes, systems and academic design.

The institute has recently come under fire allegedly for ‘fundamental changes in governance’ and its ‘inaction, inefficiency and opacity’ in the governance process.

“Recently, a couple of adverse reports of anonymous attribution have been doing the rounds over WhatsApp groups and print media that have attempted to tarnish the image of IIMC and cast aspersions on specific individuals in the leadership team at the institute. While in the normal course, such anonymous communications are never responded to, in this instance, the BoG has taken note of these and through this message, would like to assure its esteemed alumni as well as other stakeholders that these reports are only half-truths or falsehoods that are devoid of the full and correct contextual reference,” BoG said in its communication to the IIM-C alumni, a copy of which is with BusinessLine.

Change is important

According to the BoG, the fundamental structural changes in processes, systems and academic design are mandated under the IIM Act 2017, which aims at elevating IIMs as global centres of management education. There is also a demand by international accreditation agencies for systemic changes. Hence, maintaining the status quo is not an option, particularly for IIMC, which has lagged behind IIMA and IIMB in the transformation process.

The BoG, as the institute’s governing body, was therefore seized of the urgency to expedite such transformation so as to substantially enhance IIMC’s global competitiveness and distinctive competence.

“To that end, the BoG, through the Director, as the executive head of the Institute, has been leading this change. The Director, with the help of several faculty members and administrators, has been working diligently on several initiatives aimed at improving the Institute’s standing, and has the full support and backing of the BoG. Many of these initiatives are foundational in nature. Some are already yielding positive results,” the letter said.

According to Anju Seth, Director, IIMC, the IIM Act and the accreditation agencies mandate change in the governance structures for greater agility, accountability, and transparency as well as evaluate and reengineer its programmes and activities to support its vision and mission.

“This is also a demand from our globally recognised alumni community and our faculty. We continue to actively engage with all our stakeholders in deliberating about our vision of global excellence for IIM Calcutta, our strategic plan to realise the vision, and how best we can move forward with the support and active engagement of all stakeholders,” she said in an e-mail response to queries sent by BusinessLine.

IIMC is also in the process of reviewing and strengthening internal processes for effectiveness, efficiency and nimbleness in the 21st century so as to create a foundation for ‘solid investments’.

Optimising resource utilisation

“In the post Covid-19 scenario, it has become imperative to review resource utilisation. It would be appropriate to say that as a public institution we are obliged to focus on resource optimisation to ensure that the finite resources of the institute are utilised for high impact in our key areas of activity with transparency and accountability,” she said.

Talking about the process of fund raising, she said that similar to other IIMs, IIMC has been able to create transparent processes for fundraising to assure its donors that their valuable gifts are being used in “tangible ways”.

“We have put in place appropriate fiduciary mechanisms to further strengthen the institute’s strategic priority areas and projects towards our mission of global excellence,” she added.

Anonymous communication

Acknowledging the fact that leading the change management exercise while challenging the status quo was a “complex task”, the BoG in its letter mentioned that such changes could well be a reason for prompting anonymous communications that were misleading in nature.

“The methodology of anonymous communications is ill conceived. The comfort of anonymity is alluring but dangerous and rarely does it serve any constructive purpose,” the BoG said.

Being a public institution, the deliberations and decisions of the BoG of IIMC as well as the overall functioning of the institute were open to public scrutiny. Assuring its stakeholders, the BoG said that it would strive to ensure that the “vector of change” was always pointing in the correct direction.

The letter also aimed to reassure its stakeholders that the BoG would fully support and facilitate the setting up of processes and governance structures that would help ensure transparency, accountability, fairness.

Strengthening infrastructure

Recently, concerns have also been raised on the faculty strength and lack of institutional support for research.

To address a chronic shortage of top-class faculty members in critical areas of business and management, the institute has systematically analysed its recruiting needs and consolidated the process in line with strategic goals.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an alumnus said that IIM-C has to manage change just like any other institution, setting out a purpose and getting everyone to rally behind it. “The faculty seems distant to the BoG at this point and hence the challenge for the BoG is to get the faculty aligned. The roles of the chairman of the board and the director seem to be overlapping and the institute needs to bring clarity on that for IIMC to be better,” he said.

The letter to alumni, however, clarified that BoG was committed to a set of goals to strengthen and enhance the institute’s infrastructure and facilities, faculty resources, student experience, academic programmes, executive education and research excellence, thereby enhancing its standing as an institution of national importance and global eminence.

“As part of its regular business, the BoG, the Director, and the faculty have been engaging with several stakeholders to build a shared vision of global excellence for IIM Calcutta. It is fully committed to adopting a collaborative approach to implementing structural reforms that it believes are imperative for IIMC’s global competitiveness. It is also committed to addressing any legitimate concerns at all times,” the letter said.