Sunday, December 6, 2009

The MBI Framework
Life is based on a single set of directives –a divine manual called the Quran, for stipulating a code of submission; a code that applies evenly to all realms of our lives without distinction. So if Quran is that set of policy directives, the word of God Himself, then Prophet Muhammad’s character (May Peace and Blessing of God be with Him) is the behavioral manifestation of the word of God. Just as the Quran is a document perfect in its compilation and delivery, so is the character of the person who was charged with disseminating this information to mankind. Therefore, for a sincere Muslim, implementing the MBI framework should not be a foreign exercise.

The MBI framework is a pyramid with two halves, see figure below. The intellectual half signifies the Quran. The physical half signifies the way of the Prophet. The two halves are not mutually exclusive. One feeds the other. The intellectual realm has to be firmly rooted in the basic principles of the Islamic creed (Aqeeda). Similarly the physical realm needs to be in conformity with the Sunnah of the Prophet. Without this balanced approach the framework loses its essence.

The progress forward starts off with the willingness of an entity (individual or an organization) to acquire the right type and level of education coupled with measurable actions. Education as soon as it is acquired needs to be implemented. Education that is not implemented does not become knowledge. Therefore, the first step is attaining the right education followed by measurable action creating behavioral knowledge. Behavioral knowledge is applied hands on education; one that empowers. For without behavioral knowledge skillful understanding of any subject cannot be achieved. This skillful understanding helps in fueling our thought process and forces us to contemplate. In order to achieve mastery one has to spend time contemplating what they have learned, how they have applied it and what results they have achieved. This type of a comptemplative exercise forces us to improve our skill set. The mastery of skills and the ability to contemplate enables God consciousness. Only when one has achieve God consciousness through this process their persona becomes worthy of exemplification.

The MBI Roadmap
The journey from the base to the top of the pyramid requires implementing a five (5) step MBI roadmap. The starting point for implementing such a God-centric framework starts with the concept of SALAM©. SALAM© is an acronym that constitutes the building blocks for MBI. Each letter signifies a time tested corporate management dictum. Yet each dictum is filtered through the core fundamentals of spirituality and God consciousness.

The MBI Roadmap:
· Sense of Purpose
· Accepting the Framework
· Learning Organizational Wisdom
· Applying the Flexibility in Practice
· Mastering the Process

The following is a brief description of each MBI building block:

Sense of Purpose
And We did not create the heaven and the earth and that between them aimlessly… (Chapter Saad, Verse 27).

If there is a purpose for God’s creation of heaven and earth and everything in between, why shouldn’t there be purpose to what we do as human beings? Having a sense of direction is a vital component of success in the business world. Our bearings should be calibrated to the right course constantly; otherwise we may not reach our destination. A sense of purpose, the reason why, should therefore be the underlining cause for all actions that we undertake. The first building block for MBI is therefore our ability to have a sense of purpose. Purpose is the fuel that drives our engines. It is the reason why we do what we do. That is why in the corporate world everything is tied to goals, strategies, missions and visions. These are all tools for inducing a sense of purpose. The first step in MBI roadmap is defining our organizational goals and the goals of each of our members.

To each is a goal to which Allah turns him; then strive together (as in a race) towards all that is good. Where so ever ye are, Allah will bring you together. For Allah hath power over all things. (Chapter Al Baqarah, Verse 148)

Accepting the Framework
It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong). (Chapter Aali Imraan, Verse 3)

The analysis of any man made frameworks indicate an inherent inability to be proactively balanced in addressing all organizational goals. In other words, any man made framework is flawed and incomplete until it is infused with universal spiritual laws.

The second building block for MBI therefore is divided into two folds:
1) The degree of our acceptability of the divine operational framework, and
2) The skill with which it is applied as our guide for decision making processes.

Any process void of written procedures is random and arbitrary; because processes without procedures are an indication of absence of governance policies. Policies in turn are entrenched in principles. The principles, whether financial, administrative, or operational, are derivatives of spiritual fundamentals based on natural universal laws. Therefore a good indicator or an entity’s core not being guided by the MBI philosophy can be easily accessed by quickly looking at its procedural day-to-day running of its affairs.

Learning Organizational Wisdom
He grants wisdom to whom He pleases, and whoever is granted wisdom, he indeed is given a great good but none will grasp the Message but men of understanding. (Chapter Al Baqarah, Verse 269)

Once we have our goals set and our framework examined, the next step is to acquire the wisdom and intelligence to implement the framework. Since not everyone is endowed with wisdom, it is important to tap into individuals who posses this God given capability. Therefore acquiring wisdom and intelligence is a twofold process: 1) having people on our teams that have the right knowledge and experience, and 2) developing a keen sense of understanding of our roles and responsibilities.

People with understanding of the subject matter can guide us forward effectively. And having the correct understanding enables us to put the right actions into motion; actions that are mindful of our goals. The third building block of MBI, therefore, is our ability to learn the wisdom behind the key elements of the framework and their relationship to both our short range and long range goals. Benefiting from the collective wisdom of the organization and learning to manage the shared knowledge is vital to organizational success. Organizations without the ability to inculcate operational wisdom in their members lose their focus. Attaining organizational wisdom is learning how to harness the various elements of intelligence within the organizations.

These elements of intelligence are:

1. Personal Intelligence: The ability of the organization to enlist members who based on their individual aspirations synergize the organization’s goals and values
2. Group Intelligence: The ability of the organization to foster intelligent collaborations among its members.
3. Organizational Intelligence: The ability of organizational members to tap into their collective group intelligence enabling them to respond or adapt to the challenges by executing the right actions
4. Collective Organizational Wisdom: The ability of the organization to archive personal, group and organizational intelligence efficiently so that the collective wisdom can be documented for mentoring and training purposes.

Applying the Flexibility in Practice
(Such has been) the practice (approved) of Allah already in the past: no change wilt thou find in the practice (approved) of Allah. (Al Fath, Verse 23)

While natural law is perfect and does not require constant change, it is our way of implementing the natural law that is far from perfect and requires continuous realignment. A God-centric management approach is one that is accommodating to change in our attitudes and management styles.

The fourth building block of MBI is therefore, applying flexibility in practice. Flexibility in practice is having the courage to admit our mistakes, redress our wrongs and manage by consensus so that we can constantly realign our goals to prescribed natural laws. Another important element of applying flexibility is the ability to be accepting of different point-of-views, being non-judgmental and learning to work with a diversified set of individuals. When a goal is comprehensive enough to benefit everyone, then minor differences and disagreements should not be allowed to derail the forward movement towards that goal.

Mastering the Process
So lose not heart, nor fall into despair: For ye must gain mastery if ye are true in Faith.
(Aali Imraan, Verse 139)

Understanding the wisdom behind the framework enables an organization and its members to master the right skill set. Skills that are not based on collective organizational wisdom lead us off course. When our practice of fulfilling our duties and responsibilities is God conscious and our skills are based on collective organizational wisdom, we exhibit flexibility in our approach in resolving our challenges. This flexibility allows us to accept decent, respect alternate opinions and encourage diversity within our organizations. The fifth and final building block in MBI is therefore the mastering of the process.

Attaining mastery is no easy task. It is attained after much trials and tribulations. Hallmarks of entities that attain it are humility and reverence. Whether you are an organization of one or many, setbacks, economic downturns, competition and other environmental challenges never seize of exist. It is these challenges that make us and shape us. But if the basics are sound and the foundation is build upon core principles, the goal is alway in sight.

Mastery (Ihsan) is not only the combination of efficient process oriented approach in managing our programs with effective strategies aligned with the core principles of governance, it is also the ability to lead by example.

This is just my opinion based on my limited knowledge. God knows best!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Risk-based Submission Management Approach
Reactive ad hoc solutions just do not provide a strong enough systemic approach in mitigating risks. Risks can only be minimized if we have total understanding of our goals, our responsibilities and our duties to perform the task at hand. Only a well founded and properly implemented management approach can provide a measure of confidence that good performance is not an accident and that poor performance can be identified and rectified.

The degree of confidence in our ability to understand our goals and to monitor our performance is the key to forecasting success or failure. This is what Management by Islam (MBI) is all about -- a God-centric operational framework for adaptive risk mitigation. It is a frame of reference that is based on a balanced approach; combining corporate organizational management and development philosophies with a God-centric spiritual dimension. The better we manage our risk the better off we are in predicting the end result.

In absence of a framework for submission, conformance is arbitrary, accountability is non-enforceable and success or failure has no meaning. The Quran is, therefore, the policy document establishing the framework of submission. Just as the Quran is a document perfect in its compilation and delivery, so is the character of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessing of God be upon him) who was charged with disseminating this information to mankind. The Prophet’s life is the physical manifestation of the word of God. There is no doubt that everyone is created with the spirit and the understanding of following the divine set of guidelines prescribed by God and following the example set forth by His messenger Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessing of God be upon him).

And remember the favor of God upon you and His covenant with which He bound you when you said, "We hear and we obey"; and fear God… (Chapter Al Maidah, Verse 7)

It is not God who needs to have one unified approach in judging His creations’ submission to His divine will; rather it is the creation that might argue otherwise given its tendency to err. Hence one approach for judging with justice and fairness is to stipulate a general framework for submission and standardize roles and responsibilities so that the rules of submission can be applied evenly. The adherence to those rules thus is based off of a single set of directives –a divine manual called the Quran, the word of God Himself.

Since this life is a test for mankind to see how closely we follow the convenient we made with God, to submit ourselves to His divine will, we are given the ability to choice without any compulsion. What defines our success in the end is our attempt to stay, to the best of your abilities, within that prescribed framework in spite all our short comings, faults and mistakes.

If we stay within the prescribed framework, we are labeled as people who submit to the will of God with consciousness – a Mutaqi. If we venture outside the prescribed framework we lose that designation. The figure below is the graphical representation of this submission management framework; a risk based submission management matrix.

The matrix is a combination of two key elements of submission; 1) Strength of Character and 2) Variability of Belief. Everyone starts this journey, life, in a specific cell on this matrix. The struggle to get to the green zone is defined as jihad-al-nafs (our inner struggle). The distance between our cell and the green zone is directly proportional to our God given capability to withstand the tests that are assigned to us.

…No burden do We place on any soul, but that which it can bear. (Chapter Al Anam Verse 152)

The closer we are to the green zone the better we have become in submitting ourselves to the divine framework and hence the better we have become at minimizing the inherent risk we face. This Risk-based Submission Management Approach (RSMA) is a four step process:

1) Acquiring proper knowledge about the word of God and the way of the Prophet.
2) Striving to achieve connectivity with God
3) Working on our intentions (how we internalize His message), and
4) Taking action (how we apply God’s word)

The right knowledge will create the right connectivity and the right connectivity will instill the right intentions and the right intentions will compel one to take the right actions. And only by the will of God and His grace will those right actions take us closer to the green zone.

So the purpose of this life, as I see it, is two folds:
1) To try our utmost to stay within the framework as close as possible to the green zone, and
2) By our actions and deeds try to influence others both inside the framework and outside of it to come closer to the green zone.

These are my assumption based on my limited knowledge, God knows best