In Search of the Future Organization — I: A.T. Kearney & The Wizard of Oz

Pravir Malik
4 min readMar 8, 2024

In this mini-series, I suggest an approach to creating the organization of the future based on my path through life. This involves mastering several components, which I briefly summarize before launching the first part.

The first component can be referred to as the “systems canvas.” The second involves managing that systems canvas at the margin leveraging disciplines like ‘emotional intelligence.’ The effective management of this canvas allows the possibility of something deeper arising. That leads us to tap into deeper possibilities — powers within — a third component. But then, through any transition, there’s always a trick of keeping things vitally alive. Such tricks are a fourth component to consider. And then, some things are too complex or just too difficult to handle, leading to the idea of leveraging the power of Light. Finally, there is a component to do with understanding how the canvas is changing and how close circumstances may be to the emergence of a future organization, and this has to do with mathematically modeling all the components.

I will share some stories as I go through this because it’s been an organic journey, not something I planned.

The A.T. Kearney Story

I started with a story here, and this was in the mid-1990s. I used to be a software engineer. That’s what my training was in the 1980s. So, I had a relatively structured way of looking at things and expected that the world would work like a program in the sense that in a program if you put a set of instructions together, you know what the output will be. However, when I transitioned from being an engineer to working in management, I found that this approach did not work anymore.

I used to work for a global consulting company, A.T. Kearney, at the time, and they had about 70 offices worldwide. I had finished my MBA a couple of years earlier and had just joined them. So, I was very junior in the organization, at just about the bottom of the hierarchy. But I had this idea of opening an office in India. It was at the pre-liberalization stage, and there were signs that the economy was beginning to open up. So, I approached the company's chief operating officer (COO) and suggested opening this office in India. But he ignored me for a bit and returned later to say that the company leadership had already been thinking about this.

This encouraged me, and after another two months, I prepared an elaborate presentation about opening an office in India and sent it to him. From an engineering perspective, that elaborate presentation that showed the pros and cons of the business case should have been enough to seal the deal, but in reality, it wasn’t. But I knew I had his interest because he said, “I’m coming to Chicago. Let us meet”. The headquarters were in Chicago, where I worked at the time, and he used to work in the Dusseldorf office in Germany.

Now, it so happened that somebody had told me a little bit about him. He was supposed to be very “sophisticated.” He bred horses and loved to dress well. And somehow, I focused on that part about dressing well. It was like the ‘system’ trying to tell me something. So a couple of weeks before the meeting I went to a high-end clothing store, and I spent a good percentage of my annual salary to buy the best Italian suit and Italian shoes I could find. And then, when I met him, I dressed up. Sure enough, when he looked at me, his eyes fell on my shoes, and his face seemed to light up. I knew the rest was history. Something immediately clicked — a Wizard of Oz moment — and he invited me to be part of the to-be-opened India office shortly afterward.

This incident signaled that the system works differently than I thought it did. It led me into the world of complex dynamics and why, when theoretically, something is supposed to work one way, it quite doesn’t. This led me to the importance of the play of different people-based heuristics, amongst other types of heuristics that were important to know about when trying to understand a system.

(To be continued…)

Part — I: The Wizard of Oz

Part — II: The Power of Wolves

Part — III: The Necessity of Poetry

Part — IV: The Other Side of the Coin

Part — V: EQ & Managing at the Margin

Part — VI: The X-Factor

Part — VII: Power, Jedi Power & Light

Part — VIII: The Mathematics of Organization

Part — IX: Imperative of a Quantum-Like Core

Part — X: The Secret of Nataraja