Friday, January 4, 2013

Getting the Best out of the People: The Critical Area where Indians Fail !

India as a nation has not been performing well in any field even when it has several advantages as compared to most of the nations .

The above is a generalized statement which most Indians and non-Indians would perhaps agree, at least in private discussions.

Often I think about the reasons for such a sad state of affairs for my country.

I have written about these earlier [ Read those here in the home page of the BewareIndia site ! ]

The problem with India is that you cannot see consistency in organisational excellence while that is seen as existing here and there in some organizations or in some organizational pockets.

When excellent organizations pervade the length and breadth of the country, the country as a whole becomes excellent !

Organizations are made of individuals , physical systems and regulatory systems. Problems with any of these can affect the overall functioning of the organization adversely.

Individuals without character, commitment and competency [the three critical C's] can ruin any organization.

But inadequacy of physical systems can make even those individuals with enough of these three C's to fail miserably from performing (within an organization).

Let me try to explain this with some simple examples.

I once had to visit a police station in one of the growing cities in connection with a notice I got from them regarding police verification of my credentials for getting my passport renewed.

A reasonably acceptable practice should be that a responsible police officer should make a visit to my residence and my locality and make a fair assessment about me and then sent his report to the concerned passport issuing authority. But for doing this, the police station should have the following facilities:

1. It should have a reasonably competent officer who could be spared to do this investigation.
2. The officer should be provided with the means of transport to do such an investigation.
3. He should have the necessary tools and facilities for preparing his investigation report error free and keeping a record of it for future reference.
4. He should have someone equivalent or more experienced to check his report.
5. There should be facilities for dispatching the report confidentially.

In any progressive and developed country, perhaps no compromise is made to deprive the concerned officer in any of the above.

But in India, it is something very different.

I observed the following in the passport verification incident as above:

1. The police station incharge did not have a police man who could be reliably assigned the duty of the investigation. So he sent the message, through one of the policemen who visited me by travelling almost 5 km by pedalling his bicycle in the otherwise crowded city of fourwheelers, for me to visit the station. The police station had just one vintage model jeep which in my assessment never moved ! But remember this was the time most of the higher level police officers who were not necessarily involved with any on site investigations moved around in brand new red beaconed SUVs which were twice or thrice the cost of a jeep that the junior police officers have to use for field work !

2. There was only one policeman, designated as the police station writer, who could do some documentation work; that too in his shabby handwriting, deciphering of which may not be an easy task for even the so-called educated Indian citizens. Absence of a desktop computer, printer or typewriter, almirahs for keeping the files, paper and other essentials for an office was strikingly obvious.

3. The police writer himself was not provided with a proper table or room or chairs for those visiting him to sit comfortably to provide the necessary information to him. It was not possible for me to take out my papers and show him. All he had there to do all these important work is a table which is hardly 2.5 ft x 1.5 ft ! He was profusely apologizing me for the lack of facilities in his office ! (that was after he got motivated enough to do his work in such a hostile work environment !)

I am not elaborating. Now this is the case with most offices in India, whether they are government departments, private organisations, or public sector or other institutions like the universities. Situation in the private sector are improving, though.

I once had the opportunity to visit the Reserve Bank of India office at New Delhi. At that time I was ashamed to see the way its officers (Class-1) sitting !

Regrettably, in India,  facilities for the working people are not provided commensurate with the duties they are required to perform. Most often the rank or position determines the extent of facilities provided in the office or work place. As you go up in the organizational hierarchy, the actual work to be done gets reduced. But that is the time the person concerned gets the power to grab all the facilities that were deprived for him in the formative years of his career when he needed those the most ! He might not require those computers, big tables, chairs, big spacious office, file cabinets, almirahs, scores of chairs, etc., etc. now. But most of the senior officers in India invariably are fond of these while doing pretty nothing for their juniors in the organization who are supposed to do the work using such work enabling facilities.

In effect the Indian organizations keep spending money for such things but miserably fail to ensure that the required physical facilities are available to those who are to use those facilities to get the best performance.

In my opinion this kind of a situation is one ( just one, there are many; but important !) of the root causes of inefficiency in the Indian organizations.

In India, it is a common thing that people appointed to do various functions have to spend most of their time and energy to set up their offices or work places. They have to run from pillar to post for getting their tables, chairs, office accommodation, consumables, etc., etc. I know many cases when such appointees had only achieved some of this only in their entire tenure, and nothing else concerned with their actual work for which they were appointed.

Some  time ago, I happened to listen to a speech made by a very senior IAS officer appointed as the head of a very important mission with the direct intervention of the PM wherein he explained the pains and troubles for months for getting their place of work (means 'office') arranged ! If it could happen for such very senior VIPs (VIPs in front of the common man !) what would be the case for others ? It is just a matter of imagination !

In India, organizations keep getting re-arranged every now an then for adjusting new people within it. Together with it the physical systems (means offices) also gets re-arranged, changed, removed or added.

Its not the people for the posts, but posts for the people !

Perhaps the only office where the physical office does not change much could be the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Here too, internal readjustments and re-arrangements are perhaps made drastically to suit the person who occupies the post !

We talk much about standards and standardization. Unfortunately there are no standards for such things. Though it is very easy to do and should have been done to avoid pathetic inactivity during the change over period or warming up period.

The ripples of this are felt all around the organization and the organization as a whole fails to perform in time ! The organizational sluggishness of action sets in !

It is not because the individuals in the organization do not want to perform or act ! The organizational inertia created this way does not allow the individuals to act faster !

Remember, when offices and the people in offices are changed here and there routinely, even the systems in place fail to perform.

For example, in one place an office in the process of getting re-arranged. A communication received in this office for onward action get stuck up in this office due to discontinuity of the physical systems. That happens whatever be the urgency unless some top boss personally monitors and follow up. Would it be possible for them to do for each and every urgency ? If that is so, it clearly shows that the organization to which they belong no longer works as an organization. The organization of this kind will fail to perform even when there are competent, committed people with character occupy many of the organizational posts !

Perhaps you never find such a situation in the developed nations ! The developed nations are developed and progressive because they know perfectly well how to organize their organizations to perform well. And one of the things that they do take care is to see that the physical systems needed for the organization is provided in required quality and quantity and are not disturbed whimsically or arbitrarily by anyone at any time.

Had there been proper organizational systems in our Delhi Police organization , the three Police Control Room (PCR)  vans that reached the crime site would not have waited so long indecisively to take the injured victims to the hospital.

Had there been such organizational systems in our government, they would not have taken such a delayed decision to take the dying victim for a better treatment !

Making a flawless organization that performs well is not so difficult. It is simple, provided the head of the organization knows those simple techniques to do it.

Just as driving a car is so simple for a driver who knows how to drive ! But if he or she does not know how to drive, it is indeed very, very difficult !

The only difference here is that the car is an assembly or organization of mechanical systems where as our administrative or governmental or business or educational organizations are assemblies of people,  physical systems and of course bound by the rules that govern their functions.

The people ( more of them with the essential three C's are always beneficial), the physical systems (ensure that all the people have the required office facilities or work tools having good quality and in required quantity always) and the guiding rules (ensure that these rules that govern the organisation are fully known to the people of the organization) when placed under a committed head of organization would do wonders. India needs more and more of such successful organizations to weed out our problems.

If we do not know how to do it, we need to attempt to do some benchmarking with the successful organisations of the developed nations. But honestly and with commitment.

Enacting more and more laws with harsh punishments are not going to solve our problems, unless we have successful organizations to perform various functions properly.

When some organizations are utter failure always, it is better to disband that organisation altogether and make new ones from scratches with due care not to repeat the mistakes of the past .

What do you think ?



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