Tuesday, January 7, 2014

In the Wonderland Publicly Administered by Brain Dwarfed Individuals !

About two decades ago, the super boss of the public organization in which I worked as a middle level engineering executive, called me to his cabin for a private discussion. This boss was about to superannuate from the organization in another couple of months and a few private organizations had approached him with some lucrative director level positions after he completed his long innings with the public sector business organization he had been serving all along for decades. And he had almost made up his mind to accept one of his choice.

But he wanted to rope in me too to his new private organization and I had my own reservations and reluctance for various reasons. No doubt, he was offering an 'attractive' General Manager position with much larger pay and perks that I was getting in my public organization at that time.

As I was still reluctant, he was trying to influence me to change my hesitation. 

So at one point, he posed a question like this to me:

"Mr Mathew, I know that you have the power to take decisions that are worth millions of rupees in this organization. But tell me, do you have the power to take decisions worth ten rupees?" 

I thought for a moment. Yes, he was telling the truth. As an engineer my decisions that I take during the course of my work all involve money and can have cost implications to my organization in millions of rupees. The organization knowing or unknowingly had entrusted faith in me and had allowed me of taking independent engineering and technological decisions that are too complex or difficult to understand without some expertise or technical competency. But there are so many silly things for which I have no such powers.And those silly things are those which are too easy to understand even by a child! Besides, these apparently silly matters matter much for me to carry out my work effectively. 

It is a penny-wise, pound-foolish syndrome everywhere! There are so many rules and so many checks and balances for such silly things. There are too many people working overtime to checkmate the smooth progress of certain decision making processes. And there are more people everywhere to do these rather silly jobs whose overall impact to the organization is only peanuts. On the other hand, there are too few people to do works that are difficult and complex. If things are too easy for understanding, then there are too many rules! If things are complex or difficult, there are no rules!

Remember this. The IT companies made a kill initially in India because the administrators understood least about their works. 

No consider this example.  If I needed a pen or some other stationery material or some other such small consumable or facility which are essential for me to undertake my my official work smoothly, the procedures for getting those would take more than 50% of my time and energy that I have for doing my actual work for which I am hired by my organization. It often involves getting approvals from the highest authorities and that process is often much frustrating to those who have to do other important work!  It is often beyond their common sense to understand the need for such created complications in the organizational working. 

When I try to analyze the economic sense behind such things it is often difficult to make any logical justification. The whole of those materials and facilities that are required for me for the entire year to do my official work many not be worth even 10% of the salary I draw for a month!

There is a big organization generally called the general administration or establishment department who does these mundane tasks. In well managed organizations, this general administration department is manned by properly selected people who have the requisite aptitude and attitude to manage the show to the satisfaction of all while they also tactfully control any possibility of wasteful expenditures! However, in many other badly managed organizations, the general administration department is made up of people who are either with a general malice towards one and all due to various reasons.

The people in general administration are the facilitators for every other one in the organization. They serve both the mighty top bosses as well as the lowly beings. They are required to do many small but necessary tasks for all employees of the organization so that every one could perform well. They are the people who process the travel, and medical bills of the employees. They are also the ones who process the cases for allotment of office rooms, office furniture and facilities, residential accommodation, telephones, cars and the like. Of course, they do all these with the approval of the so-called competent authorities who happen to be the chief of the organization or such other subordinate officers to whom such approving powers are delegated by the chief from time to time. In government departments these powers are delegated by various kinds of administrative orders based on authority as vested by various statutes. 

Private organizations also have similar administrative departments. In private organisations, people are generally hired when the need is recognized for a function or work. The pay and perks are determined based on the worth of the person or the benefit that the person can do for the organization. Work is generally recognized because the work contribution of the individual is directly seen as linked to the organization's success and profitability. So, private organizations in general would not like to create any kind of constraints in a person's work by depriving him the essential facilities that he or she might need to do his work.

But the work culture in the private administrative organizations, especially those progressive ones, do differ from the so-called bureaucratic administrative set up of the governmental organizations. As the chief executive officers of private organizations are required to prove their performances to their boards and shareholders with tangible benefits, most of them take appropriate actions to bring dynamism in their respective organizations and take such other actions to keep their administrative departments also to function in accordance with the overall requirements and vision. However, this does not mean that all private organizations are better than public organizations. I have known private organizations that are worse than even the government departments!

But one thing is sure. These administrative departments whether they belong to governmental organizations or private organizations have an important role in making the whole of the organization to function properly or function miserably. Thus the people who man the administrative departments do hold an important key for the organization to perform efficiently. If such departments exist, they are equally important as the chief executives.

The administrative departments are retained as the key functional area in most organizations for the purpose of exerting an invisible force of cohesiveness over the whole of the organization. This invisible power is called the administrative power that controls the organization. This invisible power of administration may also include powers for disciplinary actions against employees who commit acts of omission and commission. Many people generally believe that the fear of disciplinary actions is essential to have proper governance of the organization.

So administrative functions provide a kind of net worked strings to keep the organization in cohesiveness. But the problem lies in the fact that this same strings can also strangulate the organization. Many times the administrative functions are essentially silly and simple, but are required any way to control people who do higher and complex functions. Just as we use those strings called the reins to control a horse or an oxen!

But have you seen how those reins are used by different people? Those who are very incompetent and have doubts about their own personality are more likely to use those reins to harass the animals rather than to harness their energies! In a similar way, brain dwarfed individuals having inferiority complexes are bound to act when they are manning administrative organizations!

Public or governmental organizations are more likely to have their respective administrative departments entrusted with the so-called lower level functions manned by inferior people. Of course, many private organizations  are also no exception. This is because such functions are relatively simple and any one with a little orientation can do it. But invariably after some period of time, these very same people who man the administrative departments become too familiar with the organizational loop holes and with their inherent nearness to higher level functionaries start behaving as if they were the big bosses who manage the whole organization. And every one in the organization who are not near to the top boss might become targets of the whims of at least a few of these lower level functionaries in the administrative departments at some point of time. The cumulative effect of such a situation prolonging for some long duration makes the organization to slip down in performance.

This happens more or less in all organizations in India. The governmental organizations and public organizations are typically affected more. Even the so called public schools in private domain are also no exceptions. The private telecom companies are no exceptions. The private electric or gas companies are no exceptions. Many small and silly administrative functions become areas of corruption when they are entrusted to give some facilities to the general public. Otherwise how could the simple functions of a registration become an area of corruption? 

Organizations become handicapped to perform, not because the people who are required to work and show the results are incapable of doing so, but of the fact that they are not properly facilitated to perform. In other words, those who are essentially responsible for achieving the objectives of the organization are overshadowed by those people who are deployed for facilitating the former group. The administrative groups knowingly or unknowingly become a nuisance and cause unnecessary sluggishness in the system.

This sluggishness of organizational systems are called system lethargy. But what is not understood is the real mechanism that causes this. This lack of knowledge in turn makes it difficult to resolve the problem without any damage to the systems and functions.

So a nation where more and more such organizations are affected this way, becomes a wonderland. Wonderland because no one really knows how the systems work and how to get works done. Nothing can be predicted. Nothing can be planned. Individually people looks as if they are good and intelligent. But collectively it is too difficult to assess!

I once went to a police station for a passport verification. The police clerk who was supposed to do the work and sent the documents back to the passport office was provided with a small 2' by 2' table and a small chair. Fortunately, he had a steel cabinet which looked as if an antique from the medieval times.And it was full of shabby files. There was no place for him to keep the files, open the files or do any other thing. The whole place was stinking with ink, gum and other such things that spilled for years. There was no place for those like me who happen to go there could sit or even stand. There was no guarantee that the papers that he take out would get misplaced or damaged. Yet this man and his predecessors and successors worked apparently with no flaws. Is it not a wonder? But then, to achieve that wonder, he needs to be motivated to some extent. You need him and others like him to be motivated to work by paying  them something! Because they are too demotivated to work in their official environment. They are not facilitated for work nor motivated. The very sight of their work place would demotivate any human being!

If you probe a little more, it is not difficult to find out that there are some others who are supposed to do the work for making the said police station (or for that matter any other office meant for any public service!) with necessary facilities. I am not telling that they are never with any facilities. They do get it. But it would never be the way they want it. It would be either in excess or in scarcity. It would never be in time or regular as they need it. If they have some, then they lack many others. All that is required would never be there! In any case, those who are supposed to do some public service for others become so demotivated that they no more desire to do their work because their work environment is not conducive for self motivated working.

Modern day administration has a cultural legacy from the past. It is founded on the presumption that people are inherently bad and require fear and punishment to keep them working. Perhaps, this notion would be correct to some extent for those who are intellectually weak and inferior. But applying that notion generally to all would be disastrous in modern times.

Therefore, it is a wonderland when the  modernized  society of the land tries to stick to the mores of the ancients. It is again a wonderland when those who have acquired enough intelligence and maturity behave as if their brains are dwarfed and not expanded to accommodate modern thoughts. 

India is such a wonderland. The role of administrators, top to bottom and bottom to top, cannot be neglected in making this country such a wonderland. I do not want these individual administrators to be termed as brain dwarfs, but I can't help it. They could well be individuals having extraordinary brain growths in some directions but not in the direction that would make them befitting to be called as facilitators!

The nation administered by such brain dwarfed individuals would indeed be a wonderland!

A wonderland of puzzles that are difficult to solve!

But is it really difficult to solve these problems? In my opinion, it may not be an easy task to solve these problems totally within a short time. But it could well be done to a considerable extent now. But for doing that there should be a collective desire and an honest resolve by those who happen to occupy top functional levels in various organizations.

And it is up to us whether we want to keep our land a wonderland administered by brain dwarfed individuals always or to make it a nation where all are not kept puzzled always, by having our general administrative departments in various kinds of our organizations simple , transparent and managed by human beings with normal brain growths!


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