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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gyani Seniors

Is "gyan", competency or dedication to service a function of the seniority of an officer in the cadre?

The truthful answer is "NO", but the sarkari system in general thinks otherwise. The higher one climbs in the bureaucratic hierarchy, the more prone he is to believe in himself as the reincarnation of the almighty and those below in the ladder as mere mortals who commit mistakes all the time.

And therefore a difference of opinion is treated as a voice of dissent, and an individualistic expression, an act of defiance.

This false pretense as the know all and the finest of the human race in his cadre, generates distances from the truth and the ground realities. Totally oblivious of the ground realities, the make believe world comes crashing down as the D-Day approaches, D-Day the date of retirement eliminates the great distances that once separated the senior from the junior, the almighty know all from the novice and the mere mortal.

Why cant we be just human and put in our best without creating barriers that inhibit the acceptance of realities as they are?

I am foxed!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What really adorns?

This is a question for the bureaucrats.Do we adorn the chairs that we lay our backsides on or the chair adorns our backsides?

The answer is simple. The Chair adorns the majority of the bureaucrats and that precisely is the reason why all of us (of the sarkari variety) are keen to rise in the (chair) scheme of things. And therefore we have Secretaries and equivalent to the Govt of India and other senior officials whose only aim in life had been to put their backsides on the chairs that they occupy. The aim, right from day one was never to do anything for the organization or the nation, always in the focus were the Chairs in the top rungs of the administration with attendant personal benefits, power and attention. Such bureaucrats, once they retire, pass away in oblivion rather soon, as they never leave behind any reason for which they may be remembered by posterity. Such bureaucrats, post retirement, also have ample advice for the improvement of organization and the nation, despite never having acted on the same during their period in the chair.

The bureaucrats of the rarest kind are the ones who bring glory to every seat that they occupy, by sheer dint of their hardwork, commitment, merit and adherence to basic human values. It is unfortunate that this fast depleting tribe is generally given the short shrift by the system, but times have to change if the country has to prosper.

The present bull run of mediocrity has to come to an end someday!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ten beliefs for Managerial Success

Cases of sustained success in official and personal life alike are extremely rare. That it requires a strong character backed by a combination of firm beliefs and convictions that one believes in from the core of his existence and for which one should be prepared to pay any price to uphold them, needs appreciation. Most of us remain under a false impression that we can pay any price for upholding our ideals, but when the crunch comes we succumb either to temptations or to fear and the ideals go for a six. It is better to have few beliefs or convictions than to make a pretense of lofty ideals and then succumbing at the earliest opportunity.

We normally see our colleagues, subordinates and superiors in office in a perpetual state of drift. Devoid of convictions, they very often end up following a path that is at variance with what they have been advocating and with the avowed goals and objectives of the organization they are working for. Such a situation arises mainly because of a lack of conviction in whatever one is doing. Conviction arises out of a thought process based on commitment and commitment arises out of love for what one is doing. Conviction and beliefs get strengthened over a period of time, through sustained efforts. Convictions, logical and on the side of truth, get ingrained and confirmed. Parents can play a major role in the process as childhood is a very delicate stage for forming firm and lifelong impressions. Constant logical analysis of situations and regular introspection also lead to formation of firm and good, beliefs and convictions.

Some beliefs for being a good manager are :

a) Truth always prevails in the end – Despite whatever may happen or whatever one may say about the present state of affairs, truth ultimately emerges victorious. Most of us give up wars after losing one battle, but that is not the right way of looking at things. One bad jolt and we tend to give up and sermonize that this is what happens when one does good deeds. Remaining on the right side of truth firms up convictions, cleanses the mind and generates respect in the hearts of others. Irrespective of different faiths, all religious documents lay great emphasis on the value of and the need to follow the path of truth as that alone leads to true satisfaction in the end. During the journey of life, one is tempted often to deviate from the path of truth for short-term materialistic gains, but the real test lies in not succumbing despite temptations.

b) Deliverance is the critical issue – Every thing else is secondary. For nations like ours, that are still on the road to development the foremost priority has to be deliverance. Systems, procedures and rules are meant to facilitate deliverance and if they cannot do so, they deserve to be abdicated. However in the system that we live in, deliverance is guided by whether rules or procedures permit it or not. The time frame for carrying out an activity is decided by the time required for sorting out the paperwork and other similar mundane activities. Deliverance invariably takes a backseat while we are busy satisfying the file. This is a situation that is detrimental for all of us and requires to be changed.

c) First be a good human being – It is essential to be a good human being first. Normally most of us lay stress on being a good officer, a good manager, a good doctor or a good engineer, or even a good father, brother or a spouse, but if one is not a good human being, then being good in any other singular role is not of any long term consequence. Personal honesty, consideration for human values, treating human beings with dignity, having a nice behavior, working hard, loving all human beings, being away from deceit etc are traits that, in the overall scheme of things, are far more essential than just being efficient in office work.

d) Attitude makes the difference – Earlier management theories considered knowledge uppermost followed by skills and attitude invariably took a backseat. It is now an accepted theory that knowledge, skills and attitude with a previous weightage of 90:9:1 have been replaced by attitude, skills and knowledge in exactly reverse weightage of 90:9:1 and believing in the revised ratio and practicing it in life is a sure shot recipe for success. A person with a positive attitude shall never remain unhappy, for a positive attitude is the solution to all ills of life, whether official or personal.

e) Charity begins at home – We have unfortunately emerged as a nation of complaining individuals, all having a variety of grouses about everyone or everything under the sun except our own selves or our own acts. It is rather strange to the extent of being absurd when a sarkari babu complains about the high cost of living, while he is delaying matters in the office, playing around with files, going late or leaving early from office or spending time in plain gossip. He fails to realize or even appreciate that the cost of living in India is high only because of the abysmally low national productivity because of an abundance of unproductive individuals like him. Let us just do whatever we have to do with intensity and commitment. Let us not sermonize unless and until we have set our own house in order and are practicing ourselves what we generally wish to preach to others.

f) We require leaders – The main issue is that of leadership. At all levels in various organizations, we require persons with leadership qualities. In fact at executive positions where one commands a large number of men, leadership quality and a sound common sense are the most essential requirements. It has been proved in varied circumstances and situations that persons who can command men and also their unflinching loyalty prove to be the best agents of delivery.

g) Realize your own potential – Quite often, there occur situations that reveal the true potential of an individual. For a man to discover his true potential is however possible, not in a job or situation which is considered normal but in a scenario where the challenge looks un-surmountable and all the dice are cast against you. It is only very challenging situations that bring the best out of individuals. So if you are keen to rise to your full potential, be on the lookout for challenging opportunities, the more challenging the better, and they should be grabbed without worrying about the consequences.

h) The Bull should be held by the horns – The entire scenario pervading the nation has deteriorated to such an extent that every single act of deliverance poses many major as well as minor problems. There are problems, problems and problems everywhere, but at the same time all of us strive to live in a make believe world of no problems. The existence of problems is vehemently denied to such an extent that anyone who accepts the existence of a problem is considered the creator of the same. We prefer to live in a make believe world of either no problems, or where problems go away of their own without realizing that the only way of handling problems is the most direct way – head on.

i) Be passionate about everything you do - If you are passionate about your work and also personal life, it is definite that life shall be nothing else but fun. This attitude can be developed by being intensely involved in everything one does and at the same time striving for and enjoying every small success that comes in the way. Passion for official work will however spring only when one truly loves his nation, the organization he works for and the men he works with. Such passion alone brings out the best in men and never leads one to grief. It brings the zest in life. It makes the everyday task of going to the office very much more exciting and something to look forward to. Every day acts as the harbinger of a host of successes as one starts aspiring for success in everything one does, be it a small or a major task. And success results in a rare glow on one’s face.

j) Men are generally good – Talk to any sarkari babu and if you take him seriously, you will end up believing that majority of staff working under him are incompetent, lazy, indisciplined and also corrupt. This criticism is generally borne, not out of an objective evaluation, but based on personal prejudices. One would observe that such a behavior invariably emanates from the mediocre kind or from one who is generally regarded as a failure, both types being found aplenty on this earth. On the other hand an achiever or a successful person will generally not be found belittling others. What a shame, that we rarely come across many people of this kind.

k) Believe in Information Technology – In the last three decades, Information Technology has revolutionized the way work is getting done across the globe. The use of Information Technology for Management Information Systems, Process Control and Communications has now almost reached a pinnacle. Information Technology shall remain one major tool that shall make a difference it can make in the way work gets done and the way people live. It is therefore essential for everyone to be computer literate and use computers as a handy tool for improving the efficiency of official communications as well as to efficiently organize one’s official work. But it also needs to be appreciated that Information Technology by itself cannot do anything. It has to be supplemented by committed individuals who have an intense desire to achieve something and use this very powerful tool to harness results.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Asli Nasha

Excellence in performance intoxicates, in fact it intoxicates far more than the strongest of intoxicants on planet earth. Deliverance also intoxicates and "Excellence in Deliverance" is an intoxicant, that if tasted once is almost impossible to give up.

And this is what I am witness to at present!

My belief in the capability of my team has got further reinforced with the deliverance of a world class control room, close on the heels of the tremendous work that has been done in record time at the flagship railway station at New Delhi. Yes, my team is on the move, tasting success in the process and perhaps sensing their true potential for the first time. My work at the division would stand completed, once this "move" converts to "self inspired sprints" that I am absolutely sure will happen with amazing regularity, in the foreseeable future.

There is absolutely no doubt that railway officers are generally brilliant. While the turf to exhibit brilliance exists, what generally deters is the presence of various blockades in the form of a plethora of policies, rules, procedures and systems. Such a man made "web" that exists in almost all sectors of governance in the nation is the biggest stumbling block to the emergence of India as a "developed nation". In one of my earlier blogs, a reference was made to "contained brilliance". Remove the barricades and let brilliance soar in the skies.

Soaring brilliance shall lead to a soaring railways and a soaring nation.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Forever developing!

India, it appears is destined to forever remain in the list of developing nations. And developing nations have their own peculiar symptoms.

A bloated, inefficient and thoroughly corrupt, yet extremely powerful bureaucracy is its most visible symbol. An immature population that expects "others" to set right the ills plaguing the nation with the result that everyone becomes the complainant and there is none to act is the next visible realization. Gross chaos and huge infrastructural gap almost everywhere is the next and total apathy to a clean environment is not the last.

The sad part lies in our rank inability to identify the root cause of the problem and remaining forever rooted to and cursing the symptom.

Our rank inability to properly govern our own nation is perhaps borne out of the fact that we as a society are nowhere near the maturity levels seen in the developed nations. Paying proper attention, not mere lip service to the basic educational system in the country may be the answer.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Acrobatics of Statistics

The general feeling that statistics need to be maintained at acceptable levels, despite the ground realities at times saying otherwise has now almost swamped the sarkari systems cutting across sectors and levels. This feeling is an offshoot of the need of sarkari mulazims to focus only on maintaining their personal comfort and environment levels despite being paid to primarily serve the nation, not self.

And so we have continually improving statistics for that is what keeps the masters happy in a state of bllissful unawareness. Trouble starts only when the statistics start revealing the true picture of ground realities.

The advantage of doctored statistics is that sarkari mulazims then need not work, they only need to doctor the figures. The disadvantage is that in the absence of a true ground level picture, corrective actions, most of which are tough and unpleasant almost never get taken.

The nation ultimately gets what it truly deserves.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Railway fever

The multiplicity of cadres in the railways never ceases to amuse me. If the entire country can be governed by a single three letter service, why cant the railways be run by a single "Indian Railway Service"? Why do we need nine central services to (mis)handle a single organization? This has resulted in a scenario where the railways does not have a single railway officer, what it has are only departmental officers with myopic vision. The departmental officers are therefore unable to grow into a true railway officer, ie one who has an overall vision. And therefore we continue to have decisions with departmental bias, that unfortunately are, with few exceptions of-course, detrimental to the overall well being of the railway system.

Another question that has haunted me ever since I joined this great organization is whether we are a pure sarkari department or a commercial organization. The lack of clarity on this subject is perhaps as damaging to the system as is the multiplicity of the services. Either way, we should have been doing much better.

There is absolutely no doubt that the railways is today, perhaps the most visible symbol of dynamic delivery in a nation where almost all other sarkari organizations have failed to deliver to expectations. It is still a great organization, the economic lifeline of the nation and on a relative basis, is doing fairly well. But looking at the overall scenario in absolute terms makes me lament at our gross inability to capitalize on the tremendous potential for growth and development that this great organization possesses.