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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Bless the subordinate!

“Bless the top guy" is what I once told the railway bosses when asked for advice on how to set on track the railway catering and tourism corporation. And I believed in what I said for that is the only way to set right things, yet rarely followed or practiced.

We from the system always believe in giving advice when support is sought for mistrust and one-upmanship remains at the core of all that we do when dealing with others. That one brain properly utilized is always better that many who just want to make their presence felt is neither felt nor appreciated, perhaps because of the fact that deliverance almost always has taken a back seat in favor of power point presentations and detailed reasoning and explanations that help one to tide over uncomfortable scenarios even at the cost of the future.

The herd mentality has unfortunately clouded the minds of almost all who man the system and this is indeed sad. What the herd believes in becomes the belief of the individual for people do not want to be perceived to be seen as standing up to the belief of the masses howsoever foolish the belief may be. And the conformance to perceptions, howsoever unsubstantiated they may be ensures that the real scenario is never allowed to come to light and decisions get taken on wrong basis.

Unfortunately almost all organizations that I headed had also been a victim of incorrect perceptions that brought them on the verge of collapse. Regular hollow arguments lamenting about excess staff resulted in a scenario wherein staff shortages hugely affected operations, yet the ivory towers rarely reacted.

Another incorrect perception uniformly experienced by me is that the blame was always laid at the altar of the staff whereas like all failures the root cause has been inept management.

It is also unfortunate that in almost all cases of inept performance, the people in leadership positions display traits not of leaders but of one who lacks confidence on himself, is incompetent or short of integrity. When a subordinate seeks support, they dispense advice. When they are fired by their superiors, they pass on the firing to their subordinates. This is the stuff that most of us in leadership positions are made up. And in light of the same, the lament of non-performance, is indeed hilarious.

The best of leaders trust people reporting to them. They are courageous and maintain highest standards of integrity at all times. They do not lose their cool even under intense pressure. And they do not dispense advice when support is warranted. They are indeed people who appreciate that blessing the subordinate is the only key to success. And there are many that the system has, yet we need more of them.   

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Tendering syndrome

My recent visit to New York had me unnerved once again and reinforced in me the belief that there are no rich and poor nations but productive and unproductive nations. Is it not unacceptable that even after having served over three decades and a half in the service of the Sarkar, I am yet unsure about what comes first – delivery or process.

The footpaths, the roads, the lamp posts, the buildings, the bridges, almost every infrastructural item that one witnesses in the developed economies is built to last, if not centuries but definitely a couple of decades and here at home the unending cycle of repairs and rebuilding baffles me. All perhaps because we find it almost impossible to go around the established decision making and tendering processes that are neither efficient nor a deterrent for a guy with a crooked intent.

The extremely high delivery by almost everyone in the developed economies is forged out of trust, integrity, commitment and above all simplicity of processes that we have over-complicated in the garb of transparency. It is indeed sad that for far too long this nonsense has carried on uninterrupted!

Will we forever remain a developing nation one really wonders? When shall deliverance be regarded as supreme and those with an honest intent find the courage regardless of the roadblocks that include a host of people ready to point fingers and jump at the slightest perceived mistake.

Handling an airline is definitely not by any stretch of imagination an easy task and this business is therefore regarded as the mother of all businesses. And the beleaguered Air India with a bundle of legacy issues and an empty cash chest made the job even worse. Quick decision making without fear is a philosophy that should be at the core of all businesses that aspire to do well, yet what I found here when I landed with a thud almost a year back was an exact antithesis of this school of thought. The instant feeling was that this airline is waiting silently to pass away into oblivion, unsung without concern. And the underlying reason was what one expected - overemphasis on processes, reacting to symptoms and jumping to conclusions with absolutely no concern whatsoever for delivery, not because the people were not committed or inefficient but due to the all-pervading fear of being pinned down if any decision went even marginally wrong in hindsight. What an insane manner of handling commercial organizations!

The tendering process that we inherited from the british raj is the culprit. Why should I wonder, the process for purchasing potatoes be the same as for buying paintings or contracting for a hotel room or procuring a latest software or adding aircrafts to the fleet? The first thought therefore that comes to mind whenever something innovative is to be resorted to is how this shall be done through the conventional tendering process without the doer landing in a soup himself and avoidance therefore tends to provide solace. Perhaps this is the single reason behind the overarching presence of sub-standard infrastructure, goods and services that we almost always encounter in this nation. The decision making and contracting processes can be and should be overhauled and made simple if we aspire for progress and the silver lining is that there is no doubt about this aspiration in the India of today.

In simplification of processes, not merely flogging it lies the key to success. And let us begin with the tendering process for it has indeed become the bane of delivery in our nation.