Thursday, November 22, 2007
management by obstruction
No, that is not the title of the latest book by Peter F. Drucker or C. K. Pralhad.
Its my realization of a new theory after observing things around me.
Mr Drucker hit the nail on the head when he said things like , "“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work”, or "Management by objectives works if you first think through your objectives. Ninety percent of the time you haven't".
Accompanying an elderly illiterate pensioner to open a bank account in one of India's nationalized banks, in a decently big city, in bank premises studded with LCD screens, banners, snaking queues of people at counters manned by folks preening about passwords, I was aghast to hear that the elderly gent was supposed to have PAN card before he could appear as a record in their database. The attitude of the lady sitting under a sign saying "may I help you", was anything but. Here was a guy, whose pension did not suffice even for his monthly groceries, and he walked huge distances to save on transportation. And he is supposed to have a PAN card, which, until then , as i understood, was a means of keeping track of tax payers.
I was given the impression that even if the lady , as a special favour , entered our data, the "system" would not create an account unless you had a PAN number. This was followed by a smirk, probably expecting us to be technologically disabled out of fear of what Intel did Inside. The lady was unaware of write rights, screen access rights, and the fact that someone above her could possibly handle a non-PAN case easily . In fact banks have a set procedure for such non-PAN cases, with or without computers. That we went to another bank,, and got the needful done , is another matter.
But it then occurred to me that this was a way for the bank lady to manage her workload. OBSTRUCT people. Create fewer newer accounts. Particularly if it looked like their balance was likely to barely hit 4 digits at the end of the month. Weed out such people. Manage by obstructing undesirables.
Police supervising traffic out on the dug up roads outside IIT also "manage by obstructing". Standing on the side of the road, ever since a cop standing on the divider was hit and injured by a speeding vehicle, they get fatigued waving their arms. Traffic gets regulated by local residents trying to cross the road in one piece. The most dangerous are the easily maneuverable two wheelers. The cops specialise in "obstructing" two wheelers, which are then gently waved to one side, and asked to show their "particulars". Most times some other paper things also change hands. I have stood , aghast, 4 feet away and watched, mouth open, only to get a diesel fume blast in my face from a passing truck. Serves me right, I suppose. Who am I to "obstruct" these going ons. The cops continue to "manage by obstruction". Reduces the two wheeler congestion. Yes. Of course.
This was absolutely brought home to me, when i visited the rationing office for a modification to my ration card. After peering through various windows suffering from fading signage, and getting appropriate entries made here and there, i was asked to go round the back and present the stuff to someone for their exquisite illegible signature, which completed the process.
At a three feet wide door above 3 broken cement steps (without a landing , naturally, to obstruct folks from standing there ), there loomed an officer of the law. He stood with one foot down and one foot stretched out in front, resting on the other side of the door, in the finest demonstration of "obstruction" I had ever seen.
"Yes ?" a query and a bored look.
"I need a signature from XYZ" followed by a look at the "obstructed" door.
I was kind of debating whether to hurl myself over the "hurdles" in the finest P T Usha tradition, or bend and sneak in .
An elderly gent inside took the decision away from me. He cleared his throat. The "obstruction" was lowered. I sailed in while the officer of the law pretended he wasn't there in the first place.
One may "manage by obstruction". Ever heard of "management by dithering of laryngeal muscles" ?