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10 August 2007

Lesson from Traffic Jam

Recently, while coming to my office in Whitefield (supposedly an outskirt of Bangalore!!), I was caught in a monster of a traffic jam. The traffic extended to either side like an ocean. Fortunately all the drivers followed the traffic discipline and patiently waited for the jam to clear.
Not this BMTC Volvo bus driver. Like a smart alec, he cut the lane, went over to the opposite side and totally flouted the one way rule.
Since the other drivers were patiently following the traffic rules, the other side was totally empty and he was able to completely bypass the traffic jam and reach the destination.
His action of breaking the traffic rules, however, started a chain. Soon almost all the vehicles crossed over to the other side following the mail culprit which was a Volvo Bus.
And soon enough, there was a jam on the other side of the road with the vehicles coming in the opposite direction unable to proceed
The original culprit who started this mess had managed to get his way. He probably is not even aware of the huge chaos that he has left behind.
This set me thinking
This is the way it normally happens in an organization. You have a challenging assignment which need your people to work as a team. You recruit this snazzy, fast talking , impressive recruit who promises the moon. He comes with impressive credentials and has loads of experience in this area. His CV shows a lot of movement from one organization to another and you nebulously wonder why he had to change many organizations, and you attribute it to his ambition.
This guy is good, he achieves the desired result in the given time and is quickly moving ahead in the organization. He is the darling of CEO and is considered to be a potential star in the organization.
The person who replaced this superstar is not able to meet the high standards set by his predecessor. This new incumbent is an organizational veteran with proven credentials in his previous roles and has been always considered to be a systems and process person. It is a surprise that he is not able to meet the impressive performance of his predecessor. The organization compares the new guy with his predecessor and finds the new guy wanting (didn't the previous incumbent face similar challenges and achieve stellar results?).
The organization wants to know why. Why is it that this obviously smart and efficient person is not able to meet the standards set by his predecessor? It can't be that he is incompetent. He has a very successful track record of managing similar situations. You decide to talk to him.
He informs you that the team is very low on morale. It is highly demotivated and absenteeism and attrition levels are very high in the team. Some of the stars in the team are reportedly fed up and are looking out for similar or better opportunities outside the organization. They feel that the organization do not care for them anymore.
Wasn't this the best team in the organization? Didn't it contain some of the best performers in the organization with reputation of thriving on challenges? How can this team be low on morale? What has happened?
The aggressive predecessor has managed to steamroll the team and meet his targets. His tight control ensured that the organization did not come to know of the damage he is causing to the team morale. The incentive system in the organization ensured that the person who achieves the target is given good incentives - as it should be. But the organization did not have a monitoring mechanism to ensure that the objectives are ethically achieved and in the light of an individual achieving the objective, the organization is also strengthened.
The predecessor is the Volvo bus. He bend the organizational rules and managed to meet his target. The organizational mess that he has left behind is the traffic jam.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This seems to be a perfect fit for Rahul Dravid !!
- Lakshmi