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Sunday, February 19, 2012

The File Movement Theory

For the past week I had to do a lot of running around to get something’s fixed, specifically for extracting a huge payment for bharat sarkaar. Now this is not really easy, for you have to deal with everybody from the ICS to the IPS. (For the un-informed ICS is Indian Corridor Service, for which there is no formal selection but nonetheless it is as lucrative and in some cases more powerful than the IAS!!).

Now this thing which I am after is still not fixed but the experience has been illuminating.

It is very lucrative to work in an engineering setup dealing with a government R& D organization, the reason being that there is absolutely no downside rather the risk of not getting paid. Once you have an order in hand in paper, you have to complete it and the sarkaar has to pay for it irrespective of whether both want it that way.

Secondly government defense R& D organizations typically don’t know what they want. Scientists often need prototypes for testing their ideas and ideas well they keep on changing. In this particular case the idea changed so many times that the original thought and the final output had not quite in common.

So something that should have been completed in September has been done just now. And once execution is done, operations, engineering & quality are all happy to dump it on sales for the purpose of closure (Read getting paid)

So off I was summoned to move the file between various departments and push it to the final guy. Aha, once I went inside the place I saw that there are links everywhere. I realized that the top guy there and the top guy in my organization have had unofficial dealings. None of my concern, but the top guy can’t do much until the details come to him and if he starts pulling the details for one specific firm his authority within the chain is questionable. Hence you need a fixer at the bottom and mid management level, or someone like me. Now these levels are also not fools and hence the natural justification for the prevalence of the sentiment so if the top guy is getting “taken care” of why not me??

Well I will get to the “taken care” part in a bit.

Ok, so the first day was spent figuring out what needs to be done. Engineering had to clear it to stores and then from stores it has to go to accounts. Simple flow really, but then things go missing. In engineering the senior scientists had no patience for hustlers like me, but they are polite enough to not be up front. Well, I can take a clue so I fixed his PA and day 1 was spent tracing files that needed autographs.

Day 2 was spent in tracing materials delivered to the place. I all 5 feet 10 inches and by no measure un-educated, physically opened all the boxes we had sent and did a one to one verification for the satisfaction of our inspection authority. In short I did their work after requesting them to let me do it. Sweet heavens I event made a spreadsheet for them using their system while they took a tea break (justifiable after all the back breaking work of inspection)

Now while I was making this spread sheet I needed some details from our materials team. Mobiles are not allowed inside so I called from their land line and after some discussion I realized that there is some confusion. Seems some items were delivered and then taken back for re-work. In all there was some 30% of value which could potentially not be cleared.

I could not take a call on this and hence I left it at that. I came back and gave all the details to my team and left them over the weekend to deal with it. (Don’t know what will happen on Monday though!!)

All this running around made me very tired. However in terms of real work I had not actually done much. I thought maybe age was eating up on me but I couldn’t accept this reasoning.

A little bit of thought later I realized one thing; it wasn’t really the work that made me tired. It was rather the motivation of not working made the tiredness very apparent. I worked very hard in my B-School, I did everything possible I could do to learn and I pushed myself hard. I believed if this couldn’t burn me then nothing could. But as I realized now and also an interesting post (Click here) that it is not the work load that makes you tired. It is the absence of motivation to do work that makes it tiring or unapproachable. It is the same thing that makes you learn a lot a day prior to an exam than a month prior to it.

And see how the cookie crumbles from there on.

For all the education learning I have had I was no better than the hustlers outside the passport office or the DDA. They also push files I did the same. But did I really need a master for that?

I found myself questioning the relevance of education in the professional world and the logical outcome was not very encouraging. Yes, you need education, because only after you are educated you realize the futility of all it. Or as they say when you do a doctoral study (P,hD) that the more you learn the more you realize that how less you really know about how stuff works.