Peacock to Sparrow

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To start with, man was a hunter/gatherer and he used to traverse huge distances hunting and gathering what the land had to offer. As man learnt agriculture the requirement of land required for sustaining himself decreased sharply.

He was able to grow his requirements from a relatively tiny piece of land. The plant that came to his aid was grass - wheat, rice, sugarcane etc. being different forms of grass. This led to more compact existence and the formation of the very first villages and subsequently towns and cities. Society was formed and with the advent of human societies fights broke out. It was “Jiski lathi uski bhains”. So social norms (laws) were created which rewarded “good” social behavior and punished bad social behavior. Man has been grappling with laws since.

Having written the background let me come to the topic. We made large corporate entities and laws to govern them. We identified our resources and tried to optimize their use. The three important resources identified were Man, Machine and Money or the 3Ms. We set up auditing bodies like the internal audit departments, AG offices and the CAG to account for the money spent. We set up maintenance departments for the preventive and break down maintenance of machines. As for the most important resource, Man, we set up audit and vigilance departments to punish the evil and a promotion policy to reward the good.

While we are struggling to prove cases against the bad how are we rewarding the good? The Performance Review Committees (PRC) have become Pairvi, Rishtedari and Chamchagiri (PRC) committees. The most objective grading systems are being maneuvered to reward undeserving people. Ratings are rewarded on the consideration of your caste, the regions you come from or your proximity to powerful people. There is no mechanism to audit the performance evaluation done and hence there is no fear. How do we proceed to become a great nation if the top decision taking level is manned by sycophants, incompetent people and people with doubtful integrity?

The system works like this. There are reporting and reviewing officers placed hierarchically above every employee. The reporting officer gets work done on a day to day basis and is fully aware of the work done by the employee. The reviewing officer is generally hierarchically distant and often unaware of the work being done by each employee. Come appraisal time, the reporting officer rates the employee 98 to 100 over 100 and shows him the rating with a word of advice “pairvi hai to laga do”. Don’t hold me responsible if you are not promoted as I have done my job.

The ratings from the reporting officers travel up to the reviewing officer who asks the unit head on how to rate the employee, considering the already fixed people to be promoted (based on Pairvi, Rishtedari and Chamchagiri). The unit head generally at the fag end of his career has other personal priorities as his stake in the organization is now low. The ratings are suitably moderated. PRC is held and some horse trading takes place with each boss trying to push a maximum number of his favorites. Truce is reached with some of each accommodated and the promotion list is declared. An army of hard working people who are pairviless are left demotivated.

The point to be noted is that people who work hard do not have time for polishing bosses or doing PR exercises to find pairvis. These are the ones who are left out and get demotivated. With every promotion list, a wave of demotivation sweeps across the organization. The sad part is that the people who rise have never worked hard and never will in future. They will continue the game of pairvi and chamchagiri and seek the same from their sub-ordinates. The result is an army of demotivated competent, able workers working under incompetent bosses. Where does it leave the organization? Work suffers but then who cares about work? Bosses mostly have a short stint of service left and their stakes are small.

When our corporations hire, they go for nation-wide entrance exams and select the very best, the cream from amongst lakhs. If I were to use an analogy, the peacocks are the young, bright, motivated, creative people bursting with new ideas. Then we dump these peacocks among a host of pigeons (the people who have learnt to tow the line and please bosses). Soon the beautiful long feathers of the peacocks are plucked out and the poor fellows learn the corporate art of yes-manism and sycophancy the hard way. They become pigeons too. Then they are subjected to the evaluation system and soon become sparrows.

Do we become a global super-power if our offices are headed by in-competent people. Why don’t we have third party audit of the systems governing employees being followed in our offices?

For any country to be great peacocks have to shine out. Research, inventions, discoveries, integrity and a lot of hard work make a nation great. Look at all the advanced nations and how they reward talent, the path to greatness is that.

Our PM rightly emphasizes the need for skill development to convert our un-employable youth to a very productive, employable work force. So we are going to have more and brighter peacocks but the “system” waits with drawn swords to convert these peacocks to sparrows. We must create a generation of nation builders and we should not simply be an exporter of people who build other nations while they lament at the conditions back home. Attention is also required here. We must audit, dismantle and rebuild our systems so that they reward and empower the competent and not the in-competent.

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