MANAGEMENT- railway style
[The D.M.E. is sitting in his office trying to make sense out of the incessant supply of papers his peon keeps bringing in. The table is cluttered with sheaves of paper pressed down by paperweights, tumblers, telephones, sunglasses, rusted bearing rollers, truncated exhaust valves, truncated air-inlet valves. The room is largish, with charts hung on walls all around him. There are charts on productions, rejections, punctuality, delays, incentive, overtime, machine breakdown, uptime, downtime, Bhar line, washing line, sick line, staff on line, and all topics one can think of under the sun. The chairs opposite to the D.M.E. are occupied by the SIO, MIO, TIO, FI, SFI, LF, ALF, PRC, CPRC, and all sorts of people who lead abbreviated existences to the department.]
ALF: (whispers to the LF) Sir! The Sir seems to be really upset over the yard derailment. He has not spoken for over half an hour. Why donít you cheer him a bit.
D.M.E: What are you guys muttering about. Donít you know how serious the matter is.
SIO: But Sir, Yard derailments are commonplace. Nobody ever comes to know about them. You should not be so upset. I am sure it has already been cleaned up.
D.M.E: No, no! I am not worried about the derailment. It is the broader picture that is bugging me.
LF: Broader Picture, Sir. O! I see what you mean. But this will not show in the statistics of the previous month, which I understand was bad. We have entered a new month, in fact a new financial year. It is only the third of April and this is the first derailment of the month and also of the new financial year.
(SIO, MIO, TIO, ALF, FI, SFI all nod synchronously)
D.M.E: You guys have no idea of the pressure I am working under. The chart, which shows yard derailments, is full. This is a New Year and there is no space left to add another column in the display.
SIO: (The most talkative of the lot) Now I see what bothers you Sir! This is indeed a serious problem. (looks at other inspectors) See, we canít even think that far. The Sir is so farsighted, he plans for the big things in such meticulous detail.
MIO: (Who was quiet all along sees an opportunity) Class one officers are a different breed altogether. Sir! Are you from Jamalpur? You must be from Jamalpur. Sir, before you came, the previous D.M.E. had spoilt the whole system. These charts would not be updated for days, sometimes for weeks. He was always touring on line and did not spend a day in the office.
D.M.E.:(feeling good inside smiles and pretends to ignore the comments of the MIO)It is important to present the correct picture. I do not believe in fudging figures. You can see all those charts around you. They conceal nothing. (They reveal nothing either, he thinks and smirks)
FI: (grins) Except the ugly walls, Sir. The engineering branch canít ever distemper the walls properly. Sir, there is one small portion of the wall up there near the ceiling to your right, which needs covering. Sir! We can put up a new chart there for the yard derailments Sir.
D.M.E.: (visibly irritated) You will never grow up Saxena. Do you know how much planning and thinking goes into making and hanging charts? The corner that you are talking about has been earmarked for the Lost Time chart. Canít you see those charts on overtime, uptime, downtime, and on-time around there. Wonít a chart on your derailments look incongruous in such a place? (Pauses for effect) Do you know, my first posting was under the great Mr. Khake Ugle, the man who introduced the theory of management by charts in the railways?
SIO: This Saxena sir! He always speaks like this. Never thinks that there are managerial issues involved in such matters.
D.M.E: Yes, and besides, the yard derailment chart is a bar chart, whereas those charts Saxena is telling about are line charts. How can they be put together. Your naivete amazes me Saxena. (Saxena shrinks into his chair)
(All inspectors are immersed in deep thought pretending to look for a solution)
D.M.E: (Breaks the silence and looks towards the MIO) By the way, Prasad! Did you get the sketch pens I had asked for.
(Inspectors break out of stupor. Thankful that they have to think no more.)
MIO: Yes Sir! I got two complete sets. But each had only twelve colors in the pack. The same colors. They canít even make proper sketch pens these days.
FI: Sir, I know one shop which sells Eastmancolor sketch pens.
D.M.E: Eastmancolor! And what is that?
MIO: (not to be outdone) O! Shut up Saxena. What do you know about colors and management issues? (Looks at the D.M.E.) Sir, I have drawn two trainees from the school and given them a few bottles of colored inks. They have already created fifty-four new colors by mixing the inks in various proportions. It will put even Revlons to shame.
D.M.E: (impressed) Excellent job, Prasad! I knew I could depend on you. But you had better document the new shades a bit properly, and donít forget to note down the proportions of each color which make those new colors upon mixing.
(It is the month of April. CRís are due anyday. All inspectors must make a mark here and now)
SIO: (Feels that he has been left behind by the MIO) Sir, nowadays we get different colors of cellotapes. I am sure we could use them to good effect. The Central Railway has already made them stock items. I will get some right away.
D.M.E:(With gay smugness, opens a drawer) Look at this Gupta. Do you think you are very smart. I have already got a whole box from the Central Railway. The stores department of the Central Railway insists on personal approval of the GM for issue of these cellotapes. This was no problem for me at all. The GM there was my CWM in carriage workshop. (looks at all faces for for signs of admiration which is promptly shown in plenty.)
(Contacts can take you far infar in the Railways, the D.M.E. leans back and thinks. He must gift some of these exotic cellotapes to the GM of south northern railway, who is the future Emmem.
ALF: (looking at other inspectors) See, this is called systematic working. Stock them while you can! Documents things, don Ďt leave things to chance. (Looks at the D.M.E.) Sir, every minute in your company is education to us.
D.M.E: (Embarrassed at this blatant sycophancy) No, no. You see, I must write all this in my handing over notes when I get transferred. I do not want my successor to start experimenting all over again with colors and cellotapes. If he canít match the colors on the charts, which I got made, it will have a direct impact on managerial decision making. It could seriously impair safety and punctuality of trains.
ALF: (encouraged) Yes Sir, continuity is very important for proper management. A good handing over note is the key to continuity, with transfers every second Tuesday of the month becoming the norm. Sir, shouldnít we have achart on handing over notes, I mean on annual statistics of handing over notes.
D.M.E: (grunts) Not a bad idea. Now let us get down to some serious work.
(All inspectors open their respective diaries and lean forward sincerely.)
D.M.E: As we all know that the emmar is coming here next week. We must all make as many charts as possible. On as many subjects as possible. All chambers of officers and supervisors, all running rooms, all driverís lobbies should be full of charts showing positions.
LF: Positions of what, Sir.
SIO: Come on Sharma! Positions are positions. Is there a shortage of positions. Apart from the charts that we already have we can draw more on things like Age of drivers, color of their hair, Locos with circular wheels, Locos with square wheels, Locos with long hoods, Locos with short hoods, Locos with roofs, Locos running on rails, Locos aground, family size of supervisors, leave taken by office clerks, number of wooden and cushioned chairs in office, broken windowpanes in lobbies, and so on. You need creativity to think great ideas.
D.M.E: (elated) Creativity does it! Let us have achart making competition. How abouy school children. Let them come in hundreds and make charts.
LF: (already outsmarted by the SIO, grabs the opportunity) Yess sir! We can annonce cash awards for the best charts.
D.M.E: Yeah. And the best charts will adorn my office. Here you guys can take away these charts from my walls. Gupta! You take those on the north wall, Saxena you can take the ones on your right. Come on! Help yourselves. Go and enjoy life. Hang these charts in your offices.
(All inspectors are thrilled. There is a scramble for the charts. Within minutes, the walls of the D.M.Eís chamber are bare. Falling plaster and peeling distemper peeps out from all over.)
D.M.E: (sings) The day of reckoning is here my friends
Just wait till the inspection ends
The officer with the greatest chart
Is bond to get the GM award
(The curtain falls. No, not the organisation.
May the Railways live long.
May charts abound all around.
May Eastman Kodak rest in peace)
(Please book your copies of the next issue of SAM now, dear readers. We will see how to put technology to work in the area of powerful chart making, with that PowerPoint thing.)Back to SAM99 opening page Back to Junction Point