Posts Taged common-sense

When to break process – my power tips for success!


Just few days back I was on my way to Hyderabad from Kolkata. The short personal trip was humdrum until a mini argument (with an exciting potential to explode) with a stranger changed the equation.


The boarding was supposed to start at 1:15 pm but even at 1:20 pm, none of the ground staff had any clue as to whether the flight was delayed, canceled or for that matter hijacked!  The flight status display- board was hand-in-glove with them and did a “David Copperfield” on all traces of the flight.  To add to the confusion (and my immense irritation), my fellow passengers were the planet’s most chilled out bunch and seemed unperturbed by the prospect of a missing flight. Hence, I decided to take it easy.

Then they found the plane and the boarding started at 1:30pm. There were three physical separators to make row/seat-wise boarding easy; Seat# 1 to 10, Seat#11 to 20, Seat#21 to 30.  No one seemed to care much about the seat numbering or had the sense to stand in their respective queues. A commotion was impending.

I did the same, as that needed me to spend the least amount of energy to get to the desired outcome (i.e. not to miss the flight.)

After 8 minutes or so, I heard a man (in his mid-30’s), asking an elderly man who was standing beside me, “Sir, are you in the queue?” His tone and that look instantly annoyed me. The elderly man immediately disappeared into the crowd little far behind.  Then the person turned to me and with same annoying tone asked, “Madam, are you are on the queue?” I looked at him but choose not to respond.  He repeated his question. This time, I replied, “No I am not.  There is no Queue”

The guy got angry.

He replied (in a louder tone), “I don’t think so.  I am standing in the queue”.

I understood he was insecure and operated from fear of missing the flight.  I decided to respond back, assuming he would be mature enough to comprehend & reason with my response.

I said, “Assuming you are right, this board states 21-30.  So there should be 9 people in the so called queue.  Do you see 9 or 20+ people here in this imaginary queue?”

He was super annoyed with my reply and said: “I don’t care!”

I decided to give him a second chance & said (very calmly), “I get that.  You can go before me or before anyone else. No one is stopping you but there is no queue

He got super paranoid with my response. 🙁

Anyway, after the brief exchange of words, passengers started moving. I let him go. He was travelling with his mom and dad and they seemed tensed because of their son’s childish behavior.

While walking towards my seat, I was reminded of similar behavior in the #workplace, where people are so bogged down with #process.  I have never quiet understood why process becomes so important versus the end result?  There are 10 different ways of doing or getting from point A to point B and the set process might not be the best one for all situations.  People should exhibit situational #leadership and use process as a reference or guideline. In this situation, the objective was to get to the plane from the boarding area on time.  If the environment and people were able to comfortably manage without a queue, then why impose an invisible queue (or process)? What do you gain out of it? Well, I feel it is an exercise in futility. Moreover, this exercise makes you spend X (enough to give you palpitations) amount of your precious energy!

All right, the story does not end here 🙂

My seat number was 30D (the last seat of the flight).  To my surprise (and utter annoyance), I found the angry man as my co-passenger.  I would not lie; I was mortally infuriated.  Nevertheless, I went to my seat and tried my best to not look at him or in that direction. However, some people just ask for more.  He started shifting in his seat as if he was sitting his living room sofa. That just did it! I lost my temper and had to educate him that he was inside a plane and not in his playpen. He did say a muffled ‘sorry’ but that was of no use.  I replied in an ice-cold voice, “Your sorry does no good.  You better mind your words and actions”. I just loved the scared look on his face and his dad was literally trying to save his adult child through his pleading looks.  It happens in day-to-day workplace when we start questioning on #metrics and #efficiencies vs. following mere #process.  Most of the time, the reply we get is, “my boss would be unhappy if we don’t follow this …” Very rarely I find the objectives are clear with a laser focus on product betterment or business outcomes.

A rather humorous analogy to this was narrated by my friend @Pijush. He was once driving to Aurangabad (Maharashtra) and suddenly, Google Map Navigation asked him to take a detour. Within minutes, he found himself driving through thick paddy field with a muddy track that only tractors can vanquish. Later he found that his navigation was set to “walking” instead of “driving”. He was made to follow the process rather than concentrate on using his own bearings to ignore the detour.

After that process-bashing spree, let me present a different side of the ‘gentle monster’. Process is very important as a ‘frame-working’ tool but as they say, a tool is as good as the person wielding it. Sometimes the same result or outcome can be achieved by following 2 different and distinct processes. This process duality theory is specifically relevant when it comes to managing order and chaos. In some cases, both, order and chaos can co-exist, leading to an interesting situation of controlled pandemonium. If a process is unflinchingly stagnant, then it becomes obsolete with rapidly changing external factors. Process should be evolutionary; it must be continually updated to reflect the changing demands of the culture, business or market and more importantly, it should be a guideline rather than a straitjacket. And it’s no mean feat to walk the tightrope between process and revolt (though some call it out-of-box).

Anything in excess is counter-productive to the original need. When we become enamored and enslaved by process, #leadership and #innovation are the first casualties.