Sunday, June 23, 2013

Don't ask me - It ain't my responsibility!


Last week, I had traveled to a holy place with my family. Usually the trip is planned just a few days in advance and we book accommodation in one of the local places. This time around, the trip was planned months in advance so as to avail the special tickets for darshan & accommodation from the temple administration

We planned to stay overnight, have the Darshan the next day and return back. We reached late in the night and realized the process overhead in getting a room allotted. Since we had booked on-line, we did have a room somewhere around but in order to get an allocation, one had to go to a reservation center, stand in a queue, get an allocation and then go to the allotted cottage for check-in

I braved the queue and after certain hassels got the allocation letter. Armed proudly with the letter, we marched along to 'discover' our cottage. One of the main motivation to book on-line accommodation was the lovely cottages that we had seen from the outside, during our earlier trips

Our cottage looked appealing from outside however the interiors were not well maintained. Our disappointment would have been evident for whoever cared to look at us... sadly not even the attender bothered to take the pains to notice! The attender groggily guided us to our room and we were shocked to see that the bedspreads were dirty. We asked him to change the bedspread

"What is wrong with it?", he asked surprised, totally jolted off his sleep

"See these stains, we need clean sheets"

He wore a look of disbelief, almost as if I had asked for the moon

"They are clean, sir", he emphasized.. It was evident that these were the best rooms by their standards

"Ok, can you at least replace with a new set?"

"All the sets are like these", he insisted

It was a war of wills. I kept persisting and he kept insisting. In the end, frustrated he said

"Sir, all the sheets are like this. The washer-man cleans them - not me"

We resigned to our fates and decided never to use the temple accommodation again

The attender scoped what he understood was his responsibilities and blamed the washer-man and absolved himself of any professional guilt!

I have noticed similar instances, where the software engineer does not think beyond his work because his manager did not assign him that activity

Mostly it is an issue relating to Roles and Responsibility and the type of leadership practiced by the Manager. In Situational Leadership theory, leadership styles are characterized into four behavior types - Telling, Selling, Participating and Delegating. Unfortunately in the intellectual industry, manager's sometimes get caught up in the "Telling" leadership style, as they feel this is the least risk averse approach - probably yes, if they are knowledgeable - but helpful only in the short run. The impact of continuous use of this style would end up in making our engineers take less ownership and divert their focus on 'assigned task completion'

In the attenders case, his responsibility had probably been to clean the room with the available resources. Management had not educated him to also ensure Customer Experience; therefore he was oblivious to the dissatisfaction caused by him

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