Sweat, stink and some management gyan

A 50+ year old man sat next to me on the Volvo bus. The first thing that struck me was the stink. It was a hot afternoon in Bangalore and it showed in his sweat. The driver had not yet started the bus and had not switched on the AC. I am sure he must have felt the same about me.

“What a pain it is to sit in an AC bus without the AC on…with all these sealed glass windows!”.

Both of us didn’t have confirmed tickets yet, and so didn’t venture out.

I told him there was also a private Volvo bus outside the bus stand, with tickets costing Rs.50 less. He exclaimed, ” Oh, had I known, I would have taken that bus! I could have asked them to boost the price on the ticket by Rs.200 and claimed it.”

Ah, finally, the driver had come and the AC sprang to life.

I asked him, if he was working for the government.

“No, no, I have worked in private companies for the last 25 years.”.

He is now in a company that is primarily into manufacturing transformers.

“I am travelling to Chennai, and have to take a train to Delhi early in the morning. From there, a bus to some place in Haryana.”

He then talked about various other places he has visited in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Punjab and Gujarat.

He didn’t have the polish of a Sales guy. Are you in Sales?

“No, I  travel to attend to service calls. To fix our machines that have broken down”.

But he wasn’t a full-time service person. When he was not on the road, he was working on the shop floor, in production.

“If I work for a full day at my company, I bring in Rs.13 lakhs of revenue. Look at what I am doing now – travelling to an obscure place in Haryana and then to Gujarat, spending most of my time on the road. All this is because our middle management doesn’t care about process and quality.”

He also feared that they would soon need a full-time service team.

“Some of the problems that I am fixing at customer sites are very basic. There are new machines that have broken down because there is no oil. The seal is intact, there is no way the customer could have tampered with it – it is a clearly our fault. This is absurd. I have no idea how these machines were cleared to exit our factory. Our managers, with their fancy engineering degrees care only for the revenues.”

But before we jump to the conclusion that this is typical anti-management mumbo-jumbo, expected from any factory worker and even IT professionals, he is in awe of his MD.

“Our MD is a good man. He is young and wants to build a top-class company. He is willing to listen. He gave us Rs.30000 hike at one shot after one of our discussions. He is always willing to be convinced. But that works to his disadvantage too. He is easily convinced by the managers. He is open and I have personally hinted about the attitude of managers to him. But I can not talk more than throwing some hints.”

He thinks money is the root-cause of all problems.

“Including me, I think we are being paid too much. It kills the desire to work hard.”

I didn’t ask him, why was he then ruing the missed chance to claim Rs.200 more, wrongly.

Despite everything, he believes the workforce is motivated and loves his organization.

“We have a very good workforce. Even a person, about to retire, works at 120% productivity on the last day. If only we had good managers…”

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