Saturday, April 28, 2012

Architecture - Manager's concept of Beauty of a Building

       In my post dated January 22, 2012, I wrote extensively about the dispatch work. I wrote in that post that apart from the parcels of the daily edition of the newspaper, the parcels of supplements printed and packed separately earlier are also sent to the news agents along with the daily newspaper parcels.

       On Saturdays and Sundays, the pages of supplements are usually more than that of the main newspaper. On those days, the time taken for packing of parcels may not be than any other days. But, the supplement parcels that are to be sent along with the daily newspaper parcels are kept ready at appropriate places for loading in each car/van, and to load all these parcels, the drivers of each transport need more time to check and load the parcels in the car/van.

       The dispatch section was spacious enough to work on the days when the supplement was 4 or 8 or even 12 pages.  But on Saturdays and Sundays, usually there were two or three or even four supplements and the supplement pages were more than 12 and even up to 20, the dispatch section was like a cramped place.

       The supplement parcels sent separately along with the daily parcels were kept outside the dispatch section in an open place.  During rainy days, the dispatch section looked like a real mess.

       If there had been rain before the start of printing, the supplements parcels could not be kept outside and were accommodated inside the dispatch section, and that led to the packers working in a very cramped environment, and also there was confusion while loading the parcels because the supplements parcels could not be kept separately for each transport because of lack of space, and also for each transport, the supplements loaded in the front seat, the back seat, and the bonnet could not be kept separately for easy loading of parcels along with the main newspaper parcels as a consequence of this severe space restriction.

       When there was rain during the printing of the daily paper, but not before, the confusion became even more pronounced as the workers had to bring the parcels from the open space into the dispatch section besides continuing their work of packing, and the confusion continued while loading of parcels in the car/van as the parcels of different transports got mixed, and as a result, there was delay in the departure of the transports. Imagine when there was rain before the start of main newspaper printing, and it continued while the printing and packing of parcels were going on!

       During the winter months, I had to work under constant worry about the rain and the necessity of the additional work of bringing the parcels inside the dispatch section from the open place to keep the parcels not getting damaged in the rain.

       I explained this situation to the manager many times, and I wanted him to make some arrangements for safe keeping of parcels such as putting a shelter in front of the dispatch section so that parcels could be kept safely, and the drives of the car/van could load the parcels without any problem even when there was rain during the loading of parcels.  Whenever I brought the subject to his attention, he promised me that some arrangements would be made in this regard very soon.

       One day, I saw some workers doing some renovation work in some part of the building. I learnt that they had come from the head office to do the work and that the work would go on for nearly a month.

    I went to see the branch manager and told him about my long pending request for some sort of roofing or some other type of arrangement that would help me to keep the supplement parcels outside safely without being damaged in the rain.

       But, what he told me shocked me and made me realize that what he had been telling me all these days about his desire to do something to solve the problem in this regard was just a tactic to postpone the issue and he had no intention of doing anything to solve the problem.  He told me that he could not tell the architect, who was in charge of the work, to put a roof in front of the dispatch section because the architect would tell him that it would spoil the beauty of the building.

       What he was talking about was what architects would call the façade and the ornamentation of the building.  I knew even then that he did not know about anything about architecture beyond that one sentence and that he used that as a popular bromide rather than out any conviction about the truthfulness of such a statement.

       Being an admirer of Ayn Rand, I knew that I could argue against that statement, and I was tempted to explain to him the most fundamental principle of architecture attributed to the great American architect Louis H. Sullivan that “Form (façade which expresses the beauty of the building) follows function” to him, which means that the form or the façade of a building must follow the function for which it is built, and a good architect must be able to design a building in such a way that it fulfills its function and acquires its form (beauty) by expressing that function.

       But I did not say anything at that time and left it at that.  His idea of management was that a manager in one department should not question another manager’s decision even if he knows that is a wrong decision, which if one considers superficially may look perfectly all right.

      But consider the situation that I have explained above.  Here, the dispatch section, which comes directly under him, needs something to be done, the responsibility of which comes under another manager.

      In such circumstances, won’t he ask that manger to do that work so as to improve the efficiency of the work done in the company? How can a company perform efficiently if one department’s decision adversely affects the other department’s work and the manager of the concerned department does not bring it to the attention of the manager of the other department? These are the questions that never occurred to him, or he was not bothered by such things even if it adversely affects his department’s work. What kind of management principle is this?

        His decision was based on the idea that if he does not involve himself in any way with other departments - even if those decisions adversely affects his department’s work and his involvement will make a favorable impact on his department’s work and also the overall performance of the company – then other department staff would not involve themselves in his decisions concerning his department.

        He did not want anyone from other departments to tell him when there was a need to appoint any news agent. He was mainly concerned with news agent appointments as I wrote earlier. This was the work he cherished most in his job.  On the occasions when a new appointment was being made, he looked like a man who got a promotion or a huge salary increase, and he moved as if there was a halo over his head, and he looked like one of the happiest man on earth. I will write about those instances in my future posts as I was a candidate many times for agency for various centers before I got the Ramanathapuram agency.

       I realized at that time that he was using that statement merely as a means of convenience and he was the kind of a manger who does not work but just keep his job.

       This was an instance which was concerned just with the branch manager and the staff of another department dealing with facilities and their function which could only be termed deplorable.

       But in another instance, along with the branch manager, the top management of the company including the circulation manager, and even the deputy managing director of the company, were unwilling the make decisions that severely affected my work, and their attitude were much more deplorable than this. I will write about that in my next posting.

Monday, April 2, 2012

My manager's Attitude Towards Dispatch Work

       Within months of my taking over the dispatch work, the manager's attitude towards the dispatch work, and me in particular, baffled me.

       Here I must say something about the manager and his concept of management of a branch office.  His sole work consists of keeping the cost of running the branch office to the barest minimum.  I have heard this attitude about him, but I thought at that time that it had nothing to do with me or with my work, but one incident happened in regard to increase in the wages of dispatch workers through which I realized that he will try to achieve that goal in any manner whatsoever, which shocked me. 

       At the time of my accepting the offer of the work, he informed me about my position in the company and that I could not expect some of the benefits that the company employees were enjoying such as the evening meal and coffee every two hours offered to the press staff when they come for night duty for printing work.

       I accepted his terms and I was not at all bothered about these simple benefits, but at that time, I again reiterated to the manager that for doing the dispatch work I expect a newspaper agency at the earliest from him. He accepted my request and assured me that I will be offered a news agency when the opportunity comes.  However, when as branch manger, he was reluctant or even unwilling to arrange some facilities that are needed to run the dispatch work efficiently, I was taken aback and wondered about his motive in offering the dispatch work to me.

       Once I asked the branch manager for an increase in wages for the dispatch workers.  He requested me to wait for some more time and told me that it was not the right time for asking an increase, and that he knew the right time for asking such an increase, and he would inform me at that time for writing a letter to the head office for the increase.  I had no other way than wait for some time, as even if I wrote for the increase against his wishes, he might have advised the head office against it or he was such a person that he would have forwarded my letter for increase in wages without comment and orally advise the office against it.

       Therefore, I informed the dispatch workers about it, and they agreed to wait for some time. After two to three months, some dispatch workers directly asked the branch manager for an increase when he came to the dispatch section. He told them that I have not asked for an increase in wages and he asked them how he could ask the head office himself when the dispatch contractor has not asked first.

       When the workers told me about the incident, I was shocked.  But fortunately for me, the workers knew the manager very well and they were aware that he was the kind of person who was an expert in playing the game of getting people against one another, and they just informed me about the incident.

       When I informed them about what transpired between me and the manager about the increase in wages earlier, they understood me and left the matter at that since they knew me very well and believed me and nothing untoward happened further in the matter.

       By behaving in this manner, the manger wanted to earn good name from the company management for keeping the cost of running the branch office very low by postponing the increase in wages for the workers, and also earn good name from the workers that he could not do anything about increasing wages for workers when the contractor himself was not serious enough in writing a letter asking for increase in wages to the company.

       The next day, I went to the branch manager, and without asking him about anything about his meeting with the workers, I handed over a letter to the head office asking for an increase in wages for the workers, and he reluctantly forwarded the letter to the head office, and it was sanctioned.

       This incident relates to increasing wages for workers and thereby increase in the cost for the company, and he may have an excuse  - though no justification - for behaving in this manner as he wanted to keep the cost of running the branch office as low as possible.

       But in another incident, he was not at all willing even to make any effort to get some arrangements needed for running the dispatch work without any recurrent cost increase to the company branch office, like some shelter that I asked him to make to keep the dispatch parcels safe during winter and rainy time.  I will write about it in my next posting.