The following is a humble attempt at sharing my learning and experiences while administering and managing businesses as diverse as Tea Production to Real Estate over a span of around 35 years in various capacities. Though the learning process never stops throughout our lives, there are certain ideas and techniques one picks up during their careers which seem to work. Though these may not be ‘rocket science’ but ordinary everyday things which seem elementary, obvious and just common sense once they come into our minds, sometimes we just tend to miss them out.
Having worked in different kinds of businesses and organisations, my first observation is that the art of managing them is almost identical. Any activity, from a small household to the largest business house right up to a large nation carries on efficiently only when it is being constantly monitored and systematized i.e. ‘Administrated’.
I read a book by Lee Iacocca when I was a young Management trainee at Warren Tea Ltd. in Kolkata in the year 1984 and certain examples cited in this book have stuck in my mind ever since. The author compared an organisation to a symphony orchestra in which all the musicians, in some cases over a hundred of them, are expected to play a piece of music written by a composer and conducted by the leader. In such an orchestra, the author says, there would be a very negligible difference to the music even if a few musicians completely stop playing their instruments but the piece of music would be ruined if even ONE musician played the WRONG NOTE. Could we have a better explanation of what is expected of the Human resources in an organisation?
Role of Administration
The role of Administration in any organisation including Real Estate can therefore be summed up as ensuring that no member of the organisation ‘plays the wrong note’ , ‘stops playing altogether’ and that every individual gets the right environment, resources and support to perform his duties well and in an efficient manner.
Building an efficient team that works great together
The importance of TEAMWORK in any organisation cannot be overemphasised and to instil this spirit amongst the entire workforce from the lowest to the highest levels should be the basic pursuit of those responsible for administration. All departmental heads in turn are required to do the same amongst their own teams. Every person has to realize that the performance of any organisation, whether good or bad, is the net result of everybody’s individual performances. A good example to hit the point home is a game of soccer or any other team sport. There are no goals scored by the ‘forwards’ unless the defence and center field players put in their very best efforts and when the winner is declared it is the team that wins, not any player. However, teamwork goes beyond doing our own jobs well. It also means helping others to do their jobs well and performing better. ‘The best way to move up in an organisation is to help your boss get promoted’ is a line I read somewhere and I quote it often.
Monitoring quality and quantity of work:
Close MONITORING of the quality and quantity of work carried out by both man and machine is of utmost importance especially at construction sites. Monitoring systems taking into account the peculiarities of each worksite must be developed so that efficiency of all resources can be utilized in an optimum manner. Unfortunately there are no thumb rules for this and the software and other tools available, though helpful, are dependent on data and prove failures if the same is not collected and entered correctly. It is therefore important to devise some ‘local’ systems in addition.
Be an Effective Self-Learner
It is very important for those of us in Administration and General Management to self -educate ourselves with BASIC TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE of the business of one’s organisation which in Real Estate would broadly be Architecture and Construction. We must also keep abreast of the latest advances in technology, improvements and innovations in building materials etc. etc. One should have no problems learning even from the junior most artisans and supervisors since they are the ones actually carrying out the work on the ground.
Damage Control and waste management
ELIMINATION OF DAMAGES AND WASTAGES is an obvious concept which sadly gets ignored to a large extent in the construction industry. I have seen too much breaking and rebuilding at sites during my career in real estate. The technical staff carries this out without flinching an eyelid. Getting things ‘First Time Right’ by reading drawings and other documents correctly and ensuring proper supervision during implementation at site is a great step towards avoiding this. ‘ A Rupee saved is a Rupee earned’ is a concept which everybody must understand. Maintaining a well organised and systematic store at all sites can also be of great help towards avoiding wastages. Also monitoring consumption vis-a-vis work carried out using various available tools is a must.
Coordination to Achieve Organizational Objectives
COORDINATION amongst various departments, which in a Real Estate organisation would typically be
and so on, is an important administrative responsibility. However this is easier said than done. Instead of working in tandem towards the common goal of the organisation each department likes its independence and likes to project itself as a ‘prima donna’ in successes but hates to share a part in the failures. An effective Administrator at the top should be able to communicate the goals of the organisation to all levels of employees. I am reminded of a story about NASA which I heard years ago. A visitor arrived a little early for a tour of the facility and while sitting in the waiting hall ,he noticed a charwoman cleaning the place and grumbling about her job to herself. When he told her that if she hated her job so much why she doesn’t leave, ‘I’ll do it soon as they put a man on the Moon’ was her quick answer. No wonder NASA is rated as an ‘excellent organisation’. Communication gaps amongst departments also need to be bridged frequently.
Create Innovative Solutions to Problems
CREATIVITY and INNOVATION in finding solutions to serious problems can come from any quarter, sometimes from where they are least expected, and from any person no matter how junior or senior. Instead of constant spoon-feeding and over-instructing, administrators and managers at senior levels need to constantly probe within their organisation for effective solutions and improvements. A couplet by the great Sufi saint Bulleh Shah translates to ‘O Bulleh Shah you are trying to catch petty things flying in the sky while ignoring the great things that exist around you’. While attending a Management Development Programme at XLRI Jamshedpur way back in the early nineties, we were told the following story by a certain Father Francis : A young boy joined a new school and during art class was given a paper and some crayons. Moment he was handed these, his imagination started working and he started visualising various beautiful things to draw. However, when he started, the teacher immediately stopped him and said he had to draw a rose. He then imagined a beautiful yellow rose but was again stopped to be told that he was to draw a red rose with a brown stem and three green leaves. The same boy then moved to another school in another town to which his parents moved. He was again given a paper and crayons in art class but this time he was told he could draw anything he wanted. Guess what the little boy drew- a red rose with a brown stem and three green leaves. This is exactly how we are killing the creativity of employees in today’s business organisations. Some industrial organisations achieved excellent results by establishing ‘Quality Circles’ in each wing of their operations ,consisting of a leader and a few shop floor workers, in pursuit of the Japanese theory of “Kaizen” or continuous improvement.
Develop Trusted Relationships
TRUST is a virtue which has to be earned by one’s own deeds and actions. Remember that subordinates only obey bosses they trust, bosses only listen to subordinates they trust and clients only believe professionals they trust. While dealing with subordinates the policy of ‘firm and fair’ works the best. At the same time all decisions need to be taken confidently and swiftly. No one respects a dilly-dallying weak-kneed boss. I believe Henry Ford had a clear policy while he was the chairperson at Ford Motors- if he wanted to acknowledge an employee’s good work he would always do it in writing so that a person had a document he could cherish all his life. However, if he wanted to ‘give someone Hell’ he would always ‘do it on the phone’.
Work Smarter and Be More Productive
WORK SMART is a concept which doesn’t require any explanation yet managers at all levels seem to ignore this obvious fact. ‘Never do a job the hard way if there is an easier way of doing it’ states Taylor’s rule of intelligent laziness. However if there is no easier way then the hard way is the only answer.
‘KISS’ which expands to ‘KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID’ is an obvious but often ignored fact. All instructions, internal communications, customer communications, presentations require to be in the simplest language, crystal clear and as short as possible. It would surprise most of us to realize how short the attention spans of human beings actually are. Moreover, as far as instructions go, it is a great idea to stick to the written medium. In almost every management training programme I attended as a young manager one exercise was always conducted to prove how verbal communication distorts facts. Anyone can try this during a gathering of employees or a training programme. Select five people at random and instruct four of them to go outside. Ask the person inside to read a simple three line instruction and remember it. Then call the others in one by one and ask each to communicate the instruction verbally to the next. Person one tells person two, person two tells person three and so on. Ask the last person to then write on the board what was communicated to him . I guarantee he will write something not even remotely connected to the original instruction. Now imagine what happens when a verbal instruction filters down to the worker at site?
Friends, I started writing what appears above with my mind blank as a slate. However, as I progressed I found experiences and memories coming back like a tape being rewound. I would therefore like to conclude for now as I think I know something about human attention spans. l sincerely hope that some of the thoughts I have shared will come in handy in the daily work routines of at least some of the great people of our industry.
If you have reached here, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your patience. And you have an above-average ‘attention span’.