Monday, June 15, 2015

The Great Indian Jugaad

Everyone has heard of it - the Great Indian Jugaad - an easy solution to complicated problems, an innovative, albeit temporary fix to problems.
A workable solution to a complicated problem using available resources  - is how it is meant to be seen. An innovation borne out of necessity.  
But the other side of this jugaad - is the compulsion to by pass systems and procedures in favor of make shift solutions.
We see it around us all the time.
You step out of the house, and you realize a part of the parking shed in your building is broken, it is fixed temporarily by putting patra on it, weighed down by bricks.
You move out on to the road, you see big drums being used to mark lane borders, where dividers are not present.
You glance up and see a hoarding and you see it chipping of in a corner, held together by a contraption of rope and wire.
You even glance into your own car and see a piece of cello tape holding up some part of the dashboard, a piece of cello tape holding the cover of the remote to its back.
I see this in our factory- nuts and bolts that don't fit, electrical switch covers taped in place.
Crude, though extremely innovative steps taken as a temporary fix to a problem.
This attitude stems, I believe, from two things -

1. A willingness, almost eagerness to bypass established systems. 
2. Scarcity of resources, leading to innovative use of existing resources

The second is a macro problem faced by our society, where our governments and institutions struggle to get the resources distributed to us. In such an environment, innovation thrives. Simple, easy solutions are valued and practical. This is jugaad at its best.

But, the first condition is something that is ingrained in us. And i am not so sure how good a thing that is. 

At work, in the factory, i see it in the form of systems being bypassed to complete tasks such as production, quality systems being by passed on the authority of marketing, management systems being by passed in favor of shop floor operations.
Delegation systems being by passed to complete deadlines, audit systems being by passed for daily operations.
This happens everywhere, our customers, our suppliers, our accountants talk of by passing systems - not with a criminal intent, but with an intent to save time and effort.
We by pass established procedures when we do not use the zebra crossing, break a signal, over or under speed, stop at no parking spots, pass a live wire lying unattended and do nothing about it, ignore noise restrictions after 10 pm, throw garbage on the street, spit on the road, drive without a license, ride without a helmet and drive without a seatbelt, drive when an indicator does not work, or the number plate that is partially broken, attempt to bribe a cop, ask for a plastic carry bag from the neighborhood grocer, honk loudly, talk loudly on cellphones in public spaces, don't clear our plates in self serve restaurants, leave the bathroom unclean after our use, accept bad roads and not demand accountability from the municipal corporations, not report street lights left on after day break, use water and electricity carelessly, not pay our taxes, not pay our bills on time. Think about your whole day and you will be able to come up with a dozen more offences.

So many instances, that we do not even recognize them as minor offences, disrespecting rules set up in a civilian society,
And then we complain about the state of our country, lament about the conditions in which we live, blame the government.

The minute we accept that by passing the systems is never a solution, we will have made a beginning, a very strong step towards a coherent future, where systems work in equilibrium, and a checks and balances system will be instituted.

Most systems are broken because at that point in time, it is the easiest thing to do. 
The harder thing would be to halt, think about what was wrong, and correct its root cause. So for example if your indicator is broken and you have tapes it together somehow (a temporary solution), the first thought should always be - "I need to get this fixed as soon as possible, and not drive until its done" and not "I will bribe the cop if he catches me with my indicator broken" (a thing we know never happens here)
But what we fail to realize is breaking the system, will reap benefits right here, right now. But what about the long term? 
Do you really think its safe to drive with an indicator broken, posing a hazard to not only yourself but other on the road? Do you really want to see your broken indicator every morning and fret about the cops catching you?
The problem worsens when you study the political class - which ignores systems to the extent of making the act a criminal offense.
But as a common man (and woman) we can take steps to ensure the movement starts from the grass root and flows upward. Not everything has to be, or can be provided by the government.

Isn't it just better to endure short term hardship rather than long term pain?

Its this comparison, between the now and the future efforts, that we fail to do at that point in time, which makes us reach for that easier solution, to the detriment of long term benefits.
When by passing a system is never a solution, we will truly have world class factories, world class cities and a truly developed country.

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