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Daudke Jao

Posted by anandrr on December 10, 2007

Staying with my brother who is an officer in the Army, exposed me to a whole new way of looking at people. The Army of course has too many people in it. If there is something that can be automated, the Army will find a way to do it with people. What this means is that every officer deals with a number of people every day engaged in some menial task or the other. But there’s a thing about menial tasks and the people that do them, apparently you have to give very precise instructions. Take for example this conversation between Col. brother and unidentified lackey (helpfully translated from the original Hindi for your reading pleasure).

Col. Brother (stops car outside officer’s mess): Hey Unidentified Lackey.

Unid. Lackey: Yes sir.

C.B.:  Go in and check if my newspaper has arrived, and if so get it to me, and also tell the newspaper guy to deliver it directly to my home from tomorrow on.

U.L.:  Yes sir, right away sir. (turns around and begins to walk towards the mess)

C.B.: Run to it (eponymous  Daudke Jao)

(U.L. dutifully commences to run into the building)

At one level, this seemed bizarre. Surely, U.L. could have been told to do it quickly, and presumably he would have run in. But no, U.L. was told to run in, the philosophy there being, don’t just tell him what you want, tell him how you want him to deliver it. But when I got to thinking about it, that’s exactly right. When you have a large mass of people like India does and many of them are engaged in tasks that don’t exactly stretch their brain power, you need one guy who comes up with the process and decides who does what and how, the rest of them just do it. Some of them will actually rise to the occasion and prove themselves worthy of being the guy who gets to make the decisions, but most of them just won’t. Either they aren’t smart enough or literate enough or whatever.

This of course doesn’t apply just to the army and its vast numbers of orderlies. It applies just as well to the masses of people working in various BPO operations around the country. India’s advantage is large numbers of English speaking people who can do the same job as a call center operator (or MS Word jockey, or what have you) in the US for about 1/10th of the cost. So don’t waste your time picking the right operator, just hire 3 of them of about average abilities to replace the 1 in the US, and here’s the kicker: write up a detailed, very detailed process telling them what to do. Bonus points for including such details as “Ctrl-C the text, click on the other window, type Ctrl-V,” etc. This seems quite derogatory, surely we could hire Indians who would understand that they need to cut and paste. But the thing is that we have millions people who will be quite happy to do the robotic work for much less money than the smarter guy who actually knows what cut and paste is. And it takes much less training if you have detailed instructions.

I’m beginning to see why detailed process is so important.


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