Technology and Consulting through the lens of Engineering and Manufacturing @MBA Twilight:

Sir, sometime back with
my candidature, I came with a wish list (The Covering Letter).
With a year gone past post my MBA and joining you, here I am to rate you against your ‘goal sheet’. One year
may not be good enough to comment on your Technology or your Outsourcing or
your Consulting, but certainly not short enough to comment on your behavioral
and leadership attributes.

In my ‘self-evaluation’,
I must say, having worked for substantially long in Engineering, Manufacturing
and Construction firms (Pre MBA), life was not easy getting used to your kind of a workplace.
Good and bad, as you (my present) co-exist with my past, I have found ways to
learn and deliver by knowing the differences. Raised eyebrows ignored, terminologies
by-hearted, working styles copied (read Aped), I have made a journey short
enough to feel fish out of water at times but long enough to pass on my
judgments. Chalk and cheese as they said, the difference between my past and
present was (is) indeed stark. The ‘normality
(N) of an EPC (Engineering
Procurement and Construction) way-of-life is very less in an IT (or ITES) liquid

Sir, while I analyze you
(IT and consulting Industry), I would take my past experience (EPC and
Manufacturing Industry) as benchmark. My intention is neither to eulogize my
past as fully satisfactory nor to blacken my present as fully unworkable, or
the vice versa. In my analysis, I will try to be fair but excuse me for my
personal bias.

Chain Management (SCM):
I don’t have any doubt that there’s no dearth of ‘knowledge’ in you as far as
breadth of SCM is concerned. You seem to be theoretically very copybook. From
the traditional Economic Order Quantity to modern RFID technology, from the
developed lead time reduction strategy to still developing SCOR model, you seem
to have a good grip on everything. However, you seem to show a bit of lack of ‘Point of Sale (PoS)’ knowledge at times. ‘Knowledge’ we possess about the
‘Purchase orders (PO)’, the ‘Bill of Lading (BL)‘, the ‘Road Permits
(RP)’, the ‘Proforma Invoices (PI)’ and the ‘Transshipments’. Well, I feel void
when you use Supply Chain Management and yet exclude those we did day in day
out. Your ‘knowledge’ is in constant fight with my ‘experience’. When you say
communication channel, I decode it as the language of the lorry driver. When
you say, Stakeholder management, I think of my building rapport to an excise
superintendent. When you mean Quality Control, I see myself being careful about
the expiry dates of the road permits, ARE-1 forms and
CT-1 bonds
.  When you say
Planning, I see myself struggling to get a truck of right capacity and back
haulage load. When you use Quality assurance, I remember my cat fighting with
my vendors. When you instruct me to go paperless, I freak out, recalling my
meticulousness to keep the original bills, packing lists and invoices in place,
maintain the file nos., stapling papers in the right order. No wonder we misunderstand
each other as a process consultant would do to a freight forwarder. Sir, don’t
worry, as you call me a ‘Subject Matter Expert (SME)’, we will learn along the

the hands:
Sir, you do walk and talk sufficiently, but don’t do
much of ‘walk the talk’. You have replaced my ‘Tool
by ‘RACI’ charts, the ‘Method

by ‘SOP’s, the testing checklists by recommendation bullets. I can’t say, sir,
you don’t do enough to dirty yourself. You do comment on the font, spelling,
grammar of my power point presentation, but, stooping into a cable trench and
show how to lay cables was something very different. You dirty hands by
analyzing our daily production schedule, Bill of Materials, inventory hooding
pattern, unmetered power, when we create dirty them in the very first place.
You help us manage risks, in a 5X5 matrix, for our work of painting on scaffolding,
our work in the vicinity of high voltage ACSR
conductor, our work in a confined coal mine. You
dirty your hands being a stifling suit clad frequent flyer, we by driving an obsolete
pick-up van in a dusty overall.
We are as different here as a white collar consultant to a construction
engineer. Notwithstanding, as we become a working pair, we will come out with
our ‘hands clean in our work’, Sir.

the language:
Sir, you must have noticed, my
communication skill is not as great as you would have expected. They say,
drawing is the language of engineers. Now that, I have left those –Key Single Line
, Relay Control and Protection scheme drawings,
Warehouse layout and sectional drawings, Cross sections of an automobile engine,
AutoCAD design for foundation works-behind, I am indeed at loss of words. I know,
you too use drawings or alike such as flip charts, fish-bones (Root Cause Analysis), and process flowcharts. The difference is, you need to speak
a lot to explain your stuffs, whereas our drawings spoke volumes for itself. They
were way intelligent than their shapes, sizes and forms. Those legends and
symbols at the corner, those NEMA/IEC/ANSI/ISO/BS
codes at the bottom, and those title blocks with Scale, revision no., drawing
nos. are all now missing from life and, hence, it has taken a toll on my
communication skills, Sir. Without them, my accent is ‘Approved
except as noted’
, my response time is high with ‘Relay Time
Delay Setting’, and my grammar cannot be ‘Issued/released for Construction’. Sir,
this is quite natural we being a power plant builder and you a change management

Protective Equipment (PPE):
Sir, I know, very little to your
employees’ knowledge, you are indeed an ISO 9001:2008, ISO 14001,
OHSAS 18001
certified organization. Sorry to bring this to
your notice, Sir, but I find things amiss in you. Because your employees could never
relish the pride of donning that white personal helmet with the company emblem
inscribed on it, because your employees have never felt the heaviness of slipping
into the jumbo-size safety shoes while going for a under construction site
visit, because your employees have never been looked at as savior heroes sporting
that fluorescent robe while carrying out work on the highway, because your
employees never paid much attention to A, B, C, D’s of fire classes,
it seems, your employees take your accolades for granted, Sir. Because, there’s
no sweaty odor of a robe, no clinking of two helmets, no clog clog sound off
the plywood floor, no prying eyes to check the validity sticker of the fire
extinguishers, we are not on the same page as far as Health, Safety and
Environment (HSE) or the PPE is concerned, Sir. I understand, as you have more
been a framework laboratory than a hazardous chemical plant, our thought
process has been very different.

Sir, let me tell you frankly. Your soft
‘Statement of Works (SOW)’ brings a vacuum in me. I understand you can only be
relied for “Time
and Material
“, while we go “Lumpsum
Turnkey”, your contract agreement has very little but some English and a
resource loading sheet in it. The first time I saw it, I looked at it in disbelief,
“Where are those tech specs in it?” I miss the dimensions of my control room
building, tensile strength of my steel structure, short circuit rating of my
switchboard panel, thread length of my M16
bolts, Vector
of my Transformers in your contract document. How can
you assure your client of best quality products and services without the Liquidated Damage (LD), Warranty, and Penalty clauses in your contract document? Our nature of contract
in our sphere of business has made us separate from a strictly bound EPC
company to a video testimony based consulting firm.

collar world:
Sir, I must tell you, “You are lucky”.
You are lucky because you can give your employees ‘shelter’ under a bell
(albeit a curve) and yet escape, you can fire and still continue to hire. You
are lucky because you are a leader of a pack who are more like you: same set of
degrees, same kind of uniform. You are lucky because you never had to delve
into details of ‘life saving’ Over Time of your workers. You are lucky because you never had to consider a ‘Force majeure
in any of your engagements. You are lucky because you could get away being a
little negligent about Country Labor Laws. Ours was a different world, Sir.
Plants shut, Engineers gheraoed, GM assaulted, HR persons burnt
, our blue collars had seen all colors from black to
red. You claim yourself MNC but we too are no less egalitarian. While you are
only open to Bachelors and Masters, we are also open to intermediate strugglers,
Secondary pass and Diploma holders. We are as different on this as a Manesar
based auto manufacturing company to a Bangalore based IT outsourcing company.

You see, we are two different religions, Sir.
If business is our work and, hence, religion, financial statements are our
Bibles (Or Gita, Quran). On the Income Statements, we are a Revenue
player, you are a PAT (pat
on your back, Sir!) player. Our expenses are in heavy machines, power and raw
materials, yours in employee salaries, laptops and software licenses. Though both
of us are united by products and projects, we are as measurable in hiring
employees as our number of projects, but you are as intangible as your offered services.
Our inventory is classified as raw materials, WIP goods, finished goods, spares
and defects, yours as draft frameworks, un-responded client calls/mails, recommendation
presentations, and change requests. We produce, you serve. We construct metro
railways and manufacture steel, you implement core banking software and roll
out ERP.

Machine Interface (HMI):
Sir, I must say we both are very
intelligent. We have both tamed machines. While you make computer screens
flicker, throw up numbers, crunch data, show charts with your codes and
commands, we found it amusing to make our monster machines spin, dance, hit, smile,
cry, splash. The rotation of the motor shaft, the muscle flexing of the robot,
the breaking of a faulty circuit, the glowing of automatic solar street lights,
the hooting of a relay panel alarm, the water spraying of a fire sprinkler,
were all my playtime pleasure, sir. Somewhere, I miss the bodily mischief of
my athletic machines in the silence of displayed words, numbers and animations
of otherwise vegetative computers. You are an analyst or a programmer, we are a
plant commissioning & testing engineer.

the site Vs Onsite:
Sir, learning to work in virtual team
construct has been my big lesson from you. We too had project team members
spread all across the country and sometimes abroad, but we never paid much
attention to the importance of regular communications, knowledge sharing,
status updates and weekly team calls. You are my pioneer in this regard. We
never valued meetings as you do. We wish we could have made exploits of
technology as you do–using a flurry of WebEx’s, Bridge calls, Videocon’s are -something
for us to imitate. We should also learn to economize scale –INR 3000 air tickets,
no flight cancellation fees, Corporate Meal programme, Transit quarters/Guest
houses etc-rather than imposing travel restrictions (as cost cutting measure).Your
concept of offshore
is comparable to our labor arbitrage in manufacturing
or SCM , but our world of supply is little bit more closer to the world of
demand (read this).
That’s why we stay put at site and you travel onsite.

art of Letter writing:
Sir, I agree that you have made my
life simpler and faster with the FYIs, the NNTOs and the ASAPs in my
communications to clients and the alike, but I miss my “After the compliments”,
“Yours sincerely”, “Assuring you the best quality”, “Reference to your letter
dated…”, “Subject…” etc on the company letterheads. The arts and science of
maintaining the letter number register, the constant count and check of number
of letterheads, that attempt to use of purest form of written English, that
long term contract with the courier agency, that spending hours agonizingly
checking the docket status, that spiraling scurried ‘for’ (on behalf of)
signature, that 10-time self-scrutiny and 3-time boss’ scribbling are all vanished.
That’s how we are good at writing, while you are better at speaking.

Sir, don’t take my attribute ‘resource heavy’ as
sarcasm. That’s the very nature of your business. We may not like utilization
as a ‘goal’, your world of 12th or13th
man of the team (the world of
‘bench’), your not being  Just
in Time
while hiring employees, but you have definitely
impressed us with your full (no matter if it’s even partial) reimbursement for
our PMP®s, CSCPs
and PRINCE2s, your continuous encouragement to
publish white papers, your libraries at the top floor, your nicely designed Web
Based Trainings, your higher education encouraging policies. Salute to you,
sir. These teach us that you may not pay us the best of fixed and variable
salaries, but your intentions to care, nurture and develop your resources are
good. We admit that, we have not been so sincere and well-rounded to consider
about the overall development of our employees.

You must be surprised by now. Why am I repeatedly addressing you by “Sir”? Such
is in blood, sir. You may defy Hopstede’s cultural theory in the Indian context, but we are still plagued with hierarchical demarcation,
male omnipresence and that ‘Sir’ Culture. Such is the culture that we forget a
‘Madam’ existence. To see more than quarter of your employees of my opposite
sex is delightful. Please pardon us for our not so chivalrous or extreme
chauvinism at times. We have been brought up in a certain ‘colonial’ way. If we
have failed to cope up to your mood swings, ego hurts, maternity leaves, travel
phobias, we are sorry. We will show greater cooperation as we grow up in your
grace, warmth and vivacity. We like the way you have made your workplace more
workable for both the genders. The work from Home, the flexi time, the onsite child
care facility, the seamless 2nd innings career integration, the transport
back to home make us realize we would not be unhappy seeing our sisters and
wives working safe and sound for you.

That’s how I rate you a 6.5/10 based on my expectations and your performance