Effective execution requires cultural change

IRCTC, the Indian Railway’s organization responsible for online ticket booking among other things, has done a great job and has contributed immensely in making traveling a lot easier by successfully implementing online train reservations system.

One of the initiatives that IRCTC has taken up is discouraging printing of e-tickets. This is indeed a noble cause to save paper, ink and manpower. As soon as we give a command to print the e-ticket after booking it on IRCTC web site, it immediately informs us through a pop-up box that “You can travel by carrying the SMS sent by IRCTC or the PDF document (soft copy) of your e-ticket.”

But, one thing I have observed during my frequent rail travels. As soon as a Ticket Checker is shown a mobile or tablet for the SMS or soft copy of the e-ticket, he invariably asks for the identity card of the ticket holder. Even though carrying an original i-card is mandatory for e-tickets, many TCs generally don’t insist on checking the i-cards if we show them the printout of the e-ticket.

But, as soon as we show a digital form of e-ticket or SMS, they somehow feel the urge to surely check the i-card. I don’t see any reason for this behavior because carrying a printed ticket does not lend any more authenticity to the identity of the traveller than carrying its digital equivalent. I think it has become a habit, to see a ticket in paper form. When the equivalent of that ticket is shown in a tiny SMS, somehow some TCs get a cultural shock. Those who have not yet adjusted to this e-reality, still want to stick to ‘checking’ something tangible, if not a paper ticket, then at least a physical i-card. But they want to ‘check’ something for sure. They forget the perfect system of IRCTC, that the SMS is sent to the number which is specified while booking the ticket. It is almost foolproof.

But, some lesser enlightened ones among the TCs need technological upgrading of their knowledge and skills. They need to be trained to look the printed and digital forms of tickets at par. At present, due to their digital semi-literacy, they seem to doubt something in carrying SMS/soft copy of the ticket. This type of insistence disappoints the ticket holder and refutes the ideal purpose of discouraging the prints and saving some trees.  A lofty organizational goal may get defeated in execution if we don’t communicate to the cultural habits of our employees.

Why do we all need regular training?

There are groups of businessmen, professionals, managers, executives, housewives and individuals who regularly go and learn many new things. They attend various courses at universities, institutes, workshops, seminars, lectures, conferences etc. On the other hand, there is a much larger group of similarly occupied people who don’t believe in getting any training. Their argument is : “Now at this age and stage what is the use of training? Our days of learning and education are over when we finished our school/college. Now we have passed that age of learning. Now is the time of working, working, working. No learning.”

Should people in business, profession or job go and try to learn something new? Is training while working useful Does it add any value to a person’s abilities or performance?

Based on my own personal experiences and those of many others, I firmly believe it does. Regular training shapes and reshapes a person’s individuality like nothing else can. On-going learning process brushes us up and enhances our knowledge, skills and attitude, preparing us to take on bigger responsibilities and challenges.

Here is my argument why we all should keep learning. Always.

A typical year in a school or college has around 200 days of education. Let us assume that a graduate spends 15 years in school and college. This results in about 3,000 days of education and training. These are the formative years of our life and they build the foundation of our future. But, for most of us, real, hard, practical life does not start until we complete our studies, as we are safe inside protective shell provided by a family that takes care of all our needs.

Once the education gets over, a person enters the phase of work life. Along with the freedom to make own decisions, the responsibility to take charge of one’s own life also arrives. Real challenges of dealing with people of different types, circumstances, emotions, deadlines, stress start at this stage. In addition to the work life, a person also gets married in next few years, which brings its own demands on time, adjustment and adaptation due to changed roles and increased responsibilities. Eventually, their family expands and challenges multiply even more.

But during this expectable and natural process of changing life stages, a person generally does not have any formal or structured training to guide him/her. Whether it is a challenge at work, a problem about self-esteem or confidence, handling failures or issues in relationships, there is no obvious source where one can approach for help, forcing them to fend for themselves. Due to all this, one makes a few mistakes along the way. And hence, a lot of problems, frustrations, disappointments and confusions happen, deteriorating quality of life and mental peace. It may also result in sometimes irreversible physical health problems.

Of course, we do learn from these mistakes also, but learning from only our own mistakes limits our pace of learning to a great extent. Moreover, this limitation was earlier posed because of limitation of exposure and interaction. Now, the world has become a smaller place and there is a lot of sharing possible among people of the world. Training lets us learn from others’ mistakes also. That is a faster and smarter way of doing things in the new world order.

So, what is the solution? There are no fixed, ready made solutions to all the problems that our personal or work life poses. But, in order to equip ourselves for handling these problems, we must learn new things on a regular basis. In today’s time of rapid technology changes and fast moving trends, there is no alternative to equipping ourselves of relevant knowledge and skills. Also, the routine of life and its peculiarities, may take a toll on one’s attitude, motivation and enthusiasm also. To overcome this drain, we all must get involved with others and attend various training programmes to improve our knowledge, skills and attitude.

If we are ignorant, we may bask in the feeling of bliss, but we will have to depend on others for knowledge and skills to solve all our own problems. Outsourcing is a good management practice, but there is always a context. Nothing can be applied blindly without understanding the context. And for making sense of context, we need to go and learn. It makes a small but very important difference.