The Road to Failed Endeavors is paved all the way with Execution Screw-up’s.
Here’s someone from the most unlikely quarters that got it right.
This is a 120+ years-old 5000+ strong organization, serving 200,000 customers dispersed over a sprawling metro.
Well, what is special about them?
– For starters, six-sigma like performance with 400,000+ transactions in a day, almost on time, every time. These are end-user transactions and do not include internal en-route transhipment transactions normally prone to errors. Contrast it with the hi-tech baggage handling by the airlines industry.
– No disruptions in a city where every political party routinely organizes strikes for whatever reason.
– Education of the employees: Barely literate, some up to 8th Grade in school.
– Technology: bicycles and wooden-crates. No documentation at all. Recently introduced are booking through SMS and a web-site to inform and collect feedback.
The wonder organization is the Dabbawalas of Mumbai – a subject of study by many management schools.
A dabbawala literally meaning (“box person”), is a person in India, most commonly found in the city of Mumbai, who is employed in a unique service industry whose primary business is collecting freshly cooked food in lunch boxes from the residences of the office workers (mostly in the suburbs), delivering it to their respective workplaces and returning the empty boxes back to the customer’s residence by using various modes of transport.
So honest and reliable that customers are known to send home their pay-packet through the dabbas.
What works for them?
‘Their efficiency is not entirely a management marvel; it is rooted in their cultural values,’ says Ramesh Kamble, a professor of sociology at Mumbai University. The 5,000 dabbawalas come from a particular community of Maharashtrians, hailing from 30+ villages around Pune, deeply influenced by the Bhakti [devotion] movement. Denying exclusivity in hiring, Pawan Agarwal, a senior officer of the organization says:’The only recruitment criterion is a ‘guarantee’ – essentially, a verbal assurance of the candidate’s character – by an existing member. Most people tend to refer their friends or family members who belong to the same community…Our values, inclinations and psychology are similar. So there is better understanding and teamwork.’
Bino Paul GD, an associate professor at the TISS School of Management and Labor Studies observes: Their tremendous sense of social coherence with the city – they live with their families, eat home-cooked meals and lead respectable lives – further contributes to the culture and the cohesiveness of the dabbawalas.
There are other management gurus who think it is not as simple as that. How could it be so? They see a whole range of management, organization and process related factors contributing to the impeccable performance. They have not yet discarded the phenomenon as unscalable and freakish.
Whatever, an organization that works unerringly amidst the prevailing chaos. Could it be emulated elsewhere? The Wharton study tries to explain why this story is not easy to practise with the taxi drivers, for example, of Mumbai city. Reasons cited are hard and long duty hours, unrewarding business, the fuedal culture and a life of deprivation for the migrants from the north who constitute a large part of the population, etc.
Interestingly, it also means the stellar performance is now institutionalized outlasting several different leadership periods. In fact leadership is not mentioned anywhere in various write-up’s on this success story. Are there more examples of such kind?
Sources: Grateful thanks to knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu and Wiki.