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Wednesday, March 12, 2003

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Two-minute solutions

"ITS been a hard day's night"... .sang the Beatles plaintively in the happy laidback days when stress was just a word in the dictionary. I wonder sometimes how they would have addressed the new age penchant for `instant everything'. Right from Maggi's Noodles to management mantras the more instant they are, the better and more effective they are expected to be. Instant management solutions... sounds just the thing for the ever- changing, novelty-chasing marketers.

People are busier than ever before, as colleagues, we sit across each other (not even in a particularly crowded room), e-mail occasionally and literally whiz past whenever we bump into each other in the elevator or at the coffee machine. Lets face it, we live in a world of quick-fixes, of one-minute solutions and one- day approaches. With life on the fast track its tough to maintain quality relationships professionally or personally. And, can one forget quick reads like `Five steps to a successful career'; `Ten easy ways to stay motivated' which claim to offer life-altering tips?

Lost as we are somewhere in the land of instant responses we forget that people and their relationships are not instant, nor are organisations. Reality, like people, is complex.

You need to acknowledge the fact and work with it instead of looking for instant solutions to real life problems. One practical way of doing it as a manager is to try to know and understand the people who work with or for you. Go beyond a' hello' and engage in open and honest conversation.

As an employee you must have come across that one recalcitrant manager who always avoids expressing his opinions. Have you ever tried to find out why he doesn't contribute anything of significance? Could it be that the one time he tried doing that he was asked to keep his counsel and he has till now? We often turn to quick-fix solutions as they offer us simple and uncomplicated answers. We do not like to get involved, forgetting that quick-fix answers sometimes come unfixed. As a manager, you have the duty to find what makes employees tick.

Managers do not necessarily have to be the know- all heads in an organisation. You could try to share some of the challenges of your workplace with your subordinates. You never know what kind of innovative solutions you can generate together. Encourage employees to talk about the present situation of the company and offer suggestions for improvement. Give time for the right changes to emerge. Any major change requires time, testing and tweaking. No problem can be resolved and no change implemented by the wave of a wand. No instant solutions! Try out the new improvements on a small scale before implementing it across the organisation. A quick-fix approach to organisational problems may only affect the profit line adversely.

You may acquire the sobriquet of `fix-it-Fred' for your brilliant instant solutions to any kind of problems, but in the long run you could be contributing to employee discontent and disharmony.

Technology may be reinventing the way business is conducted but one thing remains constant— the impact of your employees on the success of your business. If you don't pay attention to your people issues, high turnover and low productivity may become the hallmark of your organisation!


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