Tuesday, June 19, 2012


We have heard this word 'Inflation' a lot of times when we watch the news channel or read newspapers. Inflation in monetary terms is the rate by which the prices of goods and services are raising when compared to sometime in the past. Many economists claim that a controlled monetary inflation is good for the economy.

Apart from the inflation in currency, inflation in various other fields are witnessed today. For example, if anyone gets admitted to a private hospital in India, they spend a certain amount of time in the intensive care unit (ICU) no matter what kind of illness they initially had. A decade earlier ICU was used only for 'intensive' care. But now, ICU is just another ward. To combat the loss in value of ICU, some hospitals have introduced a CCU (Critical care unit). Some see that CCU is the new ICU. Isn't this inflation too?

Almost anyone who earn around 20,000 rupees a month gets a gold credit card. A gold card was something preserved for general managers and CXO level people a decade and a half back. Now, platinum and other levels have taken over as the superior levels in the credit card market. This has brought down the value of a gold card. Isn't this brand inflation?

A customer care executive of today is the receptionist a decade back. A marketing officer is someone who sells soaps door to door. Now, executives are at all levels such as a facilities management executive who sweeps the floor. There was a time when executives were the top level people who had great powers within an organisation. The value of executive has fallen down so much in the past years. Isn't this designation inflation?

In the earlier days, clothes are measured in inches or centimeters. Now they come in sizes. It was discovered that size 10 of today is an inch bigger than size 10 of last decade. Inflation has crept in size too.

A controlled monetary inflation is good for everyone. Inflation, in any other area, can only bring the value down. It makes us feel that we have access to bigger things such as possessing a gold card, or working as a customer service executive, or fitting into size 10 all the time or staying in a critical care unit. Although we are led to believe that we are doing greater things, in reality, we are only fooling ourselves.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Man versus machine

During the industrial revolution, the idea of mass production and distribution flourished. Large factories with machinery were installed. Workers in the factory work with the machines that produce various products which are then sold. Factory discipline came into existence. People started working for a specified number of hours a day in set patterns.

In those times, roughly the productivity of a worker is largely dictated by the productivity of the machine in which he worked on. If a machine is capable of producing 100 bottles a day, then the productivity of the worker is also the same. The output of the worker can only increase when the output of the machine increases. This is one of the main reasons for the fixed hours work culture to come into existance. The management team can clearly know in advance how much the factory can produce based on the number of hours the machine and the worker works. This is the era in which time and productivity are very tightly coupled.

Fast forward to the current times and see the life of a consultant or an IT engineer. The basic guideline still is to work for nine hours a day. The assumption is that the employee would produce a specified units of work in those nine hours. One of the common feedback from an appriser to the apprisee at the end of the year is the time the appraisee spends at work. Even if an employee has never missed deadlines, he would still be pulled up for not putting enough hours at work or for not working on the weekends.

Are we still living in the industrial revolution era? High end job needs free thinking and every person's productivity is different. An employee should be paid for the amount of his output rather then the time spent in office. Clearly, the time and productivity link is much weaker now when compared to the previous era. In organisations like Wipro, it is mandatory to spend specified number of hours at work even though the employee is perfectly capable of producing the output by working lesser hours. How does an organistion reward an employee with higher productivity, or punish less productive workers? Is it fair to judge an emplyee with the time he spends in office everyday, rather than his output?

One of my friends used to work till late night and work from home after that as well. One day, after completing his work, he sent a mail at 1 AM to his manager informing her that the work was complete. The next day when the manager asked him whether he worked until very late in the night, he said yes with a big smile on his face. The manager looked at him for a minute and said "Plan your work properly next time and try to be more productive"

Isint that the difference between a man and a machine?