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I had for a long time taken pride in the fact that we are masters of Jugaad, the only guys around the world who knew how to fix issues by bending some rules or breaking a few, in fact this was considered as an additional qualification by me until quite recently.

How you could study overnight while going over previous years questions papers and manage a distinction, or how you could board a train without a ticket and still manage to talk your way through more than a couple of ticket checkers. Part of it was borne of the fact that we were never allowed to be ourselves, we were always expected to excel and still play by the book keeping the glorious Indian value system in place and more often than not playing by the book meant, not getting caught.

But now when I look back, I realize that though this jugaad did help in the short term and gave you a high, knowing that you could manage so much so quickly with virtually no collateral damage, I now understand the enormity of the malaise called the Jugaad culture. What it does primarily is to focus on the outcomes without looking at the process. It motivates people and organizations to adopt short cuts instead of slogging it out to get things right.

A recent case in point has been the Volkswagen disclosures on the cheat software to hoodwink emission norms on millions of engines. With my limited knowledge of what could have been the reasons, the primary and obvious one happens to be the desire and pressure at becoming the world leader in passenger cars and to achieve the same, a small compromise in emission norms seemed a small price to pay. Since the lives of passengers or their assets weren’t being compromised it might not have seemed to be a big crime. And as they say you’re playing by the book till you’re not caught. However the total savings that Volkswagen made by the cheating process was around 4.3 billion euros, while since the disclosures the shareholders of Volkswagen have lost more than 29 billion euros. So cheating is really not cheap when caught.

However if you pan to another leader in the online space Google you will find out where the culture of integrity and self responsibility is not only helping the company to maintain its leadership position but is also helping it to innovate and stay ahead in most of the verticals it is in. The pressure to be number 1 might not be as overbearing as is the need to be the best in whatever is done.

A simple take away for Indian organizations and for Indian managers including myself would be to

  1. Set the right standards of performance and integrity in all the activities that you do and inculcate the same value systems within your organization. Understand the cost of cheating and the eventual price one needs to pay.
  2. Empower your people by giving them responsibility and the power to fulfill those responsibilities bench marking them with the standards you’ve set. These standards mustn’t really be dollar values but performance and efficiency standards.
  3. Create a work life balance which helps them feel content with the work they do rather than them feeling the need to achieve a financial milestone at work to be able to afford something special with their personal lives. Victory should always not always be measured in short term financial goals only.
  4. Work at long term growth and long term development of the company rather than keeping a short sighted view of the things to do.

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