Agreed, everyone is busy, but “I am too Busy (IMTB)” is absolute humbug and what in general parlance can be described as Cop-out. It means two things when an issue is brought to your for a solution/ suggestion – “You are not a priority” or “I have no clue about it”. In my experience it is almost always the latter. Fear that the capability (or incapability, to be precise) gets exposed is the culprit for this IMTB syndrome.
This is largely a reproduction of a Tweet thread that I had posted a year ago during my efforts volunteering with the Government as a Corona Warrior regarding reasons (in my humble opinion) why our famed Bengaluru Model took a beating. Our war-room and the processes were proudly presented by Mr Luv Aggarwal in his evening briefing pre June 3rd Unlock, when Karnataka and Bengaluru in particular, managed the Pandemic using technology judiciously. The technology implementation during lockdown was studied well by domain experts and the potential pitfalls were highlighted (to add – I had personally given potential numbers if certain measures were not put in place – It so happened my numbers were accurate give or take 10 – Thanks to models developed by Dr Santosh Ansumali and another by Dr Prasanna Simha).
Let me directly reproduce the tweets posted on the IMTB Syndrome
Someone (irrespective of sector) if he is too busy for everything, all the time, it means either he doesn’t know his job or doesn’t know to manage it. I come across so many who hide behind this “I am too busy” from their reportees, from their peers and superiors. If you are a manager find a balance or bosses will have to find some balanced person. In days of mobile phones, you cannot have pagers.
What went wrong with much touted Technical advantage #Bengaluru and #Karnataka has to be discussed sooner than later to save the state and #Bengaluru. #IamTooBusy or #MineIsBest adamance costed us after all the gains we made. With tonnes of experience in IT system/solution architecting, mobile app practice – Both from hands-on development experience too, not just looking over shoulders of developer) architecting was the key fact that did the damage. It cannot be a hobby project when dealing with data especially when we are dealing with Human Lives.
It is not just passion, enthusiasm, hard-working or commitment (of which we never had a dearth, it has a lot to do with Competence too, without which all the others are pointless. (Vice versa is true too. But starting point is COMPETENCE). That is when we, a bunch of enthusiasts conducted a thread bare analysis of some Apps that were used (its tremendous success earlier and its miserable failure once the numbers ramped). Sadly our penchant to investing more to dig shallow wells, instead of one deep productive well, was our bane
There was this particular officer whose #MineIsBiggest adamance is what let go of a multitude of options provided to mankind, free of cost. Why Government has to spend on “Learning Curve” of Private sector was the line. Seriously? On something that is so specific to public health & pandemic & offered for free? When an IAS officer is appointed into the Government services, it is more for his administration skills and much less for any other basic domain skills. If he “was” Engineer it is just incidental and once in service your primarly role is administer, not demonstrate your Engineering skills.
This particular officer had a balloon of an Ego, thought it was passport to so called growth by creating many hobby grade apps – in IT what we commonly refer to as “Hello World” program. We clearly highlighted that the Application Architecture is too rigid and unscalable. It was ok when our numbers were low but unlock expectedly would hike the numbers, contact tracing numbers would jack up, number of cases would increase and so on. Net result, to save his image and adamance that his apps were the best, our City, the IT Capital took a beating both in terms of image and also in terms of public health – Evident in the bulletins released those days – opaque contents and numbers that has spiked. But he was shut to any idea lest his carefully built up image gets shattered – it did shatter but by then City and the State paid a huge cost.
Sincerity and strenuous efforts is no substitute for Competence, which is what this bunch of hard working officers lack. As late as today, solution is not to scale the solution up, but scale the users down. Haalooralli Ulidavane Raaja… goes an old saying in Kannada. We’re no where near haalooru yet. Is it Insecurity when not once, twice, four times you don’t turn up for a meeting to discuss (#IamBusy you know 🙂 without a care for time of people, domain experts whose billable is 40 times > this officer’s. He was out to show who wears the pants in the administration. During a review by Chief Secretary, I did write a note explaining where we went wrong and the remedies there of. Then CS, accepted it and immediately allowed remedial measures and it did not take 3 weeks to get semblance of control again. (Recalling a message I received over Whatsapp – Hey Suresh, you just spiked my husbands growth. My humble reply – I rather spike career growth of one person than risk COVID Spikes)
Here I would contrast it to another officer, also an Engineer but emerged a Superstar in the War against Corona in Karnataka, simply because he just administered, facilitated multitude of domain experts to deliver. Jealous Enemies within carried out a hit job and some wise men thought dividing Bengaluru as per BBMP zones for effective management was a better approach and he was relegated to a particular zone. He performed magic for that zone again and proved, whatever the scale it is about doing a job perfectly and playing his role as required, not to demonstrate his Engineering skills. I have to name and thank this officer on behalf of the state and the City. Thank you Major Manivannan, IAS for being a Friendly Administrator who knew his job extremely well, for being a Facilitator than anything esle and harnessing strength of all available resources (which was scarce). You were the reason why many corporates and NGOs happily joined hands to work with Government. By the way, Major Manivannan was the person who conceptualised the Citizen Corona Warrior (locally called Corona Sainika Program). I was blessed to be associated with the Program as Vice Chairman of Corona Sainikas Task Force handling the state (I was tasked with entire State except BBMP areas) and thereafter as Chief Citizen Coordinator when the Home Quarantine was managed by Citizen Volunteers. But for him, I would not even think of joining this initiative, since working with the existing Public delivery system is very frustrating for someone from Corporate sector. He insulated all the bureacratic challenges from service delivery folks and left free to deliver. Respects to this model Civil Servant.
Would like to recollect contribution of M/s Knowledge Lens to the entire initiative, It was our loss that we could not reach out to them during lockdown (when we had to manage even bigger volunteer pool) and I am sure we would have done even better job with their support. After the unlock, Major Manivannan and me sat down to discuss actions for establishing the Citizen Quarantine Squad (later renamed to make it appear more citizen friendly as Neighbourhood Home Quarantine Watch and Care – NHWC) I still remember how I drove in to Knowledge Lens office in Electronic City and met up with Shri Sudeesh Narayan, Founder and CEO to seek support of two technical Development resources, he dismissed it saying, why two – leave it us, we will develop the entire portal and maintain it – ALL FOR FREE. He r introduced me to Shri Jayesh Sripada Rao (a friend for life now) who then helped us, hand held and in fact became one of the best volunteers himself during the entire battle. I have to admit, it was totally unexpected and Free came with a cream of High Quality Professional outputs. Knowledge Lens’s Mobile practice came in handy to address all the needs of the system. We were able to automate the entire registration process including delivery of ID cards at almost no cost. There was no looking back thereafter. We had lot of partners engaged into the program and smoother delivery inspired even more work from the volunteers in this critical phase. Once again role of Major Manivannan and his support was immense. Sadly, when the zone-wise bifurcation was done, only the zone headed by Major Manivannan used all the apps and results were there for all to see.
What inspired Corona Warriors like me and nearly 40,000 others who were out on the field with support and encouragement of Major Manivannan and then Chief Minister of Karnataka, Shri BS Yediyurappa ji.
Remember when the program started – no one had a clue about what this Virus was all about. But everyone knew what should be the outcome – WE HAD TO WIN – with the App or not
Winding up with a small anecdote – A Senior Bureaucrat asked me (he was trying to understand the psychology of volunteers) “We are duty-bound and paid a salary to do this work, What is in it for you taking all these risks?” My spontaneous answer was (which I strongly believe is what every volunteer thinks and essence of volunteering):
IF NOT ME, WHO?
IF NOT NOW, WHEN?
I was told by this officer at the time of retirement, that he had written these lines on a paper and had it below the glass top of his table.