“Key to high work morale”- 18 February 2014

During his first round of the facility after taking over as General Manager, Ashutosh realised that the place had not been maintained well. In his earlier company, Ashutosh had worked in a spotlessly clean place. So, his first instructions were clear: “Clean up the place, do up the place, and keep it up that way all the time- at any cost.”

That appeared rather too straightforward, the Office Superintendent felt. But he was given the task of leading the cleaning campaign and he had little choice but to do things to the new GM’s bidding.
Once the OS launched the cleaning drive, he realised that the new boss was very right. For, every corner of the place was full of filth — dust, heaps of moth-eaten files and mountains of yellowed papers that had never been touched for years. To make matters worse, everybody in the sprawling office was very protective about those mountains. “What does it contain?”, the OS asked a man in his fifties (which had been working in the company for a good 25 years. He said he did not know what the material contained. So when the workers started picking up those loads, the man opposed stoutly.
So, the OS consulted Ashutosh. Again, instructions were clear: “Ask two of your staffers to take those mountains to the godown outside and go through all the stuff. If they feel that there is something that needs to be looked at, he will ask you. If nothing then they will sell the stuff off to a raddiwala.”
Yet, as the staffers sorted out the stuff, Ashutosh himself inspected the stuff quickly to find some useful and important record which he asked to be saved neatly in fresh files. He also ordered some of the material to be digitalised for future use.
Yet, as the drive went on, everybody realised that the office was sitting on mountains of filth that had no business being there in the first place.
The cleaning drive went on for several weeks. It also included painting of walls and ceiling, and repair of polishing of furniture. For those many weeks, the whole office was harassed, but had to endure the drive because of the new boss wanted that to be done urgently.
Ultimately, however, when the work was complete and the office started shining, everybody loved it. And one of the most visible after effects was the overall timings of the staff. Everybody came in time, and lingered on after the shift was over. For, who doesn’t like to work in a spotlessly clean place?
This is a major issue in most organisations. Over time, each place develops a tendency to keep piling things in corners that are beyond sight. Those corners and nooks then become dumping yards of materials whose relevance few would ever know.
In fact, this process is the one that takes place in homes as well. For, in most homes, there are corners that are used as dumping yards and develop sizeable loads of filth that should be disposed of immediately.
Ashutosh had a clear idea of what he would do to make the impact of his arrival visible not for showmanship but for actual good effect. So, he launched the cleaning up drive, and had remarkable results. For, the first thing that everybody noticed was that the staffers enjoyed working in a clean, spic and span place. This element of enjoying the work is the root cause of efficiency.
Unfortunately, this approach is never taken in most organisations. Barring a few organisations conscious of the importance of clean places of work, most places present an unkempt look. Ashutosh was the one who would not tolerate that. And that made all the difference.

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