“Simple message, simple method”- 21 May 2013


The reputation of the new boss preceded her. In her previous job, she had worked out near-miracles, they said. She was a no-nonsense person who did not like to smile, some others reported. She is strict, she is a stickler for time, she does not mix with colleagues, she does not use a driver — all this gossip went on for weeks before the new boss arrived. Simple workers felt somewhat uncertain about what would happen to them in the new set up under a new boss. Manipulators started making plans to ‘befriend’ the new boss. All in all, the atmosphere was agog with rumours and loose talk.
And then came the day when the new boss was to arrive. At sharp 9 in the morning, a small car was seen entering the premises. In the porch, a couple of Company Directors and a few senior managers stood to welcome the new boss. The Chairman waited for her in his spacious chamber. The small car headed straight to the parking lot, stopped, and stepped out a woman from the driver’s seat. With a small bag in her hand, the woman looked around, and headed to the administrative building, as if she knew the roadmap correctly.
Everybody was aghast. They had expected a big car coming straight to the main porch. That did not happen. The woman came near the porch, looked up, saw so many people waiting for her, smiled at all of them, and started walking to the Chairman’s chamber.
Not knowing what to do, all the people stood in the foyer. A few minutes later, the small crowd melted and everybody resumed work.
For several hours, that is, up to lunch break, the new boss was in discussion with the Chairman who also called in a few others for small chunks of time. The first day of the new boss had begun without any pomp and show and event.
The second day, the new boss called for a general meeting. As all gathered, the new boss arrived with the Chairman. The Chairman asked her to address the staff, and the woman stood up. She was very neatly but very simply dressed. There was a faint smile on her face, almost assuring all that she was an approachable person. And she began: “Friends, thank you very much. I spent yesterday in some small matters, and now I begin with this meeting where I am going to outline what I expect. I will take only ten minutes, after which we all will return to our workstations.” What followed was a ten-minute statement of her intent and her methods. The boss was to the point but not curt. She was smiling all the time, but did not give an impression of looseness. Her plan was simple. And for the next one month, the whole organisation was to work on only one point: extreme discipline and neatness in everything that would be transacted under the roof. “Be neat in everything you do- Your dress and address, your workstations and your correspondence. And let us stick to time. Ten means not 10:05. Do everything neatly, and we have made the grade,” the new boss said as she called off the meeting.
The Chairman looked very pleased.
What followed in the first month in the organisation was simply far beyond everybody’s expectation and imagination. The whole place started looking new. For, every file was always in place. Everybody was always seated in at the workstation. The lunch hour also never got extended. Nobody came late, and everybody left at sharp 6 p.m. The only person who stayed on was the new boss, and that too for exactly one hour. After 7 p.m., the whole building would be closed. For, even the Chairman would leave before that.
One month later, the boss called another general meeting. “Ten minutes again,” she said. She thanked everybody for full cooperation in what she called neatness drive. She appreciated many contributions coming voluntarily from staff to make things better. And then came a proud announcement by Chairman. He said, “Fellows, just in one month, our neatness drive has recorded an improved productivity as well as production, by well over 25%. This is great, and we must keep it up.”
The meeting was over.
And then came a coffee session at which the boss met everybody. She was warm, and welcoming. And nobody even remembered the loose talk about how the boss was going to be.
This highlights how much better work can be achieved by simple measures without being unnecessarily strict about the manner and method of work. It has many other messages too.


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