Sunday, April 17, 2016

Monday Musings 260 – Measurability is over hyped

Monday Musings 260 – Measurability is over hyped

‘’ The objective was synonymous with the measurable....the limiting of the knowable to the quantifiable ....Moreover the exclusion of the non measurable from what counted as knowledge left some of us our most important questions unanswered but unanswerable.... (This is from a book on Existentialism, a strand of philosophy)

I read this and immediately my thoughts went to someone’s email signature which screamed ‘’What cannot be measured cannot be improved’’. I have heard things to that effect multiple times at my workplace and frankly I have recycled some variation of that myself. There was a hollow ring to it every time I proclaimed it as certitude; the finality of the statement was intuitively doubtful.  However I could not find words to explain. As I read the above, my tentativeness on the subject has finally found words.

I inhabit the world of plumbing and not that of philosophy although given half a chance I would like to change places. (Purely on grounds of ability I will postpone that to the next life as of now). Corporations put a premium to the measurable and that emphasis is promoted as a virtue. The origin of that thinking is not difficult to trace-as the market place understands and hence rewards only the measurable and the measured. However what goes into making things happen on a daily basis often may not be quantifiable and hence not amenable to measurement. The lack of quantifiability and hence measurability does not in any way reduce its criticality as if most often indicated. We will do well for our well being to remember that. The custodians of workplace will do well to remember that. 

There has been progress in a way to bring the focus to the softer aspects of being an employee, managing teams and running an organisation from the heydays of the machine worldview – where everything was a part of a moving machine and hence treated as a controllable part. No wonder that issues like engagement, loyalty, culture, leadership and other cousins of the same ilk have entered daily conversation. However the way they are treated betrays the same worldview of objectivity that in the first place had proved insufficient. The worldview is still of scores – essentially machinist – as a be all and end all – and not on the ‘softness or spirit’ of it – and that makes the whole exercise like playing golf with a cricket bat.

Measurability cannot be the only paradigm of criticality. Just because something is not quantifiable and hence measurable should not mean it should be discarded. Most things that human being appreciated, desire, value and respond to cannot be bound by the terrorism of Likert scale (Peace be upon him!). Imagine saying to your loved one that they mean 26.732 Kg to you (assuming attachment can be measured in kilograms) or to the employee that you feel 94.65 greater concern for him/her which is 35.87 % higher than last year! Utter gobbledygook!!! I am sure you get the drift of the nonsense.

This does not mean that the pursuit of quantifiability and measurability is essentially wrong or undesirable – it’s the mindlessness of it and the paradigm that it is the only touchstone of organisational effectiveness that is under scrutiny. That, however requires some reading of existentialism, a subject which generally speaking the cubiclewallah looks down upon. If only he knew!!


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Monday Musings 259: The smell of despair and the fragrance of hope

Monday Musings 259: The smell of despair and the fragrance of hope

How can a place smell of despair and hope at the same time?

A day at a Jesuit hospital owing to the vicissitudes of events was a chilling reminder and a sombre reassurance.  It was an old world hospital – not the modern day corporate version of it, but the one of yesteryears where service was not a mission statement framed and hung from a wall but a way of life really – a behaviour that became its own evidence.

Morbidity is humbling.  The eventuality of it can be numbing.  It is a road that has no U turn; a river whose tide only flows only in one direction.  Everyday living is a denial of it this eventuality. May be our search for some significance in populating our time with so much is actually a sophisticated charade that makes us forget that we are actually hurtling towards our end. Many years ago I remember Khuswant Singh, the eminently controversial Sardar writing that he used to visit the ghats of Yamuna where the pyres burns round the clock to ‘put things in perspective.’ I know now what he meant.  For a few days I will remember this perspective and then most likely I will get busy and rediscover my denial. That is my only armour.

Amidst the smell of despair work people who are embodiment of hope. Everyone who comes here is in search of assurance. They want to hear that they have somehow slowed down their end on its tracks. They have anguish in their eyes – meekness, vulnerability, a scare that is screaming through their gaze. They want to hear what truthfully cannot be said – and that even they know it, makes it even more poignant. I see this game in every interaction – the old and the dying know that the die has been cast for them; the young and hopeful pretend that this is not for them. Ah! The delirium of denial – let the game carry on – that is the only thing people are left with to hold on to!

I cannot fathom the minds of those who work here – the 20 something nurses and ward boys; the young emergency ward Junior doctors – the underbelly of an institution such as this. Who would chose such a close association with misery, pain, grief, agony and despair for a daily living? What would their minds be at the end of a day’s work? How would they be when they return back to the warmth of families – would they be even capable of indulging in the utterly meaningless banter of real life? How do they even get back to the senseless crave of materiality and the unimaginable squabble of relationships and wilfully indulge in it – and if they do find all that hollow how do they even carry on with this pretence. My heart goes out for them – I guess even they resort to denial – I would not blame them if they did. They deserve it far more than I do.

Tomorrow is another day – another day for perpetuating the denial – that I have a long and healthy life ahead for sure.