Monday, July 11, 2005

Systems or People ?

We have heard about people with internal and external locus. (funda:
Another set of loci I found was system locus and people locus (Naming mine). It keeps popping up everywhere I go.

We are discussing road infrastructure and poor safety standards in India and a senior Govt. employee-cum-student in class bellows, "You cannot blame the traffic policemen saar... the roads are like that. We have so many villages that people keep crossing highways... " It was okay for India to have too many road fatalities because you know, we have illiterate junta on the roads who deserve to die! Road planning ? Why does a third world country require such sophistications ?

Another was when I was fighting with an IBM salesman who had got our order for laptops- when I mentioned that his competitor was giving a better turnaround time, he stopped me with a mortally-wounded glance, "Dont call HP my competition, sir. Their laptop will break down and is not comparable to IBM R52... " How the heck do I care what you think, you bugger, HP gives a damn good deal for me and I do compare it with IBM ! What caught his attention was a customer who WOULDN'T listen and understand; the inefficiency of his supply chain was lost on him. This incident actually stunned me because I kind of had a respect for salesmen for being sharp and tuned in to customer needs.

Another instance happened when we people bidded for our courses next term on a software and people kind of screwed up due to last minute pressure. I was arguing that the system was flawed since eligible junta missed out on courses because of tension and pressure. I actually saw people squarely blaming the losers for losing their cool ! And no, it was not important that ability to keep one's cool was not a criteria for course selection. And of course the blamers had got all their courses. In fact they were proud to have won their courses and scarcely realised that they were seconds away from losing themselves.

Any system administrator (read manager, politician, General, Admiral, Policeman) has two options when something goes wrong:
1) Blame the junta who does something wrong. 'Nothing will ever work as long as there are ppl like this !'
2) Factor in the outliers and plan the system to work accordingly. This is naturally a trade off between optimality and flexibility of the system.

I see a lot of people around me doing the former. This kind of locus needs to be evaluated for people who enter top posts, the IAS for example... so that people get into jobs where they dont pain others. Its high time we designed systems to accomodate people and not bug people to fit into inefficient systems which we dont want to give up.

Gokulakrishnan S


Bhars said...

Excellento Perspective. Very well written...

Blogrolling you...!


Vijay Krishna said...

Fantastic idea. It would be great if someone can evolve a quantitative method to determine a person's loci.

Gokulakrishnan S said...

would be great, somehow I get the feeling that our advances in psychology (tests, treatment, counselling) are centuries behind those in other fields like technology.

Karthik said...

would be great, somehow I get the feeling that our advances in psychology (tests, treatment, counselling) are centuries behind those in other fields like technology.

==> and it is not very ununderstandable. our algorithms are still objective. they can't use subjective logic. (which i call human reason)