Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Armchair Business Management: Why Resources Are Not Valued Enough

I have only one tea-strainer at home.

That fact is noteworthy because I love having tea and if I am at home on a holiday, a good 4 to 5 cups is a given before midnight falls (and after midnight is a new day :-D ). So I use the tea-strainer a LOT.

But by policy I keep only one tea-strainer at home.

Because I have only one tea-strainer, I have to wash it immediately after use so that it is ready to be used the next time I make tea and also because if I leave it with the strained tea in it, it will start to blacken at the edge in a few days and I will hate it. Having only one tea-strainer ensures that it is properly cared for at all times and available for use whenever there is need. And the whole thing just takes 10 extra seconds of my time.

It is another story that I used to follow the same routine even when I had two tea-strainers for a brief period; my mother, despite getting an explanation from me as to why there is only one tea-strainer at home, assumed that she knew better and bought me another one. And then started a saga of unwashed strainers and dry boiled tea stuck in the straining net…a saga I became a mute witness to…I hated it. Thankfully, the older strainer broke soon and bliss returned.



I had just finished making myself a cup of tea this morning and was washing the tea-strainer when this thought struck me: When you have a replacement for a resource…any resource…it is more likely than not that you will start treating the resources callously. The strainer will not be washed immediately because hot tea waits (even a 10 second delay is sacrilege??) and there is another strainer for the next time. The strainer will lie around with boiled tea in it for hours together until the next wash. It will blacken and soon enough is disgusting to look at. And its average life will be grossly reduced.

If you port the same theory to any resource in an industry in general and to employees in particular, the answer as to why so many companies end up having dissatisfied employees who don’t feel like they matter should be one step closer. Just because a resource is replaceable it will make a difference to how it is seen by the ones employing that resource to achieve a certain purpose. That is why the fewer of your kind there are in a field (instruments, machines, spare parts, people) the more valued you will be (I know that is not a newsflash…I am just relating it to my tea-strainer). And if someone is dissatisfied with his position in his field, it is because he knows things that a whole host of others know. If my tea-strainer rots it is because I have two of them…and my Mom knows that.

So much for my armchair business management.

14 Thinkers Pondered:

eye-in-sty-in said...

ABM is cool! I like ABM... The thought is very relevant and true. People do not feel valued in organizations today and they are expected to dole out valur and respect to the clients... HOW? Doesnt charity begin at home?

Nice relation between a tea strainer and employees...

Anupama said...

Hey Spike!

:)

That means there will be more of ABM coming your way...

And I agree on the non-alignment between what is given to an employee and what is expected of him in return...it is like expecting a malnutritioned horse to win a race...on a more intangible level though...

Thanks for the comment :)

Madhu Reddy said...

I too have only one strainer at home. Just because you can have more does not mean one should and I guess that goes for everything. The whole cycle of wanting more just expands...

Satish said...

Well, i see the ABM of Tea Strainer like this - The Tea Strainer needs to be cleaned every time it used, so that it can be used instantly.Similarly,the skills that we have is like a Tea Strainer, we need to update them, polish them, so that it can be used instantly.It doesn't matter if you have one or two strainers.....
The ones who are admired are not the ones that are few, but the ones who are always reinventing themselves......

This is my ABM for the day.....

Vibhushan said...

Perfect example of diminishing marginal utility of more of same kind of resource. You have mastered the first lesson in micro-economics already :)

BTW, does this ABM applies to the reverse case also? Had it been the case that you had plenty of employers to choose from offering similar roles and money, would employees be equally callous towards their employers? I guess yes, and thats what we saw in 2006 - 2007 when economy was booming, this is what you see on IIM campuses where offers are at plenty. Times keep changing, and so does the balance of bargaining power and fear of becoming commonplace. Knowingly or unknowingly, may be we all are guilty of it. Or may be this is common-sense.

As you say, even if you had 2 tea-strainers, you would still be up-to-the-mark and keep both neat and clean. I guess it depends a lot on who is handling the tea-strainer. We have firms who always treat their employees like kings, whether they are replaceable or not.

Interesting read this was. Would like to read more of these ABMs.

Smita said...

Hmmm I partly agree with what you are saying. We have more than one tea strainer at home but none lies dirty because my Mom had inculcated a habit in us wherein we were taught to clean the strainer & the vessel after making tea.

So I guess it all depends on how you see it. Even if you are into a field where replacements are less there isn't any guarantee that you will be valued!!!

Good correlation nevertheless :)

Tigerstone said...

Lady, I think it's time you switched to tea bags.

Twinings' Assam is great for black tea. A dash of lime and life's a treat.

As far you ABM goes, i guess its none of the above. I think most managers don't know what to do with their subordinates. More a case of a string of pearls in the hands of a monkey.

Akshat said...

Interesting read Anupama...and vibhushan has related it perfectly to micro-economics... the law of "Diminishing marginal utility"

Anupama said...

Hey Madhu,

Welcome to the blog :) . Thanks for stopping by and the comment...I have been meaning to meet you and hopefully I will get an opportunity soon...

I agree on the cycle of wants expanding. It's like all those companies anticipating work and recruiting one too many resources...a resource pool is necessary but more often than not the inventory is found not to be optimized...that's when the resources start rotting and being undervalued...

Hey Satish!

That's a nice insight from you, as always, on Resource Value and how to keep it high...I'll take that as advice and try and practice it...thanks for the comment :)

Hey Vibhushan,

I am not sure if reverse of this tea-strainer principle and employees is valid with the same set of constraints. I see what you are saying but as I see it, in terms of employees I was comparing equal resources and how value diminishes in that respect. With companies there will always be factors to differentiate - the profile offered 'might' be the same but one will have a better brand name, another a better package or posting (location wise)...so I am not sure it is the same. What do you feel?

Thanks for the comment :)

Hey Smita,

If one is not valued in a field with less replacements then that probably is a sign of a callous employer or bad business practice...asset undervaluation...don't you agree? Thanks for the comment :)

Hey Tigerstone!

I don't mind tea-bags once in a while but I am yet to outgrow the taste of tea that is boiled with the milk in it :) ...but sooner or later and then it will be Twinings Assam for sure...

As for the ABM theory, any serious employer will know to value its resources...the whole human-reources-as-assets theory...else they are probably running their business callously...what do you think? Do you think it is a uniform case across the industry - the pearls and monkeys situation?

And yes, thanks for the comment :)

Hey Akshat!

Welcome to the blog :) what a pleasant surprise...and thanks a lot for the comment :)

Eveline said...

That is so true! Love the analogy. But unlike you i believe in having two of everything (just for backup). Even tea strainers and yes, they often turn black! :(

kedar said...

neat. actually, there's so much i learn from my mom just watching her work in the kitchen/run the house. i wonder why people go to fancy colleges and pay a bomb to pick up what they can right at home.

Anupama said...

Hey Eve!

Tell me about tea-strainers and messy meshes!...thanks for the comment :)

Hey Kedar,

Welcome to the blog :) and I totally agree with you on the fancy college bit...I think management has got more to do with general observation and common sense than anything else...but like for everything else, people need a paper to prove you have that ability...sad but true...thanks for the comment :)

Dante said...

I very much like your analogy! How true it is. I added you to my blog catalog favorites :D

Anupama said...

Hey Dante!

Welcome to the space and thank you so much for the comment and for marking me as a favourite :) ...