DeMo: How May We Have Done It Better
Balanced execution or not, the opposition would have found issues one-way, or the other
The visionary CEO, known for his BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), has called for an emergency meeting of his most trusted lieutenants. The call from the corner office was mired in secrecy and urgency. The issue was serious enough: The employee special coupons (used for meals, shopping and travels) are being misused. The issue was manifold: Employees are using the coupons for favours from bosses, asking suppliers to provide these coupons in exchange for favourable decisions, and above all, there have been some instances of fake coupons in the higher denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1000.
As the meeting gets underway, the CEO is adamant that a decision be taken then and there to annul the Rs 500/1000 coupons, effective immediately. The CFO plays Devil's Advocate: 86 per cent of the coupons used are in the 500s/1000s, and a sudden withdrawal can cause a serious backlash as the canteen, supermarket and travel desk will not function. Planning Head suggests it will take at least two months to print new coupons (to replace old) that are counterfeit-proof. Marketing Head, known to be a Quick-Gun Murugan, fires a quick salvo: Not if we print say Rs 2000 coupons, so the same amount of coupons can be back in circulation. Everyone around the table makes the appreciative noises on this wonderful idea. Head of Coupons (Motivation) has some concerns but shakes his head in approval with a rider that there be some rationing in distribution. HR Head's worries of demoralised workforce and the absurdity of a Rs 2000 coupon when most spends are in the range of Rs 300-600, never gets raised at the overall enthusiasm around the table for the CEO's brilliant idea that presumably will kill several birds at one stroke: Counterfeit, corruption and blatant misuse.
Sounds familiar? This could well have been a scenario at the meeting prior to DeMo. There is nothing wrong with the PM discussing the policy change with a closed group of trusted people. What should have been followed was a balanced execution agenda, a somewhat similar framework that we had presented to Niti Aayog CEO and various CMs, in the recent past. The objective was to drive mission-focused governments and help better the dismal rate of government failures in delivering poll promises. The framework comprises of mapping of strategic agenda derived from the manifesto, and a system of linked objectives, measures, targets and initiatives with an aim to aligning ministries, departments, people, and other stakeholders.
This framework will have assessed fundamentally what a strategic initiative such as the DeMo aims to do. At the highest level, it will comprise of the following, and if done right, it will have thrown up in advance all the issues that have come up till now (The forgotten fact of India's huge cash economy (95 per cent) and the complexity of distribution, the ATM recalibration for Rs 2000, the underestimation of our innovation capability to launder money, the changing colours of the finance ministry on deposits, withdrawal and taxation rules, the fact that bankers are as much Indian as the black money holders, and so on):
" Despite the need for secrecy, a core team comprising of senior bureaucrats with deep knowledge of Indian systems, RBI governor, an economist, a behavioural scientist, and above all, an "ethical" black money crook to plug all loopholes will have been formed.
" Strategic benefits of DeMo and the gap it will close will have been defined, whether it is revenue from black money, elimination of counterfeit reduced cost of capital, or building a cleaner India.
" A cost/benefit analysis in terms of tasks and social/economic value will have been done. Chaos theory effects will have been looked into, including the hit on GDP, loss of jobs, citizen troubles, etc.
" The right processes to excel will have been identified, scenarios planned, contingency measures identified. This will include printing notes, planning the distribution to banks based on a set criteria (such as a number of small accounts and branches per State or District), the formal action plan for bank branches clearly defined, predictive data analysis for identifying crooks, and so on.
" Measurements derived from the top objectives of DeMo for each of these tasks with weekly targets will have been done.
" And finally, a daily and weekly review process with responsibility assigned to the members of the core team.
Such an execution would have avoided the inconveniences, 150-odd deaths, job losses and business losses. But then, balanced execution or not, the opposition would have found issues one-way, or the other. And, maybe, just maybe, Groucho Marx is right: "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies."
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