Belling the follow-up cat
July 5, 2010 Leave a comment
When Jesus Christ said to Simon Peter “What is That to you, You follow me”, (John 21:22) I suppose he didn’t mean that mankind should spend their rest of lives “following up”.
Sad though but true, all that passing off as “work” in corporates these days is follow-up. I saw the real nadir of this phenomenon a few weeks ago when I was discussing requirement specifications for automating a quote process.
I was discussing procurement process in Asset Lifecycle Management that is one of our service offerings. Under this offering, the IT assets of customers are taken over for management which includes periodic identification of assets requiring replacement.
The assets due for replacement are then put through the procurement process.
After understanding the basics, I ventured to suggest
“So in procurement process you will be placing a purchase order, receive the material, install and handover the replacement. Isn’t that all ? “
The person who was providing me the conceptual understanding gave me a weird look, clearly unimpressed.
I thought : What am I missing ?
The requirement provider almost gave a look as if to suggest that I am from the moon or mars.
“Huh, how can it be that simple ?”
“Er..well…what else do we do…that we can charge the clients for ?”
“Arre yaar…..what about follow-up ?”
WTF, I thought ; didn’t tell though – it was an official meeting you see.
“See yaar, first we identify the assets for replacement…then we will request the purchasing team to raise a PO”
“Then you will release the PO right”
“Wait yaar…Then we will “follow-up” with purchase team for releasing the PO”
“Then after follow-up the PO gets released”
I preferred to be silent
“Then we follow-up the vendor. After follow-up the material gets delivered. Then we follow-up with the receiving team for documentation. After documentation we take physical control of the material for installation. The material is issued for installation. We then internally follow-up with the installation team. After installation, we issue the asset to the user. And finally we follow-up with user for confirmation”
I didn’t know about him but I was exasperated.
I didn’t have the courage to ask but I pretty much realized that he would then follow-up for payment, follow-up for confirmation of payment and finally some one would follow-up on whether all follow-ups were duly made. I am also sure that there would be dashboards monitoring the “adequacy of follow-ups” and there would be a “follow-up” action if they weren’t.
It was very clear that we have not only adopted follow-up as the corporate religion priding ourselves as one of the “best practioners” of the religion but we have now started making money out of it.
I am aghast at the kind and quality of follow-up that is required in most organizations to get any work moving.
Follow-up is usually accompanied by another corporate malice – name dropping : The CEO wants it, The CFO wants it, The SBU head wants it. Want this in one hour, Wanted this yesterday
It is an indication of serious lack of professionalism that we have to indulge in follow-ups as often as we do. Excessive follow-up in my view is a clear reflection of ineffective organizational culture. It results in the creation of too many “follow-up kings” whose only “value add” is follow-up.
I don’t think I can be accused of idealism if I suggest that there is no need for follow-up in an organization if everyone recognizes his role in the process. And if there are precluding reasons as to why someone cannot accomplish his task or part of the process, surely there should be a mechanism to flag it for resolution.
Or it may be a case that the process definition is wrong. I categorically reject any suggestion of inbuilt follow-up mechanism in a process, to me such a process is no process.
The person who triggers too many follow-ups in the system is clearly violative of the process and should be treated as “abdication of responsibility”.
Now who should fix this ?
Clearly the onus is on the “Heads”. As long as the heads don’t focus on how the task is accomplished and concern themselves only with the end result, there is no scope of improvement in the organizations.
The follow-up kings will thrive leaving the process-oriented guys frustrated and resentful.
Organizations should get rid of Follow-up necessitators. Shape up or ship out should be the stern message for these goons. Getting rid of the follow-up necessitators would automatically mean that no need for follow-up kings – a clear scope for overhead cost optimization.
Increasing reliance of follow-up will only mean that organizations are losing hold of their authority allowing the follow-up kings and necessitators to hijack it’s vision.
The earlier the organizations realize this growing menace, the better.
Now, guys will you be reading this note on your own or do I have to follow-up with you ?