Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Swine flu in the LPO


In India, the H1N1 epidemic continues with it being twice as bad here as in the rest of the world with the infection being viciously rampant in my city-Pune . Almost all the deaths due to the flu occurred in Pune. To date we have a death a day, total toll from August 2009, when the first death occurred, being 82.Considering that Pune has a population of approximately 50 lacs which is spread over an area of 450 sq.kms, it was a difficult task to control the flu; and while city schools and colleges were shut down, commercial establishments and offices continued to function and deal with the epidemic any which way they could.

This post is inspired by an interesting post on the legal and workplace implications of H1N1 which went on to speak of the challenges faced by employers in dealing with swine flu and how to deal with them.

The article referred above spoke of the legal affects of swine flu and how to deal with it in the workplace. Here's a tongue-in-cheek, albeit very truthful look at what we did in office to combat the infection:

1. For a week or so everyone came in with masks. A few wrapped their faces in scarves. This however, made communication impossible and so the masks and scarves came to be gradually discarded during the course of the day.(Pic courtesy @devakishor on Twitter)

2. Anyone with a cold refused to attend work. Sometimes even someone who sneezed more than thrice pleaded social responsibility and went home.

3. At regular intervals the air conditioning was turned off and windows and doors opened to let in sunlight and fresh air which hopefully would destroy any lurking germs.

4. Someone heard that eucalyptus oil helped prevent H1N1 and one 50 ml bottle of oil was brought in by the office, which was rapidly emptied by the end of the same day and never replaced.

5. The drug store opposite made a few thousands selling eucalyptus oil tablets, to which I, who anyway had a predilection for the oil, have now got addicted to.

6. The only pregnant staffer was segregated but whether it was as a precaution against swine flu or because she no longer fit into the cubicle, I am not very sure.

7. After a while everyone decided what the hell, if it was going to happen it would happen and stopped all pretense at precautions.

TO BE NOTED is that almost everyone in the office at some point suffered from sore throats, cold sand cough during this period. This includes me who never gets a cold. This is in itself unusual. My theory is that everyone must have suffered a mild form of swine flu and recovered which means we all are now immune.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pins in Underwear & Quality Set-Ups Part II

To continue with the previous post.

One way a small firm can save on costs is to hire cheap at production level. and splurge at the higher level, praying that good management will control quality. But this does not work. At least not for long. Good project managers are not necessarily good at providing quality work. Nor should project management be expected to deal with quality assurance.

To ensure quality deliverables the firm must have a good quality set- up in place. Introducing quality set- ups in small firms which have never heard of them before is like taking a toddler to the dentist for the first time. She doesn't know what she's in for and eagerly toddles along, so the introduction is not too bad. But the next time you want to her to toddle, she tears your hair out.

The first step in introducing quality procedures is to introduce the team to the concept of "errors".
The reason errors occur is that at production level, the team is often not aware what exactly is the error they are alleged to be making. The client's mails listing mistakes, are sheer babble. (What is she talking about? What error? Isn't that just what we did?)

Asking a direct question therefore: What is an error- draws a blank. Yet in order for the quality procedures to be put in place, this first step of getting the team to recognize what is an error for that particular process, is vital.

This can be solved by getting the team to relate what part of the process seems to them to be the trickiest. Remember, it is always at that part of the task that one finds the most difficult that one is likely to make the most mistakes.
In one instance while applying this strategy, I realized that the team was not really aware of what the process was all about. They were merely performing the tasks told like automatons without the faintest idea of why they were doing it.

An explanation of the whys and wherefores of client requirements serves to bring the team to an understanding of why a particular document needs to be done in a particular manner.
Once the team sees the reason and logic in the work they are engaged in, they can then see for themselves what the client means when she cries "error".

And so thus, the first step in introducing a quality set up- defining an error is taken. For the rest, wait for my next post.

In parting. As I always say a knowledge of the English language is essential if you are going to work on US or UK legal documents. Recently an EBT submitted (deposition) in a personal injury case, read: She cannot put pins in her underwear.
Pins in underwear. Why would anyone put pins in underwear? Do American women now put pins in underwear the way Indians used to pin purses into their underwear to deter thieves?
A little investigation revealed all.
The EBT should have read: She cannot put pants on, her underwear.

Yeah, even legal outsourcing has its lighter moments.