Monday, April 07, 2008

American Incompetance

This article on the rise of American Incompetence is worth reading. It also happens to be a very popular view in some desi circles. It helps them account for rampant outsourcing and the success they have enjoyed in the technology business.

In my own workplace experience I have seen the complete lack of accountability to be a far bigger and much more pervasive problem than incompetence. Vendors and suppliers are not held to service level agreements that they signed on. Under-performing team members are allowed to drag down the rest instead of being tasked with meeting higher standards. Management is allowed to slip on dates and budgets endlessly, the cost of their failures mopped up by a lot of needless restructuring and reorganizing of course outsourcing.

In all parts of the organization, people routinely make commitments that are never met. What is more surprising is that no one holds their feet to the fire to make good on those promises. Half and quarter measures are deemed acceptable, quality and cost are cut to make dates after they have moved many times already.

The day on reckoning comes only when folks are pink-slipped - often out of the blue. The sum total of all their omissions over many years get balanced in that one fell swoop. Often the termination of employment and performance are completely unrelated. There are no discernable rules of the games.

All of this does not promote greater accountability in day to day work, it does not correct bad behavior. Instead people learn to distrust and resent not being able to tie effect back to cause in any tangible way. The lack of cohesive management and the sense of directionlessness seems to plague large and small companies alike. No one drives the bus, sometimes no one even knows that there is a bus that needs driving. Chaos reigns supreme and it is zealously defended because it is the only form of job security most people know.

Though a lot of people in their little silos are going a very good work, when you try to bring it all together, things just fall apart. To call that incompetence would not be placing the blame where it rightly belongs. The desi brethren for all their claims to superiority fare no better. It is not as if the work they do results in any miraculous outcomes for the organization.

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