Thursday, 9 August 2012
A brief on briefs
Large organizations have peculiar ways of functioning. This differs greatly between government, quasi-government and private corporations-each one having its own work culture, working ethos and above all, working jargon. The pleasure of using and listening to this jargon could be immense. If management jargon of today is a derivative of the American culture, the bureaucratic lingo is more traditional and orthodox in its approach like the British. Today a happy mix exists.
For example, consider training. The Americans brought the much talked about concept of human resource development through seminars, workshops and short training programmes. The British usually called such programmes as courses. The time for conducting training is getting shorter by the day. At the same time, a higher concentrated dose of training is being sought to be administered to the subject. Short capsule courses are now quite popular and intravenous courses-where subjects can be trained overnight-are well on the cards. The courses run within the organization are dubbed organizational intra-courses, and those run with the participation from other organizations are run as organizational inter-courses. Pill courses could be planned (Pun intended).
Every action must start on a noting sheet so that every one up the channel can take note of the action or the inaction. This exercise must be gone through for every possible requirement. It could be the purchase of a paper weight, or the convening of a board meeting. This method, started by the British, is still the accepted norms because it lends itself to collective blame, inaction and responsibility-in that order.
Collectivism leads to the feedback syndrome where everybody in the chain likes to be kept updated on ‘whatever’ is going on. Whereas high and mighty MNCs, and the corporate world have adapted to such hi-tech tools as E-mail, some still like to use the good old briefs-a legacy of the Raj. Briefs are so important that nobody can do without them. So much of the paper work, detailed analysis, supporting data, all must eventually be made into a brief, so that it can be used.
Most bosses like to use their early morning briefs so that they can show off in front of their bosses. Special briefs are made for the VIPs and some people in their exuberance call them VIP briefs. Confidential briefs usually contain ‘Ander Ki Baat’. To save time, the top brass like to use short briefs, which are obviously made of good material-bond paper, please. Briefs prepared using A4 size material are called A-Fore briefs. The middle managers use longer briefs. The staff usually has to struggle with longer briefs (Bermuda Briefs) to cut them to smaller-sized briefs. Unfortunately, briefs have to be made in different sizes as the size of the brief changes with the level of the user, and is usually inversely proportional to the level of the person using it.
Surprisingly, bigger the person, smaller the brief. There is always a need for making a brief which can be used by everyone. This would mean making only one brief that can fit everyone’s requirements, and can be shared by all. A free-sized brief! Designers of such briefs are suitably rewarded. These designer briefs are now becoming popular.
Talking of rewards? Secretaries have lost their jobs due to poor quality of briefs. Board-room wars have been lost because of wrong briefs. My boss once refused to attend a board meeting because he said he didn’t have his brief and he would not be able to face the board without one. In fact he lost his shirt, because I lost his brief.
When the old meets new, something spectacular happens. Computer-aided briefs are the order of the day. Colour printers are now easily available and bosses now prefer coloured briefs. If a brief is not made in time for the boss, or the boss loses his brief, the whole organization can throw a fit! First thing in the morning, instead of asking for the first sight dak, the bosses usually ask their staff, where is my brief? and usually has to be told that his briefs are still in his secretary’s drawers!