Saturday, January 09, 2010

HR is not all Gass

An Oil Depot, though a part of a gargantuan organization, is a small company in itself. We have our own set of customers, our own products, a separate finance department and an operations department. Products are the different types of fuels. The team which is responsible for filling these products in Tanks and dispatching them can be called an operations department. The Supply and Distribution(S&D) Deptt gets daily orders from customers and assigns tank trucks to meet the demands on a daily basis.

For the past few days I have been shuttling between the two departments of my office – the client facing S&D and the operations. And I can clearly see how susceptible they are to conflict.

S&D has to cater to the demand of all the customers – from the next door retail outlets to the far flung, many times inaccessible parts of the crown state of India. Sitting in an S&D room means non-stop phone calls, people barging in through to know the status of their demands. You cannot turn them away as the product is an essential good.

Coming to the operations part. Filling of Tank Trucks (TT) as directed by the S&D is just the basic requirement. In addition to providing the right fuel with right quality and quantity, operations also has to take care of the safety aspect as we are dealing with a highly inflammable product here. It has to take care that the TTs have all the safety fittings on, the drivers and helpers who are filling the product are doing so in a safe fashion. And add to that the normal operational hazards of dealing with erratic behaviors of both man and machine.

Now this creates a potential Mahabharat type situation.

For example, a customer is pressuring the S&D to dispatch the product at the earliest.

But while filling of the TT, one of the following occurs:

-       The loading mechanism goes out of order for some reason in the middle of the filling


-       The less educated worker makes does not follow the safe filling procedure and has to be reprimanded so that he does not repeat the mistake. (old school methods)


-       There is some deficiency in the Truck for which it is not safe to fill it with the product

In any of the situations above, there will be delays in meeting the customer demands.

Primarily no one is at fault and are doing their job but it creates a conflicting situations where there will be fingers pointed at each other.

This is at a much smaller scale. I am sure big organizations face this conflict at larger levels.

So what is the solution to avoid such conflicts. One classic solution which we generally used to write in the MBA exams was Job Rotation - people involved in both the jobs be rotated so that each other can understand the pain points of other.

But it has other associated problems of handling the ego conflicts and the human resistance to change.

The point is that all problems at the end involve Humans or in other words are HR problems. May be the HR subjects in MBA courses need to be marketed well to students – after all that is what they need to know the most!!

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