Home > Ideas > Working Around the Problem

Working Around the Problem

I was at a busy junction waiting for the traffic to abate before trying to find a way across – like many such intersections in India, where traffic is not managed with a signal system or even by the Police, you just pray hard and scurry across, hoping to reach the destination in one piece.

Cross-traffic somehow finds a path between the vehicle whizzing past their nose and tail. A car was inching its way from the side road to the other side, conquering inch-after-inch of free space cleared in front of it; just then a huge Volvo bus came whizzing down the main road on the inner track – the driver saw the car blocking his path and “smartly” swerved the bus into the outer lane without slowing down – he “smoothly worked around the problem” that lay ahead of him – almost killing a few pedestrians, who narrowly avoided meeting their maker by quickness of feet, and another bus that was cruising in the outer lane had to come to the screeching halt to avoid ploughing into the Volvo. It never occurred to the driver of the Volvo that he needs to slow down at every intersection to reduce the chances of an accident or to permit others to cross.

I am sure my friends in India would not find anything out of place in this description – it is a routine sight; everyone does it. Nobody slows down when they see a block or a slow moving vehicle ahead of them in the lane; they just switch lanes at the same speed without caring to switch-on the indicator lights. Its for the drivers in the vehicles following them in both lanes to anticipate and accept such behaviour.

The same thing happens in other arenas of life. You meet a recalcitrant official in a Government department who refuses to move your paper forward and you smartly pay a bribe to get the job done or find someone who can bully him into submission.

In Sales you find another Officer when the first one you meet does not relent – but what if the tough-nut you meet is the decision maker?

Now before you say that you find the above approach right let me quickly add that there are instances when such action is warranted, but that’s only when you are sure that your first approach was right and you have exhausted all options.

–          Maybe your paperwork was insufficient – you did not have the necessary support documents, your forms were incomplete, you were asking for something the rules did not permit.

–          You had not understood the problem and were barking up the wrong tree – do your homework first. Maybe you are presenting a solution for a problem that does not exist, or the client does not consider it to be a problem yet. Some changes need to be incorporated that will convince the customer first about the existence of a grave issue and only after that a solution can be offered.

–          You are alienating people by bulldozing and bypassing them; remember than you may have to interact with this client again in the future or you may encounter the official again elsewhere; if you are clear about the consequences of burning bridges you can take the cavalier approach.

–          You are putting others at risk – the behaviour displayed by the drivers on the road was clearly in violation of the traffic rules and was putting the life of many people at risk. You may be doing the same by taking the deviation. The official who approves your paper is exposing himself to investigation and charges of corruption – the action taken post the approval can jeopardize the lives of a lot of people, for eg. An office block constructed without the necessary fire hazard clearances is going to put the lives of the people working there at great danger.

–          Working around the problem could expose your organisation to legal action and lead to huge financial impact – is it worth taking such a risk?

There are times when you meet officials who refuse to oblige because they favour someone else or they just want to pull rank on you or even that they are expecting a favour in return – in such cases you can look for another route; but only when you are sure that you are pursuing the right course and the other person leaves you with no other options.

The shortest distance between two points may not be a straight line … but let it not be a crooked one!


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  1. March 25, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Rules, emotions or Values…….. Can we content our selves to a bicycle worth a lakh or two….. Where are we rushing all this ………… How many miles…………

    Whose woods these are I think I know.
    His house is in the village though;
    He will not see me stopping here
    To watch his woods fill up with snow.

    My little horse must think it queer
    To stop without a farmhouse near
    Between the woods and frozen lake
    The darkest evening of the year.

    He gives his harness bells a shake
    To ask if there is some mistake.
    The only other sound’s the sweep
    Of easy wind and downy flake.

    The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep.

    -Robert Frost, New Hampshire: A Poem with Notes and Grace Notes (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1923), p. 87. D-11 0397 Fisher Library.

    • JayadevM
      March 25, 2012 at 11:35 am

      Profound, Mahesh!

      I think you need to explain a bit more. How do you relate that to the subject presented today?


  2. bhavana
    March 25, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Important blog post!!! ” You are alienating people by bulldozing and bypassing them”–so important for us to change the easy ways in which we try to resolve issues!

    • JayadevM
      March 25, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      Bhavana – Thank you for reading and for leaving a useful suggestion.

  3. Kailash
    March 26, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Good one J this is a reminder to all who chooses smart work but smart work should really be SAMRT 🙂

    • JayadevM
      March 28, 2012 at 2:32 am

      You have given a new Spin to the usual process, Kailash!

      Thank you for reading and leaving a comment.

  4. March 26, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Just as suicide squad renders security measures meaningless (fear for life is what defines security measures), when life itself is not worth even a pinch of salt in India, why do we wonder at the risk element to pedestrians or whatever else is happening in Indian roads… !!!

    • JayadevM
      March 28, 2012 at 3:22 am

      Hi Uday,

      Thank you for reading.

      My focus was not on the security aspects – maybe that needs to be discussed too.

      The article was my attempt to draw people’s attention to the potential pitfalls of short-cuts, deviations and bypasses.

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