Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Justify their existence - JTE

In a corporate setting, everybody has to Justify Their Existence (JTE) for the salary they receive. This was the lesson I learnt while working as part of a high pressure finance team in one of my first jobs and then many times over.

In the midst of the running around creditors, debtors and bank finances and factories, every once in a while could come our internal auditors with their strange requests. While we spent many hours trying to match the numerous outflows with the trickle of inflows, these internal auditors spent time sipping tea, checking out new trainings and living a peaceful 9 to 5 life or lesser. Every now and they would announce their presence through an email (no less - though they were just a floor above us) that would ask for some reports. Reports of all employees who joined from x date, all employees who left after y date and some weird combos of their salary packages or some funny combination of our finances. That they did not have access to our system was funny, but the fact that they saw to it that they never had access to it was funnier. As a rookie, I had precious little to do with these reports and saw no reason why these demands should be met especially considering we had other, real, fires to fight. But the person who worked with me, Manoj, always found time to satisfy their weird demands, perhaps a day later or a week later, but he complied. As a rookie, when I asked him, he told me, "Well, they have to justify their existence".

While that is sad but true, there are indeed many such "departments", "units" and "functions" that only justify their existence. They survive by default by pointing at the faults of others, or by playing devils advocate at other times. Quality departments for instance in the pre Kaizen/JIT world of manufacturing were also JTE until they were eliminated (almost) by Kaizen/JIT, self certification etc. In a non manufacturing setting, there are still many functions that live by JTE. I have especially seen this in places where there are less systems and processes in place. But even in places where there are systems and processes, like in Indian IT for instance, there are departments that live by JTE (any guesses?) to "control processes". Why these cannot be empowered to the teams themselves much like manufacturing, is something I have never been able to fathom. (more on this in another post for later)

How many such departments can you see around you? If you are the head, which are the ones you dont want? Departments which "JTE" or departments which actively contribute to the bottomline and profits??

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