Saturday, March 28, 2009

Management lesson from the GPS Satellite Navigation System

The Global Position Satellite navigation system is an indispensable part of a modern seafarer's life.
On a sidetrack, navigation used to be carried out by Star-gazing in the days of yore. The sextant, a star sighting instrument, was invented by the Chinese, although most of us Indian maintain that we taught the world the art and science of Navigation. My personal quest into how the art and science of navigation came to human kind has yet indicated the we Indians would only do a river navigation, which was called 'Nav gath' in Sanskrit which perhaps is the etymological base for the Navigation. But river navigation, which harnesses 'terrestrial navigation' is vastly different from ocean navigation, which uses the 'celestial navigation'. Celestial navigation is the first place where the need for chronometer, or a time measuring device, was first felt by mankind. The purpose was to be able to measure the movement of sun across the longitudes. The "long by chron" method was theoretically worked out much much before the chronometer, (aka, in modern days, a wrist watch)came into being, but could not be practised while at sea. Year 1800 AD marked the invention of longitudes for the purpose of navigation. Imagine how Vasco da Gama and Columbus might have carried out their sea-voyages even with being able to know the longitudes! great work, i say. Interestingly, the Logarithms, which we so tediously study in schools, found their first practical use none other than, at sea for calculating the position using 'long by chron' method.
It really amazes me think the history of shipping is indeed the history of mankind, and in one accurate glance a history of the future of this world as well. Sometimes i think of throwing down this bold statement to all the thinker that- this world and all its civilisations have been settled and brought about by none other than it's mariners! Think over it, all those reading this statement.

Returning back to the original theme of my talk, the GPS works using some 24 satellites, all owned by the US Dept of Defense(the Pentagon) and employs a craft of quartz clocks in its electronics, which are able to measure time to its 9th place after decimal.!!! can you people imagine that and assimilate how the GPS system is so accurate in fixing the position. It has a accuracy level measurable in centimetres. And the challenge remains that each of the 24 satellites and the GPS ground control stations on earth have these quartz crystal clocks which each measure the time to that high precision. The challenge is the the inherent vibrations of quartz crystals should have been synchronized at the beginning of their formation itself to all of them vibrate in sync all the time yet, which practically means synchronisation the time of formation of earth! Now that is not known to have happened or not.!
So how do the scientist achieve that. That's where the management philosophy teaches some lessons to technology, and vice verse. A clever management of these satellite keeps them working in sync all the time. This concept in turn teaches an observer the great lesson that- what and individual cannot achieve independently can sometimes be achieved by some careful and well cor-ordinated team work.
Like, none of us can be fully correct and full wrong at the same time, but by a well-argued proposition achieve full-correctness on some matters. We cannot be God individually, but we can achieve a very high standard of Godliness, by working in close liaison with other well-read, intellectual people. The decision of an individual can be subject to mistakes, but a panel of high-class judges can achieve even the unattainable.
Think about the above, who have their argument lines as:
You are not God, nor can you be one. !!( individual is not, but an elite panel can nearly be so.)
If something cannot be achieved by any individual, then it is really unachievable!!(it's really not so).
No body is fully correct; nobody is fully wrong. (co-ordination can do more wonders).

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Desi Human Solutions

Most people in Indian Merchant Navy are wary of one particular breed of Technical Managers(aka Superintendents) . And that is the Indians themselves. It is humorous to find that quite many of us are aware of some problem existing in our management approach, although we believe that it is in someone else among us but not me.
We realize deeply that the Indian style of management focus a lot on exacting hard work from people, so much that where there is no work, we begin to feel uneasy for not getting opportunity to do our most cherished thing..the hard work!
It is agreed that all the arguments that would stand in favour and against our desi notion of Hard Work, ..(Hard work key to success, Hard work can win all battles, Foreigners do more hard work than us, ....and so on), the idea of slow and easy approach is completely abhored by our such the (someone-else-)Managers.
My close friend just now rang me up from China, to tell how hard his life has become, on the same ship on which I had an enormously wonderful and comfortable life, only because the Indian managers are looking after it, which was under the Taiwanese during my tenure. His complain, indeed, has been realized, accepted and humoured by many others too.
I think the concept of business and its big picture with relation to the technical and operational managements involved, is poorly understood by most of us. And this poor understanding occurs because of the fact that we Indians are born, lived, trained, and taught to always believe in 'Hard work'. Those of us who grow-up to realise, or even by some vile chance practice 'Luxurious life', quite often turn out to be the better players of technical management.
While reading one passage on cultural slips of Indians, I was thinking on the effect of the concepts on Vrat, Roza,(fasting), and TirthYatra (the pilgrimage), and self-abstinence in our culture. We believe that the more the human body is tortured and put to rigorous 'hard work', the closer it gets to find a reward from its maker. Ok, for the sake of good health the belief may be holding good, but for the purpose of solution-finding for any problem, it is not good to think of the approach of putting more regulatory checks, managerial pressure, or retributive measures, to obtain a solution. A technological approach should also be considered, which is, i agree, little difficult to be thought for us, Indians, because our Technological Institutes and not yet quite ready to take-up problem solving for practical problems. They are rather too busy in teaching their students.
Anil Kakodkar's, the chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, statement on the use of Tech Institutes to attend to the problems of Industries was much awaited in this regard. The circle-round result of the shortfall of the referral method led to our Desi managers never being able to think of technological solutions to problems. The widely sought solutions mostly are the human solutions of reprimanding, scolding, pressurising, or making unusual new rules.
The Japaneses, and other Hi-Technology nations have a traditional approach of looking for the technology-related solutions to the same set of problems. And even in that, they often choose to go for a real hi-technology, instead of our desi approach of 'affordable' and 'improvised' solutions.
Very recently, I was reading something on the west's rising interest in the approach of getting the human-solutions, in which they are now focusing on how to become more relaxed and easy to overcome difficulties like 'forgetfulness', and 'unrested'. This is very much different from our approach of desi human-solutions, where we focus on harassing some human to solve the problem where the technology could have worked instead!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Private adult tapes :- to the question of future of the protagonists

Private videos of common civilians in their compromising positions have become replete on internet these days. With digital camera becoming a toy device in every person’s hand, the most secretive life of people is coming to public light in galore. Sometimes I feel elated that to the students of human psychologies it is opening doors of some new frontiers, and sometimes sad as to what would be the public life of people who have been caught up in those videos.
Almost all people I meet are enthusiastic about seeing those tapes. But many of them feel utterly disgusted with other people who see or talk about them, because of a natural fear rising in own mind of themselves falling victims of infidelity some day. The instantaneous thought of own family’s women member getting caught deters most of such people to ever appreciate, comment, or discuss such videos. Therefore this lot of people are always in disgust and denigrating mode towards those who watch and discuss them.
It’s not that I want to encourage people to comment rampantly such dark accidental pages of unfortunate person’s life, but I want to take concerns and think of some better future for them in the aftermath of these incidents.
With the growing threat of Taliban and extremist religious values, I once got thinking on whether it was really such big taboo in India to get seen the adult secret life in full public. Some odd chapters of Indian history passed my thoughts right away. The pictures of sculptors of Khujraho, Jagannath Puri, Konark Sun Temple, and the treatise of Kamasutra gave some hints to think in some different terms. Then, my recent visit to the Red Fort of Agra, and the Taj Mahal, further nourished my growing-up opinion. There used to be no doors inside the Forts of the Moghuls. Hawa Mahal (or the Air Condition Room) of Moghul Kings had no doors, nor did their sleeping chambers. There were only curtains on them.
I think that the adult actions getting caught being done in the full glare of whole wide world has been happening from the times immemorial. It is nothing new to human society. But what the technology has done is to make it ‘eternal’ through the process of digitization, and have it farther promulgated. This is the bigger damage that has happened in the present times in relation to the past.
But since the camera has become so much an easy device, the growing count of private videos of more and more people might eventually make our society indifferent to them in time to come.
So the victims should not take any drastic action on themselves, particularly suicide or so, to escape the undue public glare. Avoiding public appearance for some time, till some dust settles on their scandal tapes, would be a better remedial action.
Most people who do a regular access to such ‘clips’, whose count by my estimation must be quite high, would rather be comfortable towards the social acceptance of their misfortune pleasure- entertainers.
From high class celebrities, to non-descript town people, many such ‘entertainers’ have already emerged in our media and cyber world. And yet many of them continue to live a life, even if not so normal, but still happy by many other standards, I am sure. And many have continued on their careers and dreams normal as before. Such examples should redeem the new ‘sinners’ from giving-up on desire to live. At the same time, those of the people who feel disgusted with their fellow beings who like discussing the tapes, should avoid the fear of their mind, for this might make them yet another kind of ‘extremist’ who by his thoughts thinks of himself has ‘high standards, clean life’ and ‘imposes’ bans on others. Acceptance, even if helplessly, of the uncontrolled promulgation should make the ‘extremist’ to calm himself and pass it on as event of life, technologised and contemporary, instead of suppressing the free-speech which may be a subtle diatribe, albeit positive, fact full and true.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Drug and Alcohol policy in shipping

(a letter written to appeal against strict, zero-tolerance, D&A policy in some of the shipping companies)

Dear Sir,
This is in response to the “zero tolerance” drug and alcohol policy implementation, which is getting a little too merciless on seafaring community as though to make an austere saint of us!
The sea farers in the days of yore were the outcast, convict people with immense skill and desire to live and survive. Perhaps they savoured all the taste of women, wine and ate away all the dodos of this planet, feeding their will to live more in the rigorous’t of ocean waves.
Then suddenly dawned upon the mankind the rule of “Governments”, which captured the “companies” for un-social and environment un-friendly policies. A new era of “Drug and Alcohol” abuse came upon the ravelling sea-farers, which I agree was and is, a need of the hour to check more damages to the seas and oceans, from happening. It tamed the sea-farers slowly into the family-people who started to crave for more time to be with their friends and families far on shore.
But the strength of the ocean waves continued to be the same! There were no more dodos left to eat; the punishment they got in return for eating them up has deep indented into making the seafarers almost unseaworthy. The ruthless and merciless enactment of the D&A policy has left sea-farers as vulnerable soft pieces of flesh, more timid than the land-lubbers.
In fact the land-lubbers have started to appear more ravelling so much that the sea-farer now seems to be becoming the extinct group who need some protection from the clutches of many a ruthless works of law.
Losing a job all for being under the Influence sends a chill down their spine even stronger than the beer. They question if it’s really worth being a sea-farer to face the onslaught of law more than the waves of the ocean when the law seems to be making a select target of them. What more does the Governments want of them through the seafarers’ Companies, -- to make an ascetic of them?
A balanced check was essential perhaps in those days to bring the wild roaming sea-farers into the grip of Governments. In present times, a little more squeeze might ooze the will out of them, bereft as just a bony flesh.

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