If one happens to visit the office of any government administrator or manager,one  is likely to notice the whiteboard hanging on one of the walls, generally the one which is in comfortable sight of the manager.And if one regularly visits such offices , the use to which whiteboard is put is clearly visible.Most of the time, the whiteboard carries the list of important things that a manager is suppose to monitor along with deadlines.In a first instance, it  may reflect the focus of the administrator and his constant monitoring of the work allocated to him.But if one reminds oneself of chronological order of the evolution of management,one will realize that the government organisations are still stuck in the time warp.

The first thing which comes to one’s mind after seeing ‘deadlines on the whiteboard’ is the Fayol’s general theory of management. Fayol’s fourteen principles are at the heart of government’s organisational structure.The division of work, unity of command and direction, and the use of hierarchical control structure to meet the deadlines are the major features of government organisations.So, whenever a government organisation wants to complete the target, the message will come from the top and every one in the lower levels have to run towards the predetermined targets.But are they really able to achieve deadlines? If all is well with this theory, then ideally every government project should complete in time.However, the public projects rarely get completed in time despite deadlines right in front of administrator.The reason lies in the absence or minimal presence of scientific management in the government organisations.

FW Taylor, the father of scientific management,generally sits in the corner of government organisations whereas he gets displayed right on the whiteboard in the case of private organisations.Taylor exhorted the managers to scientifically determine the quantum of work and assess the productivity levels of the staff to keep realistic benchmarks.He replaced intuitive and rule of thumb determination of productivity with more scientific time and motion study to ensure that targets set are actually achievable and those who are able to achieve it are rewarded for the same.The private organisations are far ahead in applying all these principles whereas government is still not able move beyond Fayol’s theory of general administration.

The whiteboards in private organisations are entirely in a different avatar compared to government organisations.They are generally full with process flows , activity flows, and workflows in comparison with the deadline displaying whiteboards of the government organisations.Most of the private managers focus on workflow, try to identify the sequencing of activities and try to ensure that parallel flow of work happens.On the contrary, government organisations keep focusing on pushing hard to achieve the deadlines without examining whether the means are scientific enough to achieve the deadline or not.Even the government organisations that are executing large scale projects like roads ,railways or other developmental structures are hardly using scientific techniques like PERT and CPM which are quite popular in private organisations.

PERT (Project Evaluation and Review Techniques) and CPM (Critical Path Method) are important tools to sequence the activities in a complex project.It determines the critical and sub-critical activities and clearly reveals the activities which can be done in parallel or the one which has to be done in sequence.They should have long back entered into government organisation’s boardroom, however, they are yet to catch traction with the government managers.Perhaps, it is important to remind ourselves Taylor’s definition of management : “Management is an art of knowing what to do,when to do and see that it is done in the best and the cheapest way”.Importantly this definition is focusing on the selection and execution of the work rather than worrying about the deadline.

Peter F Drucker, a noted management Guru, stated around three decades ago that effective management is the biggest resource of developing countries and thus, it should remain a prime area of concern for a developing country like India.It is high time that we appreciate the importance of scientific management.Encourage the study of workflows and use scientific charts in government boardrooms before its too late for us to do a course correction.Productivity does not depend on the ownership of the organisation, it depends on the nature of management of an organisation.Therefore,rather than constantly comparing the efficiency levels of private and public organisations, it may be much more prudent to adopt effective and scientific ways of management to improve the delivery mechanisms of the government organisations.

Review Credits :

1) Ashutosh Yadav

2) Sanskriti Seth