Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Debriefing: Extracting “learning” from an event

I find Friends in the office discussing about “debriefing” as part of “Learning and Development Programs” design. And I wonder, does it have to be limited to a formal “L&D Program” setting only!! I was reminded of an event that happened about 20 years back in the office of my boss and GM (P&A).

I spent best part of my life enjoying what I did in a Public Sector Undertaking. PSUs were not the employers of choice for most of the so called “professionals” more since they paid less compared to glamorous private undertakings. However, there was no comparison between the two when it came to provision of developmental opportunities, provided, of course, if one looked for self development.

Some of us during those days also, were in a habit to leave office much after the day was over. It was one such late evening I left my office and thought of looking up to my Boss and GM (P&A), whom I have adored and shall always do for his sheer genius, detail orientation, patience and honesty.

As usual, he was in his office. He was normally the first one to reach and last to leave. And that day he had a special reason to be in office, which he mentioned when I sought his permission and entered his room. And the reason was, an agitated trade union leadership. The working committee of a left inclined trade union representing about a third of workers has taken onto them selves a cause of transfer of one of their members from one plant to another. The cause of their current action, however, was more to show their existence and prove they have strength. The members of the committee, about 10 in numbers, had chosen to storm the Senior Manager’s office and squat down,  preventing him from moving out. Arguments for and against the decision of the Manager were continuing for more than 4 hours now.

A battery of Advisers, including the Head of Operations for the Site, were trying to advise the Manager on phone, to leave his office and when stopped, to report to the Security about the “confinement”, since such “forced confinement” by trade union amounted to “unfair practice” and liable to action to discipline the individuals. Ours being a Government of India PSU and an essential service organisation, consequences of such “unlawful confinement” would have been detention of the individuals by the Police.

The Manager was however an extremely soft gentleman, who did not want to put the union leadership to such hardship, and therefore was not co-operating with the advisers. The same Manager, however, in other coordination meetings would be vocal about failure of Personnel and Administration in disciplining trade union leadership.

The drama was still being enacted when I entered my Boss’s office. After narrating the events of the day, he asked me, “so what is the learning?”

And I propounded my theory of child behavior, I was not mindful of the fact that I was propounding any theory at that time.

Behavior of a child is conditioned by two sets of characteristics, one inborn and the other imbibed. The behavior set which is an outcome of imbibed characteristics, is normally socially acceptable, since child has seen adults behaving in that manner and imbibed the same. However, behavior set which is an outcome of inborn characteristics may not be socially acceptable, since these characteristics are more genetic in nature. Unless the child is explained that this set of behavior or some of them are not socially acceptable, child does not know that for modification. If such advice is not given in time, the unacceptable behavior gets ingrained and harder to modify. Adults can not blame the child if they have not taken early actions to guide the child, for any unacceptable behavior.

Same is true of behavior of trade union leadership. If Management as adults of the family do not convey that a set of behavior are not acceptable, such behavior will get ingrained and become a way of organizational life. And precisely same thing was taking place at that juncture.

Was this “debriefing”, I muse!!

Comments are welcome.