Lessons from the Chennai Crisis
Chennai has always been infamous for being one of the hottest cities in the country. If someone told me back in October that the city would witness a flood like situation, I’d have laughed. But look what happened -- this city wasn’t built to tackle ceaseless downpour. Houses were built on the ground level close to the sea, some even at the basement level; drainage systems were built only to survive the mild retreating monsoon. In a month, the incessant rains have brought the city down to its knees.
When the city was being built, it would probably have seemed foolish to invest millions in building a drainage system that was capable of handling floods. Going by past data, no one would have predicted this disaster.
It is the same with organizations. It isn’t easy to predict what will disrupt their growth a decade in advance. But if we keep our eyes and ears open, and are willing to quickly address the slightest risk irrespective of cost, we might be able to sustain. Of course, then there are times when we find ourselves submerged in crises for reasons we couldn’t imagine. It happens. What is important is, we realign to tackle the situation, and also learn from it.
In the world of HR where practices followed for decades have come under questioning, this becomes even more relevant. I wouldn’t talk about the debate over the bell curve – that’s stale news, but when KPMG talks about abolishing another staple in organizations – the engagement survey, I would push HR across industries to revisit everything they believed in to reaffirm their relevance in the current times.
This Chennai deluge has also made me realize that we take too much for granted. When you take away basics like phone connectivity, usage of ATMs, regular drinking water, and sunlight, you realize there are so many things we don’t thank enough. As individuals, I don’t think we pause often to appreciate the positives in our organization. We get so busy in solving the problems and focusing on the negatives that we forget to highlight what’s good.
Lastly, even though work is a dominant part of our lives, it can wait. For e.g. During the initial heavy raining in Chennai, a woman came up to me and asked if offices were functioning; this was when she was searching for drinking water. Her phone network was down, and she couldn’t figure out if people at work. Many are worried about the work that’s piling up. Even in dire situations, work is on their minds. Most of us are running in a mad race and we forget to take time out for other things. I’ve seen people going crazy over network, not because they need to connect with families, but because work needs to be done.
Calamities happen to all of us. They are good reminders for us to take time out from work, appreciate the positives, and decide on priorities. The constant downpour makes me realise the only way to survive in today’s world is through constant vigilance, far sightedness, the ability to change, and most importantly, strength to tide through tough times.