Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Trend Spotting...!

At work (I simply love my new job) our team tries to parallelize everything - from data access, utilizing resources throughput & even our mutual interactions on a daily basis...and believe me it does save us a huge time everyday (superb efficiencies are a by-product too). Anyways, when I visited nearby Post Office to buy some Postage Stamps - I noticed something quite interesting. It was a "Eureka" kinda feeling when I observed the manner in which the customers were being served by the energetic looking USPS Personnel & tried drawing an analogy to the Post Offices I went to in my childhood days. Here's how I can best describe/demonstrate the difference:

Approach A (Lets call it - The Obvious One)
  • Have customers lined up in front of different post office windows so that at a time (in theory) - 4 Customers can be served. However think of the repurcussions when say the clerk at Window A is having issues with his system. One can forsee the chaos that situation like this would create for people lined up near window A. Secondly, say if I am in line A next to the person being served currntly and I notice that line C just got empty - there's no way I can walk over to Window C. Practically, what Window C personnel would do in this case is to split Queue at Window A from the middle. But hey, what about me - my wait time didn't reduce even though resources (read servers) were available. I am sure many of my friends can correlate this to a ususal occurence in few Train Reservation Centres in India.

Approach B (Lets call it - The Dynamic One)

  • Have people lined up in a single queue (this is what I observed in USPS Office yesterday) and the person in front of the line can choose to go to the first available window A through D. Now, statistically the average wait time for a customer is much less in this case for many reasons. One, in case if system at Window C is malfunctioning for some reason - the customer can quickly move to the other free (available) window easily. Secondly, in this approach, the skill / processing speed of a particular Window personnel wouldn't affect the customers when averaged out. (Imagine in Approach A - if you happen to stand in a line where the clerk takes 10 mins as against 5 mins to serve each customer - you are seriosuly doomed then ;)).
Well, then what I intended to convey that it isn't always necessary to go for mathematical/statistical analysis to spot trends in our day to day existence - being an avid observer & giving the gift of your complete attention to things (tangible or otherwise) around you is all one needs to do on a continual basis.
Oh yes - as always Seth impresses me with his latest post yet again - I love the buzz he creates in his creative approach to seemingly obvious & rational things (Intership, Squidoo, Book Launches, Seminar Invites etc) - I can just sit back & admire his distinctive style.


Dhruva said...

Hmm, nice though provocative post Chinmay :) ... I also think on similar lines manytime ... about parallels between US approach and Indian approach to a problem or scenario ..

But I have felt that population is the real problem which actually makes all system fail here. I feel it's about "total number" vs Total space available - lesser this ratio is the better.

eg - I guess approach B will be difficult to implement and maintain if you have more number of people and less space available.

Sangram said...

Now the situation in India is also changing....not in Post office I can say but in other places where they have queue..
Like some I visited in India,have ticketing system.Upon entering particular office,you get a ticket,then you need to wait in space given near counter... The ticket being served will be displayed on the counter window (more than 5/6 counters) ... you need to wait until your ticket number is displayed on the window, then accordingly you will be served.

Chinmay said...

Hey Dhruv,

Thanks for d nice 'n' candid feedback-believe me its rlly amazing to spot such Comments 1st thing upon waking up in morning! Anyways, I totally agree that the Dynamics of Parallelism are governed by the numbers (read population) & equation would certainly change when population grows. But scope for innovation 'n' improvement still remains...Sangram has described one beautiful example here...(scroll in comments secn)

Chinmay said...

Hey thanks for sharing a great example Sangram...I agree with ur viewpoint of "India Shining" !


Surabhi said...


B/w I saw ur blog link...."Trend Spotting"...is quite situational one..as I am also in the queue for getting resv ;-)...I hope India Shinning example does some wonders 4 me.....

Surabhi said...


B/w I saw ur blog link...."Trend Spotting"...is quite situational one..as I am also in the queue for getting resv ;-)...I hope India Shinning example does some wonders 4 me.....

D Balaji said...

chinmay ... awesome .. i like(loved) all the photos & concepts very much.

with cheer's

Shyamali said...

Hi Chinmay,

Hope u r doing well in Connecticut…

Just happened to go thru ur blog today & came across this particular one… wanted to share some experience of mind, similar to what you have posted there.

Well here it is………………………..

"Trend Spotting...! " [May 6th, 2008]

I had this experience myself sometime back & had the same observations as u have stated in ur blog. The Railway Reservation Center at Bangalore (yes in India!!) - I'll specify the exact place as well "Kormangala, 4th Block".

People have the chance to wait all the while being seated comfortably in chairs with fans moving above. They simply need to shift to the adjacent seat being emptied by the person who is before him in the queue - as simple as that.

Best part is the the way the queue moves - a horizontal jig-zag kinda change of seats.

As for being attended in the counter - 4/5 counters are there and as soon as any counter is free, the foremost person in the queue walks up to the counter. Very hastle-free, very cooly done.