Thursday, November 20, 2008

Way Off Track..!

First it was the Banks, then the Auto Industry and now the Public Transport-I never thought that the prevailing financial crisis would snowball into a major problem for the US Government and the residents alike. While since banks and Auto Industry crisis affect a section of people and there are bunch of ways to fix them (financial stimulus/bailout packages etc)-however, can you imagine how much of an impact would cutting down on Public Trasport have? Afterall-not all of us use cars as a means of commute! According to the latest news, MTA faces a budget shortfall of around $1.2 bn and the authority’s chief executive Elliot G. Sander has voiced severe concerns to the government. This presentation (from MTA's Website) shows the magnitude of the problem MTA is going through. While I have always been an admirer of MTA's superb service (Trip from New Haven to NYC was such a breeze)- frequency of trains, passenger safety, timeliness, cordial staff etc, I differ with Mr. Sander's solution to the problem at hand. He suggests either "Increasing the Fares" or "Cutting down Service"-but either of these are going to disrupt schedules and lives of millions-right !! While I am sure MTA's senior management are applying their brain cells to full throttle at the moment but here are few things I feel (strictly my subjective opinion) they can do now or on an ongoing basis:

  • Reduce Benefits-Agreed-compensation is always a sensitive issue but cutting down on benefits to employees can be a true saver. And a conflict-free way to accomplish this is to cut benefits across the company at all hierarchies. That ways you still have support from your loyal employees and discussions on "biasness"/"favoritism" etc. are totally out of scope. There are 'n' number of non-value adding activities that go on everyday in any enterprise.
  • Communicate Smartly-When giving a demo on STARS(Our BI Reporting Product) at Windsor two weeks ago, I noticed an interesting satellite office of a small real-estate firm there. I wanted to make a quick call since my cell battery had died out and thus I stepped into their office asking for a pay-phone. The lady (looked quite surprised first) responded with a warm smile and told me that employees there use Skype as a means of communication as against phones. (And I thought Skype just helps us in staying connected with friends back in India). VoilĂ -Think about it-an enterprise can actually save substantial money by using Internet/VOIP to comunicate; besides you can actually do stuff like Video Conf etc. as against flying to a client location to give demo-phenomenal cost savings again !! (Hey but I still like travelling-Okay:))
  • Infuse Fresh Blood-When things don't go as planned for an extended period of time, try hiring young people, empowering them and infuse competition amidst them. Competition can do wonders!
  • Watch Out-Many times cost cutting initiatives by companies lead to exodus of the most efficient and the best people. Avoid it-give them reasons to stay back, Involve them in policy decisions-NOW!
  • Look Around-Understood that everyone's (individual/company) problem is unique but once can always learn from what others did in emergency situations. Google out some case studies, approach B-school professors.
All I am trying to say is that MTA can still come up with a WIN-WIN solution with pragmatism and optimism. But yes whatever steps they undertake, they must infuse a strong sense of discipline, vigor and passion in implementing the same. Afterall, trains look better on tracks than off them :) Good Luck MTA !
" Adversities come and go like ripples in a stream"

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