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CWG : Institutional Crisis than Hurt Pride?

The institutional crisis in coordination is of interest than the hype about hurt national pride in the glitches in the CWG preparation. Ashok Balasundaram writes.

india Updated: Oct 23, 2010 15:06 IST
Ashok Balasundaram
Ashok Balasundaram
Hindustan Times

The institutional crisis in coordination is of interest than the hype about hurt national pride in the glitches in the CWG preparation. New Delhi offered several advantages for inter organizational coordination being the seat of the central government. In fact the redeeming potential of the CWG itself stemmed from the entry of cabinet secretariat and PMO over the last few weeks into the nitty-gritty of even small but critical issues like sanitation of the Games village.

What seems to have failed the seamless organization of the infrastructure and its maintenance is the lack of a suitably empowered and positioned organization capable of taking care of the complexity of the task. In a managerial effort like that of the CWG several functional specialists have to come together. For example very strong engineering divisions have to complete their tasks even before the sports layering and surfacing have to start. Each task has prerequisites which need excellent critical path analysis for optimal completion. If a central task coordination team does not hold the tasks together, you are likely to end up with a chaotic blame game. Therefore a multi disciplinary coordination structure and a command structure at the core were unavoidable.

Secondly the games organization is a full time and scale assignment. The services of the members of the committee of secretaries or even Ministers in the GOM cannot be expected full time in the dedicated compliment that works for the games 24*7. The divisions that have critical responsibilities- infrastructure, landscaping, surfacing, catering, cleaning, communication etc had to have task leaders of appropriate seniority and fiscal freedom with a staffing compliment and approved budget to his satisfaction had to be pre-positioned. This would mean that attending to games work would mean that the CPWD, DDA and MCD components attending to Games work would move lock stock and barrel over to the games CEO, whoever it is, just as in elections. The head of CPWD attending to games work would not dilute his attention with incomparable work in the mean time. Remember, supervision at a level or levels significantly higher than the task is both a waste of time and distractive.

The third critical attribute of the temporary organization that had to deliver the games was its plasticity. In other words as the key events approach, the staffing escalate from double digit to thousands of workers including volunteers and then stand pared down to the managerial element after closure. Typically multi functional crisis management organizations adopt such command structures which expand and contract on the onset of a crisis and its retreat, respectively. Such organizations are more effective when used in event management like CWG when the most precise
thing known is the timing required of the organizers. The deadline is the greatest advantage and not the demon it is made out to be. Typically such organizations work on expandable units organized under divisions which have functional domains like command, planning, logistics and finance, operations etc.

Communication and safety are paramount command responsibilities. Systematic single point approval of communications was a key task the command had to place as a first step. This command organization had to be replicated in all main operational areas. The US developed it in the seventies and called it the Incident command system. The Indian Disaster Management Authority fine tuned it into the Disaster Response system and even brought out a guideline on its adoption. True to its instinct, the Great Indian Jugad has overcome sound managerial systems. The OC could in no way commandeer mammoth organizations run by bureaucratic heavy weights like DDA, MCD, NDMC etc. It called for a ministerial commander where the buck stopped for real.

The ministerial group could look at the larger issues while the day to day management had to rest with a Cabinet Minister and the full compliment had to march to his tune, whether right or wrong. A Games CEO equivalent to a full General or Cabinet secretary had to run the show under him. Dedicated empowered attention would have also saved the larger governance apparatus from having to come in repeatedly to absorb the shocks of relatively minor failures.

Third party monitoring was an essential part of the task which got panned into the finish. Had a dedicated consultant rechecked the handing over of facilities the avoidable last minute embarrassment could have been avoided.

The toilet seats meant for guests remained unclean, since in the mad rush to meet bigger tasks, some one forgot to tick that small but critical item in a checklist! Defining that little fellow who will check and tick it was the larger managerial challenge. In Gamesville, the institutional crisis is more fearsome than the instant jolt to our pride.

The Writer is an IAS officer, views expressed by him are personal.

First Published: Oct 23, 2010 14:11 IST