Vantage point

Monday, February 21, 2005

Managing Change

Many maxims that were hammered into our overloaded heads in Business School were about "Change Management". Several chapters, cases, and professors would go on and on about how critical it is to manage change for the success of an individual as well as an organisation. In fact I had even taken a full credit course on managing change effectively.

After I left school and joined the real world, I understood that all the chapters, cases and professors were right. It is very crucial to manage change. However none of those were able to prepare me for dealing with change properly. Even now, every few days I face a daunting situation which involves change management.

The most frequent situation is the one when I reach office in the morning and when I reach into my wallet to pay the auto-wallah, all I see are hundred rupee notes sitting cosily with five hundred rupee notes. Which makes the situation rather tough to handle, since the fare is usually about 17 to 19 rupees. Thus lack of proper change management leaves me in a fix.

Not having change in a place like Bandra Kurla Complex is particularly challenging, since there are no shops or restaurants around, where one can equip oneself with change. So a lot of time is spent in me and the rickshawwallah just staring at each other and the tall buildings, hoping that change will materialise miraculously.

Never happens.

Then the rickie goes around the parked rickshaws and taxis asking if they have change. Hardly anyone does, and even if they do, parting with change in the morning is a rash step they won't take. Finally, after what seems like a few decades, we come across a kind soul who takes pity on us and delivers change.

There are many other occasions where change presents a problem. Be it in a shop, a bus, a railway station or on a street, Change Management is a skill we all need to imbibe.

I have learnt a few lessons in Change Management through my experiences that I would like to share with you.

The best way to manage change is to check at night how much change you have on you. Will it be enough for paying the autowallah or bus conductor in the morning? Remember, the crucial time for change management is morning, when no one has any change. So when you make any payments in the evening, make them using a 100 rupee note or a 500 rupee note, even if you have change with you.

Everyone has change in the evening. So when you pay a rickie even an amount like 12 rupees, hand him a 100 rupee note, and he will dutifully produce change.

Another good source of change is a restaurant. When you go to a restaurant, and the bill is 150 rupees, don't pay using a 100 rupee note and a 50 rupee note. Give him 200 rupees. What will happen is, that the waiter will get you change for the remaining 50. i.e he won't bring back a 50-re note. He will bring it back in tens. Always. Why? To make the process of tipping him easier, that's why. So what you have is a waiter helping you with change management.

There are a few places where you will get change for sure. The best ones are STD booths and internet cafes. These people have most of their cash in small denominations, and are grateful to anyone who will give them an opportunity to convert it into a more compact form. So if you walk into a net cafe at night, and ask "500 ka change hai kya?", the bloke will first give you a kiss, and then urge you to take 50 notes of 10 rupees each, thus taking care of your change management needs for the next week.

It is through imbibing these lessons that you will master the art of Change Management. You will never find yourself in the awkward position of brandishing a 500 rupee note to pay for an 8 rupee rickshaw fare early in the morning.

Update: Reader Nikhil Kulkarni has another lesson in change management, but with a caveat. he writes - One more tip of "change management" is to get change from local ticket counter at any station in Mumbai, esp when it's not too crowded. But beware, this can backfire, like once with me when the mamu on Kurla
station had given me change in one and two rupee coin when I had given him 100 rs note for ticket till Dadar :-)