Saturday, February 21, 2015

The artful dodger

A General Manager of a Public Sector Undertaking retired after serving the organization for over three decades.  As per the prevailing practice, a farewell party was organized on the day of his retirement. During the meeting, many colleagues paid glorious tributes to his contributions to the organization.  All his golden qualities were recalled and remembered. Of course, many among the gathering came to know of these remarkable qualities for the first time, only on that day. General Manager himself was surprised to find that he had such great qualities.  He was garlanded profusely by the colleagues and admirers.  A big sandalwood memento was also presented amidst thunderous ovation.  Then it was  time for the General Manager to reply to the felicitation.  As he realized that he was about to make his last speech to a captive audience, he was overcome with emotions.  He thanked all those present and others who sent good wishes by mail and over phone.  He was about to conclude the speech and sit down.  It would have been indeed great had it ended that way.

One of the young subordinates got up and asked the usual question.  "Sir, please tell us the secret of your success so that we can follow the same and grow in the organization like you", he said.  General Manager had to perforce give out the secret. This was not the time to remain silent and hide the secret of success. After all, he could no longer use the formula henceforth.

"The secret of my success lies in the golden formula that I followed all along my long and distinguished career.  The formula had two dimensions.  I marked all papers calling for decisions to my superiors.  Thus I was never responsible for any wrong decisions.  All papers calling for action were marked to my subordinates without fail.  This ensured that I was never guilty of faulty implementation.  Thus I earned all my promotions on due dates as my record was unblemished.  After becoming General Manager I had to take decisions as there was none above me to pass on the buck. But I was fortunate that I became GM only six months ago.  I ensured that all papers on which decisions were required were in different stages of seeking clarifications or referred them to various committees for study and recommendations.  Now that I have retired today, my successor will deal with those issues". 

Charles Dickens's famous novel "Oliver Twist" has a character by name Jack Dawkins. He is a very skilled pickpocket and tries to teach the art of picking pockets to the young Oliver Twist. He is called "Artful Dodger" in the novel. There is a general perception that hard work pays.  It is true in some cases.  But we can see many around us who have perfected the art of not working and yet make it pay for them! They have  succeeded in converting the art of not working into a science as well.  These are indeed even more artful dodgers and much more artistic and scientific than that character in the novel "Oliver Twist".

There are many wonderful methods that these artful dodgers put to use.  They have some tool or the other for each occasion and situation.  They are always cool and their blood pressure never goes up.  They keep smiling and answer all questions effortlessly and immediately.  The superiors have only one problem with them; the tasks assigned to them are never accomplished.  But the reasons and justification given by them cannot be easily wished away.  The artful dodger always has the last laugh.

Some of the common tools used by them are well known:
  • I have not received your letter (or mail in today's world).  Had I received, I would have immediately done it.  (He knows that you have no acknowledgement with you to dispute his statement)
  • I was not there when the letter was received.  The letter was misplaced by the other person. I was helpless. (You have no way of knowing the truth)
  • My internet connection was not working.  (This can happen anytime)
  • The attachment sent with your mail did not open. (There is no possibility of checking the truth. Of course, he did not let you know about it)
  • I replied immediately, but for some technical reason the reply bounced. (Why He did not contact by alternate means of communication?)
  • I thought it was not relating to me.  (He did not seek why it was sent to him)  It does not happen to any communication that gives him some benefit or the other.
  • Since no reminders were issued, I thought the project was dropped.

There are others that are used in face to face interaction:
  • Raises questions at each stage when some new system is to be introduced or discussed, so that he is not included in the implementing team.
  • Frames another question from each answer given in response to his earlier question.
  • Shoots a question even before the earlier question is fully answered.
  • Problems are shown everywhere; The introducer should feel it is a wise idea to abort the plan itself.
  • He can show a number of problems in the existing system; can also show even more problems in the alternate plan equally effectively.
  • Cannot take up new assignment as earlier job is half-done; He is willing to take up the new job, if the earlier job is entrusted to someone else. (Knows very well it cannot be done) 
  • He does not have the required skills; but easily identifies another person who is eminently suited for the new job.
  • Can easily recall someone else's name who did very well in a similar situation earlier.
  • He is willing to do it gladly; but it only creates more problems for the person assigning a new job.
  • Never discloses his competency and remains a back bencher; but can readily recall that competency if the place or position suits him later on.

By now you have your own list with innovative ideas.  Please share them without hesitation. They may indeed be useful someday!


  1. Waooo sir !! Just amazing !!!

  2. In Geeyta second chapter it ois said YOGA KARMASU KAUSHALAM mwaning intellect at place of work is Yoga .This applies here nicely

  3. Dodging is an art of artfully lying and a skill that is honed with experience, but whether it would come to the dodger's rescue forever, is the question. Some day, he would have to pay for his escapism !

  4. Dear Mr.Keshava murthy.......well written passage.....very simple still so true! That brings to me the memory of the greatest PM of our times......Mr.P.V.Narasimha Rao. He had to manage the show in strange circumstances and even without a majority of his own in the parl. He used to say that 'not taking a decision is also a decision' and 'passage of time itself will find solutions to many of the crucial problems.'

    On a lighter note I can quote......Once PVN's son Mr.Ranga Rao (who was even a minister for AP) when he was young asked his father PVN......'father..father can I marry'? To this question PVN never said yes or no and as a result Mr.Ranga Rao remained unmarried for ever.

    PVN's art of dodging was subsequently followed by Manmohan Singhji and even Modiji too seems to be using that.
    Write more blogs to bring strange life truths to light!
    Lakshminarayana K

  5. Sir....Very well written. Very simple but also very very True! That brings to me the memory of probably the greatest of our PMs....Mr.P.V.Narasimha Rao. He used to say that 'not taking a decision is also a decision' and 'passage of time will find solutions to many of the thorny problems!'

    On a lighter note I can add...............Once PVN's son Mr.Ranga Rao (who was even a Minister for AP) asked his father........'father, father can I marry?' to which PVN neither 'told yes nor told no' and as a result Mr.Ranga Rao remained bachelor for ever.

    The art of dodging was further practised by subsequent PM Mr.Manmohan Singh and even our present PM Mr.Modi too seems to be practicing it.

    Keep writing like this to bring more life's truth to light. Lakshminarayana K (

  6. A real Art. We have seen umpteen live examples in the organisations. The people who have expertise in this art has one more qualification i.e., cajoling some one to get the assignment completed and projecting to the superiors that he has done the assignment adding colors to the efforts of the real executor.

    Thanks Keshuji for bringing out innovative realities in the Article.

  7. Good effort in collating the various methods of procrastination by Top bosses.

  8. Dear Sir

    Indeed, the article is, indeed, enlightening and contemporaneous . Thank you for such a wonderful article...