Getting Things done – The Jugaad Way

In the 1990s, farmers in northern India, who could not afford to buy motor transportation, improvised a cheap, simple multi-use vehicle by leveraging miscellaneous parts including a diesel engine which was meant for running agricultural irrigation pumps. This is a textbook example of what, in India, is colloquially and popularly known as Jugaad (phonetically closer to Jugaar). In recent years, it has been adopted and popularized globally by some management gurus (often used synonymously with the phase Frugal Engineering) – put simply, it is the art of getting things done somehow, given any number of constraints (frequently financial in nature). As a result it often requires out-of-the box thinking to overcome these constraints as opposed to following standard practices.

Of course, as soon, as the concept gained wider exposure, there was a backlash by many who believed that Jugaad, was a short-term, quick-fix solution, and could not replace true R&D, and often sacrificed quality at the altar of cost – as an example the Jugaad vehicle mentioned earlier often had problems with brakes – which many of us would consider a key safety feature! In spite of this, I believe that organisations, who post the 2008-financial crisis, are having to compete in a much-changed world, should take a look at Jugaad with its focus on innovation and ingenuity

 Incorporating Jugaad Spirit in BPM

How is Jugaad relevant in the Business Process Management (BPM) space? BPM (specifically implementation of BPM suites) is associated with transforming processes by introducing flexibility and agility as well as empowering the end-user. What is often not considered in BPM initiatives is the handling of constraints; many BPM implementations are plagued by issues, which in-turn act as stumbling blocks, delaying rollouts and frustrating all stakeholders. These could range, for example, from absence of test data to non-alignment on how the TO-BE operating model should look. So the need of the hour is incorporating more of the Jugaad spirit in BPM, in order to overcome such roadblocks. Here are some of the critical elements of Jugaad, which we can incorporate in any BPM project

  • Focus on end-goal: Often when a BPM engagement is greenlighted, the executive sponsors have clearly defined goals which they want to achieve; but often, once the initiative reaches the shop-floor, process owners and experts have their own agenda, and these original aims can be lost sight of. Jugaad emphasises on meeting the original goals and not getting waylaid by nice-to-have features.
  • Keeping Customer at the Centre: In BPM, the customer view can get lost, especially in a technology implementation when a too process-centric view can lose focus on the actual customer needs. Jugaad is all about ensuring the customers’ needs are met, and frequent interaction leads to tweaking to meet their key needs.  From a BPM standpoint, it’s important to bring in the viewpoint of those in the organization who are close to the customer and retain that point-of-view
  • Crowdsourcing: In Jugaad, crowdsourcing was happening before the term became popularized! Jugaad has always believed in getting inputs from the widest possible audience. From a BPM perspective, in an organization, there will be people involved, who can contribute to a process, who may not be the designated experts for the BPM initiative, these people need to be tapped for their inputs and unique perspective
  • Flexibility over Structure: Though reviews are important, many organizations have introduced too many review and approval processes- something which often impedes progress and adds little to no incremental value – as I am fond of saying over-analysis leads to paralysis! Jugaad practioners in contrast, remain closer to their customers, allowing Jugaad to be far more flexible in nature. Adopting a similar approach would allow a BPM project team to react faster to external factors and adapt accordingly

Imbibing the Jugaad spirit can help BPM be more cost-effective and adaptable in nature, similar to the vehicles in northern India – just remember the brakes 🙂