Many moons ago, I arrived at my 6:00 pm shift at KLM, expected to handle the freight related flight operations of a Boeing 747 – combi aircraft, which typically carried 40k tons of cargo and over 140 shipments – and that meant 140 airway bills(or AWB in short). It was around that time that the day shift of operations and customer services teams would call it a day, and a skeletal crew taking over operations. To add, I had the misfortune of learning that the computer network had been down the entire afternoon, and as a result, the entire flight was to be updated/completed manually, a process which involves calculations, reconciliation, comparisons and analyses to ensure that all data points match – a cumbersome and hectic activity. The 747 was anyways a big aircraft with 12 pallets and 6 containers and this was always a tiring flight – the system failure making it worse.
It was a hectic and tiring shift. At 2:00 am on a wet rainy July morning, post loading and departure of the aircraft, I was hoping to return to the Cargo office expecting the systems to be up and running, but to our misfortune, the airport network continued to fox us. Just then, I got the news that the systems at the city office in Connaught Place, Delhi, were working fine. I had two options before me – the first was to leave all the paper work for the morning shift to handle as it was not my fault that the systems were down. It was anyway the responsibility of those in the day shift of the previous day to input “regularise” the shipments, (a set of commands that were entered into the system to record the details of the shipment) so it was only apt that they handled this the next day. Or, the second option was to think of a solution myself, complete the work and give the morning shift folks a clean day.
I decided to pick up all the documents, load the same on my Bajaj Chetak scooter, and haul myself to the city office. I reached there at 4:00 am and started the long process of document regularisation, loading the data on the flight and releasing the flight. It took me 4 hours approximately and reached home around 8:30 am – about 5 hours later than usual.
The morning shift came in grumbling, expecting a heavy day with loads of paper work, and they were pleasantly surprised to see it all complete. Needless to say that it opened up the entire day for them and I won a lot of friends by my selfless act.
Multiple things happened that day.
First, I won the respect of many people in my team and the related teams – the word that I had gone beyond my call of duty spread within the various teams and departments, and there was an acknowledgement from all for a job well done.
Second, I saw a change in the attitude of departments, where people started helping each other more. It was no longer a customer service vs sales vs operations battle – people realised that we were in it together.
Third, people realised that there was a need to be open to fixing an issue, and that solutions are always there, provided we are willing to look for them.
Fourth, I realised my capacity and the amount I could push myself. After a grueling shift, being able to drive and complete paperwork in an empty office, I realised my potential and capacity to be able to push myself to the extreme.
How many of us complete only what has been entrusted to us and not look at the bigger picture. Is there a difference in the way a start up would treat a task and an established company would? Points to ponder.