Many years back, in an MNC where I was employed then, they ran an global advertisement campaign headlined: “We never stop asking ourselves: What if?”.
The campaign was about our well-earned (at least then!) reputation for designing and following sound processes. It was about asking questions to customers about what made sense to them and then designing processes and equipment and following through with sound execution and top of the class manufacturing that justified the high premium our customers paid for them.
Our goal was to design a process or product for customer delight and then build in a large “stress-margin” so that even in the worst of circumstances, our products will work better than specified and our processes for delighting the customers will not fail.
I am a convert. I am zealot for that company; it has been almost ten years since I left. But, I still believe every line of that campaign and the examples they quoted in support of the central idea. Because, in the olden days, that was the company HP was. I am still an ambassador or an evangelist of the old HP way.
Why am I bringing up all this now? To basically comment on the recent two deaths of schoolgirls; Shanno and Akriti in Delhi.
While we all wait for the formal enquiries into their deaths to establish faults if any, I think we can safely predict the following: No school in Delhi, whether it is an expensive public school or a Municipal School in Narela, has a procedure for crisis management.
How would a similar incident be handled again? How would the schools ensure that such incidents do not recur?
In the absence of a clearly laid down policy and crisis management procedures, the teachers on the spot are left to improvise a response. I am sure they manage well in most cases; except when there is a real crisis and they are found wanting in their responses.
A policy handbook need not run into hundreds of pages; the best ones do not. In both Shanno and Aakriti’s case, a recognition of the need for urgent medical attention and rushing the girls to the nearest hospital would have sufficed. In both cases, precious time may have been lost while the teachers and students tried to get someone to own responsibility for action. Should this be decided ad-hoc?
I have seen suggestions from parents and comments that the school should have a “proper” doctor on premise. What next? A hospital on premise? Especially when all it needs is common sense and process orientation?
The school should have documented the process for any kind of medical emergencies. It could have either identified one person (with back-ups identified) who needs to be informed and who will decide on next steps or it could have empowered any teacher to follow through on emergencies. Having done the documentation of the process and ownership, it is a matter of communicating the names and contact details of the “process owners” to all the students and teachers and making the emergency contact details visible. Also, the “process owners” should be given real power to decide and follow through. And, they should be aware and trained on the possible choices they have in a matter of crisis.
In the spirit of “What if…?”, will the schools be prepared for the next attack of asthma or heat-stroke? Or, drowning? Or a fall?