Driving change: The municipality way!

Recently I had to forcefully undergo a small transformation in my routine. Pune municipality had banned parallel parking outside my workplace for reasons best known to its officials. Some guess they were doing this to make room for the metro project. But no one had any first-hand information as to why they were doing it. Anyway, there are limited parking lots for four-wheelers dedicated to my employer; 6 to be precise. I believe, at least 12-15 people owned cars at my workplace with employee strength of 60 people.

During the early days when this ban was imposed, everyone was pissed off for obvious reasons. It was a shock to their routines. Commuters now realized that they had limited flexibility when it came to office arrival timings. They continued to parallel park their vehicles only to attract fines. Much to their dismay, the street had become traffic police’s hot spot. It took some time for the dust to settle down. People slowly realized that the Pune Municipality had pulled up its socks for some serious business.

The following week, I began to use the dedicated parking lots. I had never used the parking lots before. It was a tricky place to park a car without electronic parking assistance or otherwise. During this week it was easy to find a parking space. I had to just be on time to find one, and I was mostly the first one to park; thanks to the proximity of my home from the workplace. The following week was a surprise. I arrived five minutes late only to see 3 parking slots left. The battle for parking space had begun.

In the meanwhile, people had almost stopped blaming the municipality, instead, they were rationalizing the move. Some were strategizing around how to be early and block a parking space. On ground zero, the battle for parking was getting heated-up. Some people had given up and resorted to bikes and Uber. Some scouted for small alleys and parking lots around the locality. I myself found enough parking spaces around my office; this was my contingency plan or plan B if for some reason I reach late and don’t find a parking space. Eventually, there were probably 8 or 9 contenders for 6 parking places. Outside, the parallel parking space was desolate. One could only see a couple of cars oddly parked by visitors unbeknownst of the rule and regulations.

The municipality had successfully conditioned drivers to adapt to the change by disrupting their routines. Some forceful measures were used here, but without this, it was impossible to mobilize and change the habits of hundreds of car owners. In retrospect, it was a smooth operation for the Pune municipality. It was wonderful to see a local government body devoid of all the arcane subspeciality (change) of management had successfully influenced so many people with authority in a matter of weeks.

Without going into the moral and ideal nuances, there are lessons we can take from the government, which has been spearheading and managing change for hundreds of years. Most of the efforts are lost in defining management jargony and complying with the rulebook around change initiatives. At times, organizations need to get assertive or mildly coercive around managing change.

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