Management lessons to learn from Dabbawallas

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Formed in 1890 by Mahadeo Bhavaji Bachche and re-launched commercially in 1968, Mumbai Dabbawalas have now become an important part of city’s supply chain. Divided in a group of 25-30 people, around 4000 to 5000 dabbawalas are responsible for the timely delivery of almost 2 Lakh lunchboxes in different corners of the city. With utmost organizational skills, these dabbawalas have created a unique example for all the management students.

What can an MBA learn from these extremely organized and disciplined dabbawalas; who’s immense hard work and management skill, converted a mere service into a highly organized industry?

It’s extremely important for MBA’s to learn organizational qualities that can enhance their management capabilities. Dabbawalas work is based on 6 key fundamentals. If wisely implemented these basic management principals can add high value to an organization’s end-goals. As an MBA fresher who is looking for a job, it’s important to incorporate these basic yet important skill set in your life and resume.

1.Discipline: Dabbawalas are extremely disciplined professionals. Maintaining accuracy in every 2,60,000 transactions/per day is not an easy task and there is no place for any indiscipline. For a dabbawala “Error is Equal to Horror”, and they have maintained 100% track record of on-time delivery. Mistakes are extremely rare.

Important Management Lesson – “A well-disciplined team has the capability to deliver error-free results in some of the most critical situations too.”

  1. Organization:Each dabbawala collect lunchbox from allocated locality and delivers the same on assigned location within given timeframe. Lunch box is then organized and taken to different destinations via public transportation. It’s once again rearranged and delivered to given address before lunch. Same process is repeated anti-clock wise and lunch box is delivered to their owners by evening. Just imagine all the skill it takes to organize and timely deliver around 2 Lakh lunchbox in mere six hours a day.
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Important Management Lesson – “If you have a well-structured team, where each member is aware of their responsibilities and perform their duties on time, desired result can be achieved effortlessly.”

  1. Work Management:If a team member is not able to perform his work or fall sick, someone is always there to manage his task. There is no legitimated retirement age of dabbawala, even a senior worker help others and is paid same salary. There is no room for error but a backup is triggered if something unexpected interrupts the process. Each dabbawala works in synergy to achieve the same goal of “on-time delivery”.

Important Management Lesson – “If a team focus on end goal, nothing can stop them to deliver unexpected results.”

  1. Time Management: Time is crucial. Dabbawalas can’t be late. They have to deliver lunchbox before lunch on given address. Hence, their entire work depends on effective time management. Each task has to be completed within given timeframe. If someone is not able to do so, alternatives are performed immediately.

Important Management Lesson – “Time is crucial and success of a project lies in efficient time management.”

  1. Simple, Flexible & Accurate Process:Dabbawalas use zero technology or software to manage their work. Every code that they use is simple and has basic information like, street/floor address (office and residence both). They use a standard organization method which does not change. The tiffins used for delivers are of same structure and have standard codes. Visual data is used to remember key facts like who is the owner of lunch box, etc.
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Important Management Lesson – “Simple and standard codes/rules can help with better organization. Minimal usage of technology is not bad. Focus should be given to more user specific and visual data. Complex systems can slower entire work process.”

  1. Strong Culture of Belonging –A dabbawala remain in his group for his entire life. Hence, the essence of friendship, care and bonding is high and it helps them to work on mutual understanding. Having same code of conduct and dress make them unique and easy to find.

Important Management Lesson – “Mutual understanding and a sense of belonging is extremely important in a team. It enhances performance, quality of work and indirectly adds value to an organization’s work culture.”

Final Words

Management is a technique which can be developed from implementing basic organizational skills. Success of an MBA professional lies in better management of these skills and incorporates the same to enhance work & performance of a team.

MBA is among few highly demanded career option and it’s expected that growing world economy is likely to produce more job for MBA freshers. With increased competition, organizations will focus more on employing highly skilled professionals. Hence it’s important to work on your basics and enhance them for better management use.

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