So, we brainstormed a few ideas: One was the intervention on (say) the nearby Korangi Crossing to reduce the traffic jam by interacting with all the stakeholders. The other was to conduct some weekend or holiday training programs on campus. I was trying to see the extent to which they can translate the fun and adventure of the outdoors excursion based trainings into the excitement and challenge of the urban “wilderness” of Karachi. And then I threw them a challenge: I told them I will do a small pilot about their ability to deliver. I have my son’s wedding in about three weeks. The challenge for their team would be to hold the valima on time. I offered all my help and my contacts, list of invitees, my phone for sending out messages and calling my relatives, and my willingness to make all the calls to the family elders to convince them to be there on time. They were to divide the project and its logistics into sub projects and their team would make sure that each sub project completes on time. I would act as a resource person for the team to activate me for calling and or meeting a crucial family member or vendor when they are not able to get through.
|Youth Impact Team led by Mr Ahmer (3rd from Right)
with Dr Khurram and Me in the middle:
L-R: Khaleeq, Jamal, Vaqar; R-L: Mujeeb, Noman
I had this idea of holding these functions on time for the previous six years. I had discussed this with several people, but none took the challenge. Everyone talks and complains about the delays in our social events, but no one seems to be doing anything. I wanted to launch a PWM, Pabandi-e-Waqt Movement (Movement for Punctuality) through teams of youth who would provide this service to the families. I envisioned families calling the members of PWM to hold their event on time and they would provide this service.
I was guided by the lecture of my late teacher Professor Dr Matin A Khan in 1985 in which he told the new entrants to the MBA Program of IBA that the Hanafi School of Marketing considers the social ills of a society not as problems but as opportunities. These ills are nothing to complain about but a marketing opportunity to provide a service and fill the gap.
Marriage functions have started happening in shaadi (marriage) halls on time in Punjab because of the strict law enforcement, but events happening in private spaces or during day time are still delayed. Social change can not be imposed through enforcement, and it can not be pressured from above, but should be ingrained as a value in the fabric of the society. Hence, Karachi where this fear of law enforcement is not present and where law does not come and does not closedown the marriage hall activities in the middle, was a good place to test out how this intervention can be done.
The Youth Impact team not only took this challenge but performed it admirably. They had developed a team that delivered. Team was led by Mr Ahmer and ably assisted by Mr Waqar and several others. Three of these team members were at my place for three full days before the event and for few days earlier for several hours per day. Their commitment and their dedication was admirable. Holding of this event on time would not have been possible without their help. Here is what they accomplished.
My hypothesis related to the delays in marriage functions is that they are not delayed because of the lack of intention of the head of the families, but they are delayed because of the lack of a dedicated team whose convictions include time management as well as creating an impact, and when the team members are not themselves part of the social ceremonies of the event. This is what this Youth Impact team provided. The second hypothesis was that the delay is because the buy-in of key elders (buzurgs) of the family is not obtained. Without their commitment, a function is likely to get delayed because they would like to demonstrate their seniority and their say at the last moment through their showing up late. Calling them up, meeting them, telling them about the resolve to hold the function on time, and gaining their commitment and approval of going ahead even if they are late is the key to success. Of course, the third hypothesis is the commitment of the heads of the families of both bride and groom (or at least that of the groom in case of valima) is essential to the success of holding the event on time.
First hypothesis was addressed by having a dedicated team that is not involved in the social ceremonies, and this was the Youth Impact team. Second hypothesis was addressed by the father of the groom (i.e. me) personally calling the key family elders and even visiting them at their home to ask for their help and support in holding the event on time. The third hypothesis was, of course, fulfilled given that I was the father of the groom.
Assignment of Responsibilities was the first step where an executive committee was formed with Dr Khurram Hussein, key organizer from the family and Mr Ahmer, project leader from Youth Impact. Then responsibilities for various sub projects were assigned to various team members. These sub projects are briefly describe below. The project plan contained over 135 tasks that were identified at the start. By the time the event was in full swing each task had further been divided into two to four sub tasks. There were sub projects to be executed two to four days before the event, on the day of the event and after the event. The sub projects included trip to the beauty parlor and ensuring that the parlor fulfills the time commitment, ensuring that the movie maker and the camera man is there on time, ensuring that the family elders are there on time, ensuring that the food is served on time, ensuring that all the invitees get multiple calls and messages emphasizing that the timings would be adhered to on time, and so on.
One of the most important of these subprojects was the communication project. Communication among all the stakeholders and especially the invitees and the organizers. This required developing a database of the mobile phone contact information of all the invitees, key members of both the families and all the vendors and caterers and organizers. I had to give my cell phone to the Youth Impact team for two to three crucial days to take the family contacts information and even to call them through my phone and sms them using my phone. We quickly found out that communication did not work without the call coming from my (groom’s father’s) cell phone number which is often saved in the phones of the invitees.
I think availability of nearly all the contacts in my cell phone made this task easier. I try to make a lot of effort in keeping and updating the phone numbers. Something that I saw my father do. His phone book was the literal directory service for the entire family. He passed away over 11 years, but yet I get call from relatives to pull out some obscure family member’s phone or address information. He used to make a sustained effort after every few years to update the phone numbers in the new phone book. He would literally make calls to everyone to verify the numbers and to update the information of the close relatives of the person whom he contacted. This was one of his major post-retirement activities; to call and be in touch with family members and keep updating their contact information in specially selected diaries in which no one else was allowed to write as others would not follow his protocol. I try to follow on his footsteps but neither have the time nor the patience to go to these lengths. However, I do make an effort for updating these numbers using sms and other technical means.
The team was guided about the key relatives whom they are contacting and their sensibilities. We also decided upon the protocol that they need to follow for such communications and we developed call scripts and sms scripts for this purpose so that there are no ambiguities and inconsistencies of multiple people calling at different times. A small misstep in such communications can create misunderstandings. The team also used emails and social media where the contact information was available.
Transport logistics, identification of cars, assignment of who among the family would be driving were all arranged before time. Responsibility was assigned to do a followup a day before the event and hours before the events and that continued till the time the cars were required. Key instructions were communicated to those responsible for logistics of various elements.
Purchasing and Beauty Parlor sub project’s SOPs were developed including requirements for quantity and types of flowers/haars, garlands and flowers buying and for any last minute errands. The appointments from beauty parlor for groom and bride were all meticulously planned, confirmed, reconfirmed, and tracked. Relevant family members who will be escorting were contacted and the logistics of meeting time, embarking and disembarking time, waiting, and jewelry transportation were all worked out to the detailed level.
Photography and Videography sub project’s SOPs were developed including that of sound arrangements, volume control, confirmation, reconfirmation and guidelines and instructions were all properly planned. There were venue related SOPs to physical arrangements and travel time estimations given the time and day of the event.
Dinner sub project’s SOPs included planning procedures, assignments of responsibilities, catering interactions, serving supervision, monitoring, communications, and other details. The caterers were kept in continuous contact from several days before the event till the event time through our key family organizer, Dr Khurram Hussein, and the Youth Impact team members especially Mr Waqar. The caterer said that he has been doing this for the last so many decades. Everyone talks about punctuality but he has not seen anyone who had adhered to the time given. I had to give him the assurance personally that if on the event day, even if I tell him to delay, he should not listen to me and should go ahead and open the food on time. We gave him the liberty to open the food in stages to cater for those coming late. Interestingly enough, we were able to identify a forceful influencer of the caterer, who was a senior family member, Mr Haroon, who took out time and despite so many illnesses sat through the event ensuring that caterers deliver as per our expectations. Dr Khurram could not participate in many of the social chit-chat and video sessions because of his full time dedication. Lesson learned is that it takes much more than to give instructions to caterers to convince them that we mean business when we say we would adhere to the timings. It requires personal supervision by people who know the caterers. You see we need to change the KAP (Knowledge, Attitude and Practices) in order to achieve change their perception of time.
Thanking Note SOPs were developed but could not be executed as I said that I will take the responsibility, but could not take out the time. Lesson is that family members, especially the closed ones, should not be taking any responsibility for tasks. Had this been delegated also, the team would have done this admirably.
Last but not the least, our society is yearning for change. Not a single person from the family or the ladies protested about time adherence. Without their commitment this would not have been possible, especially the bride, groom, and their friends and closest family members. The key was letting them know in advance, facilitating them and enabling them to complete their preparations in time. Even the guests who were sceptical when they received the sms/messages and found the hardway that they are late, appreciated it. I think our nation is ready for change. We have the youth who are willing to make an impact. They just require a bit of facilitation from us.
Nahin Hai Na-Umeed Iqbal Apni Kisht-e-Weeran Se
Zara Nam Ho To Ye Mitti Bohat Zarkhaiz Hai Saqi
Iqbal is not despaired from seeing the barren acres of his nation
A little moisture would have this land booming with stupendous harvests, oh Saqi!
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