Lessons from Policing

One fine morning in 2001, when I was heading the Trivandrum City Police, students from a particular political union in Trivandrum’s University College went on a rampage.

But since we were anticipating the violence, we were ready. With a good number of police teams deployed, armed with tear gas grenades, rubber bullets, and plastic pellet guns, we were all set – or so we thought.

At 9 am in the morning, I was sitting in the police control room, thinking, “What can possibly go wrong?”

However, as soon as the violence started, everything unraveled, and our plans collapsed in no time.

Students started throwing not just stones but country-made bombs. Police teams came under attack and one team in particular, was barricaded inside the college, surrounded by the rioters.

But sitting in the control room, the only communication I had was the police wireless. And with different police teams screaming for reinforcements, the police wireless was a complete cacophony – nobody could figure out what was going on. Our plan remained just on paper.

I then went to the spot and we had to do a massive lathi-charge. Very soon, the situation came under control.

When things calmed down, I realized that most officers did what was expected of them even though we could not communicate with them properly. And it looked like, after all, our plan did not fail – it worked, but not the way we had expected.

The problem was that I was expecting complete clarity in the midst of that chaos, which wasn’t possible.

And this is not just about policing – it happens all the time in day-to-day life.

We expect our plans to work the way we want. When in an ambiguous situation, we want clarity. But nobody will give you clarity. The plans will work, but rarely as we anticipated.

Whether you are building a startup or making a career move, even when things are not clear, don’t sit and wait for clarity to emerge on its own – it won’t.

If we keep moving forward, putting one step in front of the other, clarity will emerge — and we can achieve even the hardest goals.

But if we keep sitting trying to figure out a perfect plan, we will sit forever.

– Rajan

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