Sunday, 4 May 2008


I came across the following story which provide a valuable lesson on efficiency.

The story of ''Masha and Sasha'':

Once upon a time, in a little village, there lived a dry-goods merchant who had two apprentices, Masha and Sasha. After six months, Masha came to the boss and said, ''Boss, I've been here just as long as Sasha, but you pay him two rubles a week more than me. That's just not fair.''

''You may be right, my boy,'' said the kindly merchant. ''So let's see what we can do about it.''

''Look out the window, way up the main street, almost at the edge of town. What do you see in the middle of the road?

''A peddler,'' Masha said, ''with a horse and wagon, coming this way.'' ''Very good. Go see what he's selling.'' Masha put on his cap, ran out of the store, up the street and came back in about seven minutes, with this report: ''He's selling linen.''

''Hmmm,'' the merchant mused. ''We're running low and could probably use some. Ask him how much he wants for it.''

Masha ran out again, came back in three minutes this time, because the peddler was continuously moving through town, and provided this information: ''He wants 100 rubles for each bolt.''

''Not bad,'' the merchant said, ''but I don't know how many meters to each bolt. Go find out.''

Another run out and back, and a minute later Masha brought back ''50 meters per bolt, Boss.''

''That's not bad. But how wide is the cloth?'' Another trip, another run - this time in the opposite direction, because the peddler was by now heading for the outskirts of the village - and Masha has discovered that the goods are 60 centimeters wide.

''O.K., Masha. Take a well-earned rest. But first, ask Sasha to come in.''

When Sasha entered, the merchant posed the same problem. ''Sasha, do you see the peddler who is just leaving our village? Go find out what he's selling.'' Completely out of breath, Sasha returns 10 minutes later. ''Boss, he's selling linen, and we're really short in this material. He has 50 bolts for sale, each one two-ply, 60 centimeters wide, 50 meters per bolt. He asked for 100 rubles a bolt, but I talked him into letting you have them for 92. He's unloading downstairs.''

This reminded me of the intense sessions I had with my mentor. He would bombard me with all sort of questions on my tasks or reports. When a question was asked, acting like Masha and giving answer like "Let me check and get back to you" would get me an F in the my report card.
I would then have to acknowledge that I was unprepared and were not efficient enough. Attention to details are crucial. There must be enough homework or preparation done. After several mistakes, eventually I learnt and I always be prepared.

A manager would always prefer someone like Sasha instead of Masha. And, of course, Sasha would be compensated much better than Masha because she is much more efficient and intuitive. Sasha is result-oriented while Masha is task-oriented.

On the other side of the coin, the wife of the author mentioned a contradictory outcome to Masha and Sasha in today's world.

''In today's real world,'' she sadly suggested, ''Sasha and Masha would both be making the same salary. Union rules, tenure, Equal Employment Opportunity and all sorts of governmental regulations would insist on it. Not only that, but if one of the two boys has to be fired, it won't be Masha. Count on it. He doesn't pose a threat to the boss's position!''

Times change. And with it ''the moral of the story.''

I agree it is very true also, especially if Masha is a good player of corporate games /politics or Masha's boss is very much the same.

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