Around three decades ago, I was a fresh recruit — a probationary officer in a public sector bank in India. Many of my seniors spoke about the critical importance of adhering to the PDAB principle in bank. What I was explained was the principle of “Peeche Dekho, Aage Barho” (पीछे देखो,आगे बढ़ो), which in English means “Look Back and Move Ahead”.
It was an instruction, I discovered, that pervades many decision-making in bank. Whenever in doubt, just look back and see what had been done in similar situation and then move ahead and act accordingly. What is even worse is that I later found that PDAB did not pervade only in my bank, other banks were also following the PDAB principle.
A precedent is the strongest support for any decision especially because it makes the decision-maker safe from any future questioning and vigilance inquiry. Well, there is no harm to take advantage of the wisdom of past experience. Many times it provides us useful lessons, too.
I noticed that whenever there is a change of incumbent, the new incumbent blames his/her predecessor and generally expresses him/her as a duffer. I wondered, how pertinent is it to follow PDAB? This question was recently asked to me by one of my friends. He is going to head a branch soon. He also said that he asked many of his seniors who preached him the principle of PDAB, but he hasn’t got any response from them.
I have never subscribed to this principle. Over the period of working in the bank at various departments, at new places, I developed my style and my way of looking back was only to learn from the past lapses or mistakes. I relied more on the inspection reports and audit observations. The inspection reports are generally ignored and are given the least priority in the bank. Audit is considered to be anti-development. Honestly, I learned a lot from the inspection reports and audit observations. These reports guide you what not to do and if you have to do then how not to get highlighted or protect yourself.
Now, when technology is changing fast, ideas are moving at the speed of internet, focus of business is getting customer-oriented and market is moving ahead with disruptive innovations, PDAB is very limiting and disingenuous. In fact, it will be disastrous for an organization to just follow PDAB. We need to look ahead to beat the competition, otherwise we carry a huge risk of getting mauled over by the competition.
If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience? — George Bernard Shaw