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, Go 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.
Often times, people say that you should never look back because it’s not always easy to look at the past without getting stuck in the past. They like to recite catchy little lines like don’t look back, you’re not going that way, or keep your eyes on the road ahead, not behind you — but the truth is rarely so simple as to fit in a convenient little one-liner, and these are no exception.
You need to look back. You have to look back because the things that have been done have made the present situation. And knowing where you are is the first step towards taking control of the things, which you want it to become. Like any good story, there is more than one lesson hidden in the pages of old files. Sometimes you have to re-read something to gain a new perspective, to catch the subtleties tucked between the lines, and pick up insights that you missed the first time.
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.
The purpose of looking back shouldn’t be to blame, escape, or excuse, but to learn, grow, and heal. The trick is to look back without going back, to experience things not as it was done but in a new and better way — to look with the clarity of hindsight, to assess with the wisdom of added years, and to practice the kind of compassion that comes from having already survived.
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.
At the end, do what’s right for you. Always do what’s right for you.