Trust, but verify !

On Jan 26th, we started our drive from Gurgaon to come to Chennai. As always on the first day, we halt for the night at Sagar. The route we take is Gurgaon – Yamuna Expressway – Agra bypass – Gwalior – Jhansi – Lalitpur – Sagar. The last couple of times that we did this trip, we would get off the Yamuna Expressway at Mathura and then follow the outer ring road and get onto the Gwalior highway completely avoiding Agra city.

The last time we returned that way in July 2016, we got caught in a massive traffic jam because the outer ring road was getting re-done. Anyway, after the awesome drive on the Yamuna Expressway, its always a bit of a nightmare as you exit at Mathura and enter the crazy unruly traffic. So this time we were looking for another way to exit Agra and saw that the Yamuna Expressway leads onto the inner ring road which is yet to be completed but it leads us closer to the Gwalior high way. So we enjoyed the Yamuna Expressway all the way till it merged into the inner ring road.

At one point, the inner ring road ends abruptly and you have to get off it by taking a left. The point where you join Agra, there is a broken direction board that says “Taj” on the right some other location. Krishnan had “Google maps” setup on his phone and we were instructed to take the left. We did and then some 200 metres later we were asked to go right. We did and the road became a dirt road. We were still thinking that maybe a short distance is bad and then it will join the Gwalior highway. A passerby stopped us and we reluctantly stopped… he asked us if we wanted to visit the Taj and we said no, we were on our way to Chennai and needed to get onto the Gwalior highway. He said we were on a bad road and that for the next 30 kms the road would worsen. He asked us to turn back and take the road to the Taj, keep going on it till we saw Hotel Taj Gateway on our left and then to take a left till the Rani Jhansi statue, after which we knew the way. We thanked him and immediately turned around and were out of Agra in no time and reached our favourite petrol pump on the Agra Gwalior highway in double quick time.

The title of this blog was decided at that instant :):). We should trust Google maps, but also verify when the on ground conditions seem contrary. If we hadn’t met this passerby we would have wasted an hour negotiating potholes on some village road and would have also felt miserable. We have been let down by Google maps twice more, once in Himachal Pradesh, it took us on a road that ended at a river. And more recently a couple of weeks back, we were to meet Swapna in Chennai and the address she gave was on Dargah Road which we are very familiar with as Radha Athai stays on that road. Swapna had given us the landmark of a medical store and told us that this was a new set of apartments that had been built recently. We fed in the address into Google maps thinking it would make life easier, but to the contrary, it took us in the opposite direction. Finally we asked a few people, called up Satheesh and had a mini adventure before meeting up with Swapna.

The statement “trust, but verify” was made famous by George W Bush Senior. He apparently said that to Rajiv Gandhi. If only Rajiv Gandhi had applied it to the Sri Lanka situation then, he might have been alive today. Its a valuable lesson in life and especially work life. Very often we see managers blindly “trust” their team to deliver and then realise that either the work is half done or the quality of delivery is poor. This is not to say that one shouldn’t trust one’s team, but always followup, track and verify if things are on schedule. Trust can never be blind.

I know of many frustrated colleagues, who finally get disengaged because the manager promises them a pay hike or promotion or a new role and it takes a few years before it materialises or sometimes never. I would always tell my team, that if anyone promises something, insist that they put it in writing, otherwise it may not happen. I have struggled several times as teams changed hands, because the outgoing manager would promise something verbally and the colleague is expecting it to happen while the new manager thinks otherwise !

In politics and public life, it would be great to “trust, but verify”. Half our politicians would not stand scrutiny !. I keep wondering how TamilNadu politics would have been if only the late Jayalalitha would have “trusted, but verified” her associate Sasikala…. Its a difficult policy to follow. As human beings we don’t like to verify, we would prefer not to find out until its too late, we will stifle the voice of our intuition and continue to trust when we should not. Look at it another way, without review and followup most things would not get done. Verifying is a way of reviewing. So trust, but verify – in life, at work and of course do trust Google maps, but verify when you see a swanky road disappear and that lovely lady urges you to take the dirt road :):).

Trust, but verify.. always.


2 thoughts on “Trust, but verify !”

  1. Bindu-ji, Here’s some tangential information.
    “Trust but verify” has been attributed to many politicians. Even before George Bush said it, Ronald Reagan was believed to have given this message to the Soviet Russians. He was talking in the context of Nuclear installation disclosures. And he was merely translating a Russian proverb:”Doveryai no proveryai” (I hope I got the words right!). But I think this phrase is a good 250 years old (roughly the time when Accounting became a structured science). Long before Reagan became famous we studied this as a philosophy-statement in our Audit class in college! You don’t have to accept my theory blindly: ask any accountant or auditor you know. Trust but verify this!

    • Hahahahaha Kaushik Ji, thanks for this insight. I am not an accounting student so didn’t hear it at all except when I read about it in the papers. 250 years old is quite old given the current context where concepts that are a few hours old are considered ancient :):).


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