Professionalism is considered synonymous with professional competence and behavior. Here, we want to dwell on professional roles, responsibilities and accountability. We shall discuss genuine expectations of seekers of services of professionals, scopes of services and the like.
Standard Operating Procedure, SOP
Each profession has a distinct area of activity in which it serves the society, by applying thoughtfully cultivated skills and expertise imparted by general and specialized education and training. In general, for every situation requiring response of the professional, there ought to be a Standard Operating Procedure, SOP. For example, when a patient comes for consultation, the doctor assesses the exact status of health by appropriate physical examination, clinical tests and review of clinical history before adopting a line of treatment. This is a standard routine followed by every doctor, and taught in all medical colleges. The doctor possesses appropriate knowledge and skills and is also under the Hippocratic Oath, embodying a code of medical ethics. Similarly, an architect learns during his education how to gather complete information about the requirements of the customer in a standardized format, the available finances and so on, before preparing the architectural drawings. Banks also have standard procedures and formats to be filled prior to registering and accepting a customer. As a result, a customer gets the desired service, without any slip ups and undue expenditure of time and money. Our life will be full of ease if all places of service do their assigned tasks properly and courteously. As such professionalism is a basic ingredient of an orderly, just and responsive society.
The need of standard operating procedures, SOP, cannot be over emphasized. Imagine the traffic police not having an SOP when attending to a traffic accident, especially if fatalities are likely. The victims have to rush to the nearest hospital in a readily available ambulance with sirens blaring. Also, imagine an attack by well organized terrorists, trained and equipped with modern technology. Should the protectors, actuated by dedication and bravado walk into the traps laid by terrorists? Do the seniors in police discuss with the colleagues the various scenarios and situations and evolve appropriate responses? Have they defined SOP, labeling various situations and stipulating comprehensive responses, which can be invoked and put into action using simple means of communication among the different command posts and implementing forces? Needless to emphasize that existence of such SOP will permit skillful handling of tragic situations.
Most of the common citizens are apprehensive about the near indifferent and even arrogant attitude of public officials. It is a common experience that most of the offices of government, whether local-self, district, state or central do not have SOP. When one submits an application to redress a problem, some offices do not have even a register to record the receipt of the letter. If one wants an acknowledgement, the letter has to be posted by Registered AD. But one does not know how to follow up the action taken on such acknowledgements. The letter is not easily trace able. So, there is a common belief that one has to grease the palms of the dealing officials in order to get even legitimate and entitled services from any office of the government. Instituting SOP for rendering the various services can make the citizens feel that the government is for the people. Undoubtedly, SOPs have to be comprehensive, identifying the various stages of governmental actions and stipulating norms of appropriate actions and documentation for trace ability.
Another aspect of professionalism is the recognition of the existence of a customer, someone who needs service, and the service provider. Attention to the requirements of the customer, in terms of needs to be full filled, environment prevailing during the utilization of service, its life cycle. Without this data a satisfactory service is not likely to emerge. Needless to emphasize that different professions have to collect the requirements of a customer in different details. Collecting the requirements of a customer is a skilled task. The required skill may not be inborn; instead it has to be taught. Of course, in cases of professions passed on from one generation to the next, the inherited skills include different aspects of professionalism.
Let us recognize that anyone who renders service is a professional. A clerk in an office, a sales person in a shop, a tailor, and a mechanic in an automobile service establishment, a village officer, a police officer and others who attend to a caller requiring something to be done are also professionals like doctors and architects.
How does one validate the soundness of a professional service? Of course, peers and co-professionals can play a vital role and professional societies can provide an in-value able platform. Now, there are standards like ISO 9000, which help enunciate in great detail the vision statement of the establishment, roles and responsibility of each of the members, details of the services promised by the establishment. It is the responsibility of the authorities of the establishment to provide to every one of its members all the means to perform their roles satisfactorily. Success of the establishment is thus dependent upon a harmonious functioning of its members, from its highest authority to the lowest level worker.