Postcards from the Edge

of Bangladesh

Where to from here?

Today I’m running a little workshop-ette on how to set up the next phase of an externally funded project. You know, everybody on the project should have a job description, then have monthly activity plans, which are then used to write monthly progress reports, which you can then use to update the donor on what you’re actually doing with all their money. The previous 3 year phase was, from what I can tell, total chaos and somewhat of a joke. How this next phase was awarded goes a long way in explaining the power of persuasion of certain individuals here.

It’s difficult work to define process or structure here without being overly prescriptive. I find that to give useful structure here, it has to border on overly prescriptive. If I step off the Overly Prescriptive Peak, towards the General Ideas and Themes area of town, it’s a slippery  slope down to everyone shuffling papers/staring out of windows/general inertia brought on by really not knowing what to do. On the other side of the Overly Prescriptive Peak, is another slippery slope down to the Policy Madness and Bureaucratic Ball Ache area of town. VSO Bangladesh is currently living in the Bureaucratic Ball Ache side of town. Where unless there is a policy 100000% specific to your issue/concern, they sit back, hands behind their heads and sigh ‘well it’s just not in our policy’. But we won’t go into the nightmare that is VSO Bangladesh right now.

This is all in sharp contrast to my Accenture days. Where objectives and directives for work went more along these lines:

Boss Man says:

1. Here are your objectives. I wrote them at 4:30am after a night out on the tiles. They may, or may not, make sense.

2. I wrote them to stop the automated emails from our Performance Review system from continuing to fill up my inbox.

3. These objectives are 6 months late.

4. Our performance review cycle starts tomorrow.

5. There are lots of words like ‘high performance’, ‘delivery’ and ‘value added’. Which in Accenture mean everything. And nothing.

6. So I’ve written this stuff, but really what I expect from you is to blind guess/use your telepathic skills to figure out what I’m going to really care about/shout at you about on any given day (subject to constant change) and for you to fix it all BEFORE I get around to shouting at you.

7. If you can figure out what MY boss will care about/shout at ME about on any given day, and fix that too, then hell, there’s a promotion in there somewhere for you.

8. I expect you to work all God’s given hours. But under no circumstances charge above 48 hours in a week. Pesky European Working Directive. Lie, if you must.

On this highly ambiguous, vaguely defined side of town, you’re either the type of person who can deal with it. Or not. I’ve seen many people tortured by this, failing miserably with shouts of ‘what do you want from me?!’ burning up their insides.

Perhaps a organisation has to go from the Great Lake of Nothingness (which I’m currently trying to wade my way through), over the Overly Prescriptive Peak, onto Bureaucratic Ball Ache side of town, to finally settle in the Organic Way of Working Farm.

Oh I don’t know.

I sometimes wonder what type of monster I’m creating here.


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