Tested

If yesterday I wrote about small complications that seemed to resolve themselves, today the big ones came flying in from all sides. It felt like one grand test that I failed miserably; everything that I thought was true and good was turned on its head and we moved two steps backwards rather than another one forward.

It is always when the data are needed that we discover how much still needs to be done. Data, people, money and drugs – those are the focus of attention of our management training. Except for the drugs, which have their own challenges that seem to be without end, and the money from which I am at leas now shielded, the people and data elements are causes for great headaches.

When we first started planning this conference political considerations related to language, tribe and geopgraphy, dominated our conversations about who would present in which way. We had assumed that the technical considerations were solid as we made choices between this and that winning team.

But today we discovered that the data weren’t as sound as we had thought and so the technical considerations pushed themselves to the front. “Let us be criticized about having made politically incorrect choices – but let us not be criticized on technical matters,” one of my colleagues said when decisions of weeks ago were reversed and the arguments of then appeared no longer valid.

I do agree. This kind of reasoning shows in how much a minefield (sometimes literally) we are working. What I hoped would be the grand finale for my time here in Afghanistan may not be all that grand and certainly not a finale. The whole process of studying the impact on services of our leadership development program has been full of big (BIG) lessons. I am very clear in my mind what I would do different if I were granted a next time.

Like having a solid team around me reporting only to me; like having people going every month to the provinces to spend a week with teams and go over their data, check their accuracy – find out who is fudging to look good.

I had to actually prevent that from happening today. Data were shamelessly altered to produce the right graph and many people seemed not to mind – it’s common practice I know. Not knowing about previous data that turned our success into a failure is one thing, but knowing the data and altering them went a little to far for me. There probably is a very well defined legal term for it. I said a few things about ethics and things coming back to haunt you. I have lost yet another ounce of my naivete and trust today – I have shed a few pounds altogether over the last two years.

The changing of presenters brings with it all sorts of other complications such as who is flying in on Saturday and who should be; about translations in Dari and Pashto and English. And then there are still the hundreds of certificates – the person whose idea it was that to have these handed out has been out of the country for the last 2 weeks. I will call him to my house tomorrow to sign 400 pieces of paper and then convince someone very high up in the ministry to do the same. I would offer to make a stamp but I don’t think this is a habit here as stamps require a certain level of trust.

This conference has too many moving parts and too many wires crisscrossing that should have run smoothly side by side. As a result there were some sparks today and an urge to point fingers. On the positive side there are some great people running along my side – we are all out of breath now and Friday is a welcome break. Many of them are cutting their weekend short and coming to work on Saturday. But tonight is free and I am going out with dear friends who will help me adjust my mood to a place that serves wine by the glass.

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