Finding solutions


The city continues to develop at a fast pace, the infrastructure of the city, that is. Buildings continue to rise and we are enjoying improved roads. Meanwhile, the consequences of such developments also manifest themselves. While roads indeed improved in size and surface plus potentially allow for a better traffic flow, this is not necessarily so in this case. Where the majority of road users continue to violate the most basic traffic rules, we see that traffic is becoming more dangerous instead, while jams continue to build up.
Another interesting observation is that while buildings and residences are connected to the main sewage system, the system is designed and built in such a way that it is blocked instantly, as people use the wide openings along the roads as their main garbage dump. Walk along such newly built roads and the stench of the half-open blocked sewage greets you from a distance.    
A number of times in this column, we also discussed the environmental degradation throughout the country as a result of the continuous cutting of trees, for firewood and charcoal, but also to clear land for agriculture. Forbidding the cutting of trees and punishing those who do wouldn’t stop the  practice though, as long as there aren’t cheaper alternatives for energy needed for cooking, for example. The real answer lies in finding alternatives for energy, livelihoods, a natural resources management system, which includes quota for logging versus replanting of trees, and more effective and sustainable agricultural practice.
What we commonly see is a symptomatic and cosmetic approach to solve a particular problem, without making a proper assessment of the real issue and designing effective solutions. The sewage system mentioned above could be part of a good solution, but when poorly designed and not foreseeing the consequences of the design, it becomes a problem in and by itself. The solution to the problem will, therefore not be effective, and may even aggravate the situation as the root cause is not taken away. We see this happening everywhere and at all levels. It is like treating malaria with painkillers and prescribing more painkillers as the headache only gets worse. Other options need to be considered. Interestingly enough, introducing a new system does not always lead to a better way. Often it is better to use and build on already existing systems and structures. This applies also to development projects implemented by governments and NGOs. Where new systems are introduced and existing, more traditional ways are ignored, the outcome of projects is often not sustainable.   
And so it is with all policies and strategies. They need to be developed with the purpose of solving real problems and realities on the ground. A proper diagnosis of the problem needs to be made and this can only be done effectively if and when the people concerned are truly involved in analysing the situation. The same principle applies in doing business. The business you are running may not do well. For example sales are down, production is low, quality leaves much to be desired, workers are not motivated, etc. Reflex responses by management may include more advertising, increased production capacity and threatening workers with demotion or less pay. All of this may not solve the problems, though. To respond in the right way, first the right diagnosis of the problem needs to be made. In other words, find out why sales are low, why production is low, why quality is poor and why workers are not motivated. To find out, it is important that you are an expert in your business to begin with, and know the technical ins and outs. In other words, know your hardware. Now that you are able to double-check and eliminate technical faults you can concentrate on the so called soft ware, which often means talking to people who can give you crucial information, like for example those who work in the administration, the workers on the production line, your sales manager and last, but not least, your clients. Maybe you are not advertising in the right place, maybe the workshop is too hot or too dark for example, or maybe the workers are not compensated well enough. Maybe you produce something for which there is not much demand anymore or your product is too expensive.
Now you are getting closer to finding answers and solutions to get the business back on track, especially if you ask your key informants for suggestions. Some employees may have a brilliant idea but will never share it if they are not asked to. You may end up now doing the right things to lead the company into recovery, which is what leadership is all about – doing the right thing. Doing the right thing in its turn though requires good management or ….. doing things right.


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