Wednesday, 18 June 2014
Ending my 5 weeks work t KCC and saying farewell
Suddenly my five weeks in KCC are coming to an end. With this in mind I spent three full days before going to Zanzibar finishing various pieces of work and preparing my report and recommendations for the Directors but also for Molly’s Network who started the organisational development process and will accompany it in the next year or so.
I was rather frustrated for some of this time as I had little contact with my main partners in KCC. Rashid was on a course (of the five weeks I have been around he was away for two) and Nas was totally preoccupied with the planning and visa applications for a 2½ month tour in the Autumn in Germany, Austria and Slovenia with 7 of the acrobats/dancers, all courtesy of KinderKulturKaravane (sounds a very interesting organisation and another reason to go to Hamburg some time). How would KCC ever manage to carry on what we’d started when we seemed to be halting even when I’m around? I know from personal experience how demanding this organisational development process will be and how easily one can get distracted by everyday concerns. Wasn’t I being totally unrealistic to think I could just come round for five weeks, inject a bit of Vitamin-whatever and think KCC could just carry on where I left off?
Perhaps it was inevitable that I would have serious doubts towards the end of my time here, as it became clearer what I wouldn’t have time to do and where the challenges for the directors would be. Happily two things raised my spirits. Firstly a good talk with Nas, where I realised how far we’d come and how much he’d taken on board. Just listening to him reminded where we had been just four weeks ago. I’d already forgotten the big discussion we had had almost as soon as I’d arrived. Rashid and he were planning to tell the volunteers how high the allowance would be which they should receive, even though it was far from clear that KCC would ever get any more money from TANZICT to finance it (see blog “Money, the source of so many problems, also here“ for more about that story).
On a scrap of paper they had written down lots of names and how much money they thought each should get, all in preparation for a volunteers’ meeting three days later. It was soon clear that they’d overseen some names, that the Board of Directors hadn’t been informed let alone had it decided on what was being proposed in its name and that the criteria behind their proposals were far from clear and probably wouldn’t stand much scrutiny from a potentially critical audience. All of this was being done under the pressure (which turned out to be self-imposed) that they must tell the volunteers something. Luckily I could convince them that this was unwise and even counter-productive given the problems the last time money was available to be distributed. Looking back on this episode now, it was as if Nas and Rashid were having a mild panic. Because of their own feelings of weakness and maybe guilt (as they had managed things so badly last time, even though the main ‘culprits’ were no longer around) they were assigning the volunteers with too much power and at the same time not taking on their responsibility as directors. Since then I’ve been hammering home the importance of realigning the power structure; that is, the necessity of consulting and informing the volunteers and members but that they as directors must make the management decisions at the operational level. Talking to Nas made me realise how much more resilient he had become. Four weeks ago he was considering resigning and now he was ready to take on the responsibility and was looking forward to improving their management; in his words, he felt strong again!
The other development which helped me was finding out that a new Kenyan volunteer, Wangoi, was prepared and interested in taking on various tasks which I had started or recommended, as long as they were clearly defined and manageable. So I felt there would be some extra resources when I’d left.
Thus when it came to reviewing what we’d achieved in the past five weeks with the Board of Directors at their regular Monday morning meeting I was feeling a lot happier. I started my report though with a broadside blast on the way the Board has been very lax and careless about their financial control and reporting. Fortunately as I’ve often praised the work they do and been very understanding of the problems they’ve got into and certainly as we like and respect each other they could accept the criticism and, I think, take it to heart. I warned them if they didn’t tighten up their procedures and take more responsibility for their finances, then they will start to lose the backing of their supporters and donors and then they will soon have to shut up shop (the book keeping, for example, is in an unbelievable mess and there’s no way they could knock the accounts for 2013 into shape sufficiently to get them audited).
At the end of the Board meeting we had a round of more personal feedbacks and I was very moved by the words of appreciation I received. It was lovely to hear their new confidence and resolution to carry on what we’ve started. Nas said again how much stronger he felt; Rashid was happy that he now knows more clearly what he has to do and he wants to get on with it; Sakina admitted how out of her depth and helpless as Finance Director she had felt but now with the prospect of a new computer, book-keeping software and 5 days advice and coaching from an accountant she could wait to start. It sounded as if I had helped to remove a blockage in the system. Since then I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on this and realise now more deeply how the crisis around Christmas time had made them so unsure of themselves that they had become almost paralysed, as if they had suffered a slight trauma. I don’t know how the Board was before, of course, but when I arrived it was as if they weren’t able to make clear decisions and didn’t work as a unit. Obviously after such a short time they’re not yet out of the woods. At one stage in this meeting it felt like a problem had been found into which (nearly) everybody was being drawn, as if they were all firemen ready to put out a fire, rather than asking the director responsible if there was a fire at all or was it just a burning match and, if there was, could he manage it by himself. With so many suggestions for help even he had started to become unsure if he had a fire (I was sure he hadn’t).
In the afternoon some of the Directors with whom I went with some of those with whom I had worked most (Nas, Rashid, Sakina and also Wangui) to meet Liz from Molly’s Network at the ex-pat and, by Kigamboni standards, expensive resort at Mikadi Beach for a small celebration and de-briefing. After lunch I presented my report detailing what we’d achieved and my recommendations on how to proceed. Liz and I see eye-to-eye on such things so there wasn’t much discussion. With so much consensus we were all cautiously optimistic about the future. We all confirmed that the timing of my visit, although not planned, couldn’t have been better. I told Liz that I felt that KCC wouldn’t have had the know-how and resources to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and that I thought Molly’s network should not just assess where an organisation needs to improve its management but also more carefully scrutinise if they are able to do the work basically on their own. (Molly’s Network provide mainly guidance and a structure, but nothing like what I’ve been able to contribute in the way of time and resources). Altogether we spent a very pleasant few hours chatting in a relaxed atmosphere in a lovely place.
My work wasn’t yet finished for the day though. In the evening I finally managed to meet Jeath, the one director who I hadn’t been able to meet as he has his own Safari Company for which he has to work a lot at the moment. I’d only had sporadic and brief contact with him by email. It was bit of a funny meeting as I was far more up-to-date about things in KCC than he was. I wanted not just to tell him what we’d been doing in the last few weeks, but I was also interested that he gets an idea of who has been influencing KCC so much in the last few weeks, in the hope that he can get into the spirit of the management developments when he gets back in a couple of months’ time. I also wanted him to hear my criticisms of some of the things the Board had done, things of which he had also been a part. I think it went okay.
And then it was time to leave! In the last few days I’ve been more and more looking forward to going home, in particular to see Beatrice, and Maurice, Simone and Florian. But when it came to saying good-bye I felt quite sad to go. I’ve had such a lovely time with such lovely people ……