Wednesday, May 25, 2022

General Hospital

Imagine the scene at a road accident with a pedestrian having been knocked down, blood gushing from his unconscious, mangled body, a group of rubbernecked bystanders massing to witness the carnage.
The situation has urgency and action stamped all over it and screams for someone with a cool head in a crisis to take control – someone to immediately call the emergency services and simultaneously mobilise members of the public to look after the victim, instigate crowd control, re-direct the affected traffic, etc.

Time is of the essence; everyone senses it! If the victim is not attended to soon and loses too much blood they will die.

Failure to act and standing around doing nothing is unthinkable. No deliberation is needed ÔÇôaction is required and it needs to be swift, decisive and relevant.

Now perceive this as a metaphor for organisations in distress. Struck down by whatever passing disaster or crisis, an organisation is seriously wounded lying on the economic pavement but instead of action, see the onlookers, in this case managers and leaders, paralysed and doing nothing.

Swift decisive action is replaced by blithering confusion and ineptitude. Instead of kicking into action contingency measures, long drawn-out meetings are convened to discuss what really happened, collect facts, talk endlessly about the catastrophe ÔÇô all at the expense of mobilising action. This is how I viewed corporate Botswana this week and too often I see the same thing, or at least that’s how it feels.

Do we view organisations as inanimate and therefore see their bleeding – often to death – as not requiring an urgent response?

The minute you start thinking inanimate, intangible, theoretical and abstract, leaders and managers feel that it is okay to wait days, weeks often months, and sometimes years before admitting there is a REAL crisis and something needs to happen.

We do recognise and speak of an organisation’s lifeblood so to simplify my tale of woe, let’s just accept that the analogy is completely valid.

What has been irksome to me is the feeling that too many leaders are allowing the bleeding to persist day after day barely acknowledging the potentially-fatal injury, yet all the while the situation progresses from a minor bleed to that which requires intensive care.
Anyone involved in corporate Botswana knows exactly what I am talking about. Too much sticking the head in the sand ignoring problems hoping they will go away – and all the while the situation deteriorates.

I felt pretty disillusioned this week.
Too much procrastination on projects, too many meetings to go over again what we went over before, too many blank faces, too little vision, too little of everything except inertia ÔÇô there was plenty of that.
And now there is me with too much moaning! I don’t want to have to bandage everything myself, rather encourage people to reach for their first aid kit.

In some instances even just asking people to buy a kit, or outsourcing someone who knows how to stop the bleeding would be a start. In extreme cases I was just asking people to acknowledge the urgent need for a transfusion.

It’s so patronising to explain the impact, macro and micro, of a business bleeding situation. I know people get it ÔÇô I was left worrying why people don’t care.

I don’t believe that lethargy is cultural or disinterest seasonal, but I am left feeling worn out by it all and feeling like I want to go on holiday. I don’t want to witness anymore corporate accidents, be party to the confusion, or be part of any failure and DOA.

I want to be surrounded by activity steeped in possibility. I want to be in a busy emergency ward full of skilled organisational doctors and nurses applying their specialist knowledge making people better, getting them back on their feet, effecting long-term cure, and practicing follow-up organisational occupational therapy.

There is only one reason why this sort of behaviour persists which is that no-one is ever held accountable for it. It’s as if the requirement for attention and action is only when things get so bad that the situation moves to the intensive care stage.

The crazy thing is we all know that intensive care units are expensive to operate and require triple attention and energy than pre ICU status. I shake my head ÔÇô why don’t we learn?!

SO I asked a CEO friend what he thought. Why does it happen I bemused, why aren’t we talking less and acting more? His answer was that there are not enough brave souls out there.

Our boards are too stretched and risk averse, nobody wants to rock the boat and if you do you are soon given your matching orders. Can this be true? I am sure this was what was on the President’s mind when he took over the reins and called for action and activity. Is it enough and is he holding enough people accountable? I don’t know. But we need more brave hearts and Gregory Houses…
Another friend this week said to me “maybe we are a nation that loves crisis ÔÇô perhaps we are so familiar with inactivity that slowing progress to a snail’s pace is the norm, and sabotage and negligence is the way that things are done around here”.

And then it occurred to me that maybe I was just having a bad week, maybe I was viewing the days as a badly produced medical sitcom. Then it dawned on me – It’s Scrubs when it should be ER, Green Wing when we need Gray’s Anatomy. Patients die, the cast carries on without fear of the consequences and the audience falls about laughing. A dose of reality TV’s what’s called for ÔÇô let’s call it Private Sector Practice and let’s hope some of the patients actually pull through.
Agree or disagree with this? Don’s twitter amongst yourselves ÔÇô tweet your chirps to

*STUART WHITE is Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on Phone: 395 1640 or www.hrmc.co.bw

Follow HRMC on twitter: http://twitter.com/Stuart_Botswana

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