a queue must start in the mind


I HAVE just returned from a couple of weeks of standing in lines, aka queuing up, and I have no complaints to make.
There were times when I stood in a queue to be let into a restaurant even though I could clearly see empty tables in front of me; then when I chose to take a break during the meal I’d find myself in a queue to get into the washrooms where I learned not to be surprised to find even three queues – one for the urinals, the other for the cubicles, and a third for the wash basins (aka sink).
My event was the type for which we were allocated shuttle buses, so we got to queue up for these as well, while other people queued up for taxis.
Regardless of how busy one was, the queue was always in effect and formed so naturally that I was astounded to see fellows queuing up to witness some drama. A suspect had been apprehended outside the convention centre we were at and as the police went through their protocols of placing him under arrest, we gathered in a small group (those who were idle enough) to witness events.
I didn’t understand how I found myself right at the front of the small crowd at some point, but thought that some people had had their fill and moved on, and just as I contemplated doing so someone nudged me a little bit.
Afraid it was a pickpocket – a rarity in the city I was in – I turned back quickly only to find that an orderly array of people was neatly arranged behind me waiting their turn to view the drama ahead!
The possibility was too much to contemplate, and I had to ask, “Is this a queue?!”
Laughter ensued because normally this question was politely spoken when one arrived at a fast food counter or entrance to something or the other, and the words then were, “Is this the queue?”
Later on I realised that they might have thought that to be a taxi line but still, the fact is that they are mentally configured to fall in line and be orderly.
Being the type of person who craves the type of orderliness that we see in societies that queue, I enjoyed this aspect of my trip thoroughly the entire time.
The reality of change began to hit me when we got to Dubai and, still in a queue, witnessed a fellow breaking ranks with his suitcase to get it into the airport shuttle ahead of many people who had arrived before him. The indignation was silent but profound, and the shuttle operator calmly but firmly pointed him back to his place in the line.
We all breathed normally after that and went on doing so till we got to Entebbe Airport. Right there at the arrivals, before we had even processed ourselves into the country, some fellow tried to squeeze past me on the right just after I had compromised mentally with myself and agreed not to raise complaint about the family that had squeezed past us on the left.
“Yes?” I asked the chap, as I moved to block him even more, while a

Queue
A frantic queue formed and active somewhere. Photo from http://www3.pictures.gi.zimbio.com/

police person observed with a bored look.

“Let me pass?” he said, not even bothering to add any justification to gain my sympathy – no faked heart attack, no wife in labour, no burial to get to, not even a cramped leg from the flight. He was just trying to jump the queue, such as it was.
“No! Let’s go together. Get in line like everybody else!” I said, firmly.
Only to look around me and realise that we were a crowd of people trying desperately to get ahead of one another before we got to that point where we “had to” queue. The actual queue only formed where there were cordon straps indicating where orderliness was expected.
Anywhere outside of that is a free-for-all.

#ExposeAfricell #Expose @skaheru – racism, xenophobia and business sense


AfricellLogo
The #Africell saga erupted fully last week along with two other stories you may not realise are related:
ONE: Makerere University graduate David Ojok was reportedly lynched by a group of students who accused him of being a thief. The news reports say Ojok was at the university to collect money owed to him by a student who had taken to evading him and, on this occasion, was labelled ‘thief’ and killed by a frenzied mob.
May his soul rest in eternal peace.
TWO: Mobs of South Africans took to the streets in Durban, Johannesburg and other spots, and physically attacked and, in some cases killed, black foreigners of African origin. The attacks were incited by comments made by the inappropriately named Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini and other leaders. In some instances, businesses owned by these black foreigners were looted and their premises burnt to the ground.
There are enough links about this online without my having to copy and paste any.
Before I go any further, here are a couple of disclaimers:
1. This is NOT a defence of the corporate body Africell Uganda Limited, or of the actions of any of its employees. This is my personal blog under which I only write personal thoughts, observations and experiences as and when I want to, and not at the behest of anyone else.
2. This blog is NEVER paid for and has only recently began considering taking advertising as you can see from the placeholder ad being tested to the right of this page. None of my clients in my professional life is ever given access to this blog as a rule that they all respect.
3. I will not alter my writing style, thoughts and observations to suit anybody besides myself and my family, so anyone who takes offence at this post – and others – is free to do so, as regular.
4. Only two people ever review any (not all) of my posts before I upload them – both of them for the purpose of holding me back should I be too angry or rude. Their comments are taken only as comments and I am not bound to act upon them, but these two people are important enough to me for their consultation to matter. Nobody else ever gets the chance.
Now, for some definitions, but presented briefly and simply so that the simpler minds don’t go into quick slumber:
Mob Justice: is not just the act of beating a thief to death; it is justice at the hands of a mob of people, whose actions will be guided more by collective emotion, mob hysteria, compromised information and insufficient consideration. <—I have made this definition up myself, so it would be good for a professional to chip in some time.
I believe that one of the reasons Mob Justice is different from Justice in a court of law, for instance, is the manner in which justice is arrived at. Because there are normally two sides to every story, the courts accept both sides, give them a fair hearing presented by professionals, and have an independent, well-learned and sagacious person arrive at a decision – a Judgement.
Xenophobia: The dictionary I use defines this as an “intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries.” On this continent, we normally hear this phrase applied to only the South Africans, but if we were more academic we could, perhaps, argue that the only reason some countries don’t talk about xenophobia is the arrangement of the country borders…
Racism: Again from my dictionary: “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races. Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”
As I’ve said before even right here under this very blog, we ourselves accommodate and encourage racism, both by distinguishing other races as superior to ours, and by presenting our own race as inferior.
And as I’ve said before, we must fight it. We must change the way we think, behave, operate, live, so that nobody has reason to think we are inferior. But we also must fight back when people treat us as inferior.
But we must not cry wolf.
Neither must we not engage in hysterical mob justice.
Nor be xenophobic in our approach to ‘foreigners’, if we must address people in this manner.
(Idealistic? Yes – it makes sense to live life as a pursuit of ideals.)
According to the news reports, the person who led to David Ojok’s death allowed it happen in order to escape a personal financial obligation, but the repercussions brought in many more people who administered the killing. Ojok was reportedly a small entrepreneur or businessman, even at his early age, and his demise is unquestionably a loss to his family but also to the economy – occasioned by a selfish accusation acted upon by an unthinking mob.
And the more illustrative news reports from South Africa state that the xenophobic mobs ranted and accused the black African foreigners of taking their jobs, grabbing their opportunities, and occupying space that by rights should belong to South Africans.
The links between both these and the Africell story should be obvious, and I’ll only return to simplify them if you really, honestly need me to.
To use a phrase favoured by my daughter when she feels that a situation needs final clarification with everyone paying full attention: So, Let’s Review:
A few weeks ago the mobile phone company Africell Uganda laid off 59 members of staff as part of its restructuring of the company.
Read the story for yourselves, because this is not going to be about just that event (but read the story so that you have some background to this).
Along the way, the Africell team consulted me on the communications they were doing – as sometimes potential clients do, in order to avoid being misunderstood or misrepresented. As a result of that, I became privy to quite a lot of information that I cannot make public without permission, but the following is acceptable:
On the morning before the staff were laid off, the Africell Uganda Chief Operations Officer, Mohammed Ghaddar, sent an email to all staff of the organisation.
Later that day, though, an email was sent from the email address ‘disgruntledemployees256@yahoo.com’ to all staff of the company and some non-staff.
The email had nothing to do with Ghaddar’s communication that morning, since it hadn’t anticipated that Ghaddar would send his email.
The first point of contention the email listed was, “Racism and discrimination towards African employees. This is exhibited in defamatory, degrading insults verbally and through emails sent to Ugandan senior, junior and casual employees. For example, the Commercial Director has personally referred to some employees as monkeys and black African idiots which Ugandan employees deem disrespectful.”
I asked both Ghaddar and the Sales Director, Milad Khairallah what this racism charge was about, and had them both go through their emails to find the offensive ones. They obliged and couldn’t find any. I asked quite pointedly and seriously, as I normally do, whether there was any truth to this charge and what disrespect anyone might have conducted that could be labelled racist.
In one email I found that one official had referred to a supplier as an “idiot” (not directly at him) during a review of a conversation – something like, “the idiot said…”
Referring to someone as an Idiot is not racist; it may be rude and disrespectful, but it is not racist. In subsequent arguments last week, a number of people said it was wrong for a foreigner to call a Ugandan an idiot, and I laughed back and asked whether it was okay for a Ugandan to call a Ugandan an idiot, or a Ugandan to call a foreigner an idiot.
The vitriol and emotion thrown at the matter, though, involved many people angrily using much worse words about Africell and people who work there – including suppliers of services…such as Communications Consultancy services.
But back to the point, I began asking for information about this Racism as stated by disgrungtledemployees256@yahoo.com. Right there in the Africell corridors, a day before the 59 employees were terminated, I asked a number of people about it and they all expressed ignorance.
A couple of them told me privately later in the day, off the premises, that there was quite some tension because of the anxiety of change.
I know about this anxiety of change – which is why Africell contacted me.
I have seen this happen in many corporate environments, in Uganda and elsewhere. In fact, at one of the companies where I worked, there was a charge of racism in our Germany offices because of a change in structure that put a couple of British people at the helm of a company operating in Germany!
The tactic of calling out “Racism!” during these company restructuring processes is effective for raising publicity and anger, but weak in achieving much else.
In the case of Africell, right from when the twitter campaign #ExposeAfricell was started, by the twitter handle @GeeksUg, I have asked everyone – anyone – to please share the evidence of Racism.
So far, none has been shared. It has been easier to ‘leak’ an email sent by me to Africell’s HR Director than the one containing racist remarks…
Speaking of that email, and complaints that I have sold myself out to work for racism, it would be good to read the email and note:
1. I am providing consultancy services re: the restructuring and communicating the positives of the move, not Racism.
2. The advice I provide in that email is quite sound and sensible, even if I do say so myself.
3. In that email, I am pushing for positive communication, which is what I always do; never negative communication.
As usual, though, some of the commentators in this matter have not even read the text of that email, while others bravely announced that they were “reading between the lines”, which is the same as making up their own information!
I am getting used to the jaundice that comes with people refusing (not just failing) to simply read text in full to try to understand, let alone analyse, it.
A little analysis into the matter, for instance, would raise questions such as:
1. How come the accusations of racism are coming out now, after people are being fired? And if it’s because they are finally free to speak, why are they not doing so (yet – in case the evidence is sent while I am posting this), instead of this anonymous, non-presentation of the facts and evidence?
2. What exactly are the crucial numbers involved here? Telecommunication companies talk about ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) and only MTN Uganda declares profits in Uganda, so how badly was Orange Uganda doing? What were their ARPUs?
A quick google search will reveal this to anybody searching. Early in 2014 it was reported that the telecommunications ARPUs in Uganda were the lowest in the region.

 
The telecommunications business in Uganda has been difficult and there is more bad news coming, if this story about Uganda Telecom is anything to go by: http://news.ugo.co.ug/uganda-telecom-faces-closure/ 
3. Can the 59 Ugandan employees who were terminated really all get replaced by Lebanese? If so, how many Lebanese and what will they be earning, and does it make business sense to the owners of the company?
4. If the company says it needs to drop people in order to gun forward, what is the alternative that they haven’t considered?
5. What were the salaries of the 59 people who were let go, and how do they compare with others in the same job bracket in this sector – especially vis a vis the ARPUs mentioned in 2. above?
6. What was the performance of Orange Uganda Limited? Surely this information is available at the banks where Orange held accounts, and at the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC)? Was the company as unviable as we have occasionally heard it being said elsewhere?
The questions are many, and all end up back at a business decision taken by the new owners of a company that have taken on an entity that was going under but needed turning around through painful means.
It is an unfortunate step that companies have to take but one that is taken all the time – especially in mergers and acquisitions. That doesn’t make it easier for the people being laid off, and it doesn’t mean that the ones doing the lay-offs are devils either.
And it certainly doesn’t mean that the people or companies working for foreign-owned companies are ‘mafiosi’, as some chaps declared.
Of course, there are those people who are confusing Simon Kaheru their “friend” on social media, with Simon Kaheru the Consultant or Analyst with Media Analyst.
If the South African government contacted me right now for advice on how to get out of this quandary that has South Africans in general of appearing to be xenophobic, I MIGHT listen to them and offer advice.
But I would not take a meeting with that King Zwelithini, because he is quite clearly a mad man, as far as those remarks go.
I don’t think all South Africans are xenophobic, and I don’t think it is government policy for foreigners to be thrown out or discriminated against. But I do know that they have issues and seem to appear xenophobic even as a government, though I can’t indict them squarely – the same way we still deal with the United States even though all evidence says that blacks are still treated as inferior beings there.
You see, Simon Kaheru (@skaheru) your friend on social media does not jump about after any and every single cause that people express opinion on. With those that he does comment on, he normally tries to check the veracity of the information behind them before doing so…and the online record shows this quite clearly.
Luckily, I am not easily intimidated by trolls or taunts from people who don’t (or won’t) read, let alone analyse.
So I will continue to do what I do for a living – provide professional consultancy services in communications for corporate organisations, SMEs and individuals.
If that company collapsed today then that would put about 1,000 Ugandans out of work – on top of the 59. I would be a fool to wish for Africell to collapse – and those dropping their SIM cards in so-called protest at the 59 being unemployed are practically threatening the employment of the 1,000 or so currently employed at the company.
If companies such as Media Analyst, or Consultants such as myself, refuse to do work without rational reason, then we will go out of business and increase the numbers of the unemployed as well.
So for those who think I am a “Mafia” because I have been consulted by this company, use this:
Mafia
Some people might argue that since for a number of years now I have paid to this company well over Ushs500,000 a month (airtime and data services) to Orange and now Africell, it would be good to take paid work from them to provide professional services.
But those would be drowned out by the ones calling for my blood and saying that the correct thing would have been to refuse to do so.
And if I said that those are idiots, please don’t call me racist.
Plus, until I have something that shows me an individual is racist, I have nothing to go on to condemn them – the raw, personal negative emotion needs some fuel.

introducing…and BANISHING ‘Corplatitudes’ henceforth, due to reasons beyond our control


A GROUP of us have agreed to coin the term Corplatitudes to combine two elements of life in Uganda today that people such as myself have in recent years become irritatingly mired in.
‘Corplatitudes’ is made up of two words – ‘Corporate’ and ‘Platitudes’, but inside it there is a clever insertion of the word ‘Attitude’, which is a central issue here.
‘Corporate’ in the sense that we use it in Uganda, referring to seemingly well-employed individuals whose employment makes them dress, speak, and presumably think differently from people such as employees of the government, NGOs, small and medium enterprises, and other such places. The expected promise presented by ‘Corporates’ is one of seriousness, excellence, high business value, quality work delivery, and so on and so forth.
‘Platitudes’ are just that – those statements that have been used so often that they begin to mean absolutely nothing to both the speaker and listener.
Corplatitudes, therefore, should be obvious to all of us since we hear them all the time – especially those of us who deal with so-called ‘Corporates’ – which term encompasses almost anyone in any form of formal employment these days – from a customer or management perspective.
There are phrases such as ‘We apologise for the inconvenience caused’ and ‘Your call is being attended to’, which could fall in this category but don’t. An apology is an apology however insincere, and the fact that your call has been answered, albeit by a machine, could be interpreted as attention.
But Corplatitudes are mostly proferred in response to demands for work accountability. I hear them most when I ask a question such as, “What are you doing?”
And as of this week, I will not be accepting Nobody Got TimeCorplatitudes from anyone anymore.
The ones I am classifying as Corplatitudes and rejecting outright are those such as, “I am/ We are handling it (your issue).” I can’t explain how we began accepting this statement within our offices, but as I have told my colleagues in various places, “handling” doesn’t mean anything sensible to getting actual work done.
Even literally, your “handling” of a matter could keep it in limbo for years on end while it doesn’t actually get resolved. I have been foolish to turn away when told someone is handling something, and I will be foolish no more. Instead, I will demand to know EXACTLY what the person is doing SPECIFICALLY to solve the problem or deliver the required task at hand.
Handle that.
Then there is the delivery “by close of business”, which phrase is frequently used to manage one’s expectation of delivery of things like reports or actual work, and even has the official abbreviation COB.
“Close of business” is not a universal measure of time any more, even for banks! And whose close of business would that be – yours or mine?
Plus, does that mean you will dispatch whatever that is “by close of business” or I will have it in my possession “by COB”? And if I do get it just before COB, then am I really expected to close business for the day and let that report or work task sit on ice overnight or something?
And it is in this last point that one finds the real reason for the Corplatitude “COB” – they promise that knowing that you will most likely be leaving work or business in the hope that you will actually find the report or work task on your desk the next morning. The promise of “COB”, therefore, comes with an automatic buffer that stretches it to “opening of business the next day”. Meanwhile, you can start ‘handling’ it…
With me, that nonsense has ended. We will schedule things using universally accepted timelines and in a manner that allows me also to do work within working hours.
Then there is the classic “we are doing our best to” solve your problem, finish a work task given, find the cause of the fault and so on and so forth.
You are certainly NOT doing your best if the problem is NOT solved, the work task is NOT finished, and the cause of the problem is still NOT known! You are making a mockery of the definition of the word “best”, and that is the worst thing you could do to “best”.
The next rung lower of that wobbly ladder of non-delivery is “we are trying to” do something. As Nike says, “Just Do It!” That’s supposedly why you are employed in the position you are in – because you were tested and found competent to do the work assigned to you. I think.
“Trying” to do something is to admit that you are going about your job like it is guesswork. Pilots shouldn’t just try to fly planes; surgeons shouldn’t just try to conduct operations; soldiers shouldn’t just try to defend the country. DO YOUR JOB!
All these and more, which we will continue to identify with time, represent an attitude of complacency because some people believe that work must be seen to be done without necessarily being done, unlike that saying about justice.
Underlying these Corplatitudes is an attitude of laziness, irresponsibility and, I daresay, childishness – because it’s the corporate equivalent of, “I am sorry, teacher; the dog ate my homework” – the unintelligent version of this was the Abim District Administrator who told fellow adults a few weeks ago that termites had eaten his accountability the vouchers…
From today, I am offering everyone a one-month Corplatitude flushing period during which we should all identify and get rid of the damn things. After that, business and work in general should move faster, better and more sensibly, and “we will achieve economic growth”.
(Give yourself bonus points if you correctly identify the Corplatitude hidden in plain sight there.)

let’s make small sacrifices for small people during these rains


This being the end of the Holy Week, and the end of a period in which we have been engaging in prayerful fasting and thoughts of Jesus Christ and his ultimate sacrifice for humankind, perhaps it is a good time to introduce the idea of a small sacrifice some of us can make for fellow man without shedding even a drop of blood.
From driving around in Kampala on rainy mornings, I am sure we need to have a national discussion about the people who walk in the rain.
This discussion should be amongst us – the car drivers and owners, including operators of taxis and minibuses, and even boda-bodas – rather than amongst them, those cold, wet, sad-looking pedestrians out there.
Just to be clear, this discussion should not be about them. The discussion should not, for instance, pay any attention to that annoying propensity they have of walking so close to puddles by the roadside that we can’t escape splashing water all over them as we drive past. We

Uganda Street Children
From news.yahoo.com

should acknowledge, though, that the experience is very discomfiting since we drive off feeling quite unhappy about having made them suffer so badly. They need to stop doing this to us.

Neither should it focus on their habit of speedily attempting to cross roads almost always at the same time we are driving through. Yet that is another characteristic that inconveniences us heavily with the anxiety that comes with the thought of knocking them dead.
This discussion should be about us and how we deal with the people who walk in the rain.
They could do with our sympathetic consideration – not enough of it, of course, that we would stop and let them into our vehicles, because that would be plain silly.
Anti, you see, by the time we get onto the road and begin encountering them, they are so dripping wet that within minutes of entering our cars they will have drenched the seats and carpets of the vehicles; and we all know that irritation aside, it is downright impossible to rid the car of that smell of wet carpet, especially during the rainy season.
Many times, these people who walk in the rain don’t even bother to avoid muddy patches or even more questionable dirty stuff, so letting them into our vehicles brings more than just smelly wetness!
And here is where we find the crux of this discussion of national importance; since we can’t let them into our cars in spite of the amount of space we have on the seats beside and behind us as we drop off our own children and proceed to work, let’s make a few sacrifices:
First of all, every time we come across a person walking in the rain and waiting to cross the road, WE should be the ones to stop our vehicles and let THEM go across the road first. Whizzing past them is almost always useless if these are the people with the keys to the offices, or the cleaners or tea persons, because we will get to the office but then have to wait for them to arrive before the day can properly begin.
Then, where the person walking in the rain is a school child, absolutely STOP and let them go first in ALL instances. They have school to attend and life is already wretched enough that they have to walk through the rain in soggy shoes, while we are encased in vehicles that even have carpeting!
Rather than hooting them off the road or brushing dangerously close to them while muttering impatient obscenities under our breaths, perhaps we could even offer them a lift every so often?
Small sacrifices.
How about slowing down every time we get to those puddles that are inevitable given the state of terrain we operate in? Most of us, in any case, are not speeding to a job where our time of arrival is crucial to world peace and development, so slowing down a little bit so that pedestrian humankind can also get to work clean and decent is a small sacrifice.
Small sacrifices for small people.