.....Does anyone ever actually tell you anything resembling the unvarnished and complete truth or do they just say what they believe you want to hear or what they want you to believe? I seldom believe much of what people say to me in business these days as 'spin' (a silly euphemism for 'lying') is embedded so deeply in every aspect of public, and even more sadly, private utterance'.....or so it seems to me.
We started the work planned for the Sri Lankan reviews at a leisurely pace - partly because of the mild jet lag and general tiredness induced by a difficult travel itinerary but mostly because we hadn't planned to do much on this wet and, comparatively cool day. I don't know how other people cope with looking at a rapidly changing operation that has multiple facets and trying to make helpful decisions and suggestions on a three monthly basis but I always find it very difficult and a quite significant set of cultural differences doesn't make it any easier. We got up late and didn't get to the office till almost 11 am and only spent enough time there to say hello to the weekend shift personnel. We met with the two Australians who are currently in Colombo in the afternoon for a brief up date but other than that did very little.
Perhaps it's advancing age but it takes me longer than it used to, or as I remember it used to, to become 'up to speed' with a very different environment which is a contributor to why I tend to give myself a day after a long trip before trying to do any real work over the past two years or so. I did re-check the agenda for the next four days and added several things that need to be discussed following the meeting with the two Australian 'knowledge transferers' but other than that I was still pre-occupied with 'Australian issues' which is a pretty obvious indication that trying to think in depth about SL issues is not yet going to be very sensible.
The major difficulty we face at this particular time is really just how to form a correct set of views as to exactly where the SL operation is at. We can look at the mechanisms we have put in place to determine various efficiencies and performances (call queue times, email response times, customer satisfaction levels) in simplistic terms but, despite all of the feedback mechanisms we have in place (forum, suggestion box, complaint process, resolution process etc) it is impossible, at least for me, to get a real assessment as to where the SL operation has progressed to and what now needs to be done. Some of the things I heard this afternoon really worried me as do some of the more emphatically stated issues that are occasionally brought to my attention by various methodologies when I am in Australia.
So a lot of my personal thinking and much of my discussions about the quarterly reviews I have with Annette on the trip to Colombo and then our talks once we are here involve trying to understand not only what different people here tell us but what we actually observe in terms of the different people and the differences in attitudes we notice from trip to trip. We pick up most of this 'information' from the personnel with whom we talk with both formally and informally but we also pick up views from our accountants and lawyers and, of course, from the university personnel on the different aspects of our involvements there. Having said that - neither I nor Annette seem to really get a reliable view of what is happening within the SL operation - or at least we haven't on the trips made so far which are now in double figures.
Hopefully we'll have more luck this time....though probably that is just one more instance of the triumph of hope over experience.