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I was intrigued by a discussion I had with a manufacturer in prescribed spectacles. He pointed out that it is the norm for most of us in Zimbabwe not to have medical check-ups. We can have a schedule for servicing our vehicles or we can insure our funerals but we are not really bothered to have health check-ups until we experience signs of system failure. And we rush to doctors in a desperate state. It is costly on our part because sometimes we lose the battle due to the fact that the conditions may be at an irreversible state.
In most cases one can think that she does not have any problems with her eyesight because she is used to seeing in that way and actually think the vision is at its best until someone checks and cleans the eye and you realise that the vision can actually be better. His point of emphasis was that we have a culture of not checking ourselves until there is a problem.
Most of the critical conditions such as blindness caused by glaucoma can actually be prevented if identified early from a general check-up. What happens in the case of glaucoma is that the eye is like a soccer ball, so to keep the eye in that shape, the eye produces a certain amount of liquid but it must also drain the liquid; a natural cleaning process. Sometimes what happens is that, the eye overproduces the liquid putting more pressure on the eye and it fails to drain adequately, the pressure built at the back of the eye begins to damage the nerves. And if the nerves continue dying day by day, this will result into the blindness called glaucoma. But if detected in time the doctor will prescribe an eye drop which will regulate the production of the liquid thus eliminating the pressure.
It’s not our physical health only that we do not get checked. I have observed that even in organizations, no one really does systematic check-ups on the health of organizations, worse still at a country level. We only enquire from experts when the organization is at a critical state and the symptoms can no more be ignored. The ‘vision’ of the organization is dead and the discussion around the unit is who do we retrench; how much can we save from shutting down this unit.
It’s not in us to have an organizational vision which demands us to check on how well we are doing and how to benefit from the strategies that would have been formulated from the vision. We approach strategy formulation from an academic angle. As if it’s a grade seven written exam which will enable us to enrol at a good school and cramming is adequate. Our strategies are like pieces of paper that we present before the board. The presentation is amazing but no checkpoints are in place to avoid certain risks. We work so hard for the presentation but we are not built to check ourselves. We dont check if the vision is still viable; if any changes in the external environment is a threat or an opportunity to the organization.
Our failure to have periodical medical check-ups is accepted behaviour in our societies but it is extremely dangerous and can cost someone their life.. Likewise, our failure to condition ourselves for regular check-ups on how we are doing as an organization and if we can improve ‘our vision’ for better organizational performance is also translating to failure at a country level. We just don’t check. We would rather go the harder way in trying to rectify a dead situation which could have been prevented had it been identified earlier.
One can ask, what do we check? For this I’m tempted to do another article but let me just hint. You check everything! In my view, the field of Project Management is one area which is designed around checkpoints. A closer view of companies that actually have Project Management Offices (PMO) will confirm that they have a greater chance of success as compared to companies without. Project managers are continuously checking their customer; the risk; opportunity for product development; the quality of existing product; new policies; etc. the list is endless. And because they are geared to check, any new trend in the customer is quickly identified which results in them focusing on new products- INNOVATION.
Just an example, one of the state companies invested all its resources in acquiring a checktronic machine which accelerated the rate of cheque production and yet the world was moving at a very fast rate in the direction of online payments and other platforms availed by technology. Needless to say, the company had to just shut down; maybe before they could even payoff the machine.
About the author: Anita Mutyanda is a Partner of Association Project Management South Africa (APMSA), Founding Trustee of Project Excellence Trust and a trainer in the field of Project Management. Her vision is to enable organizations to realize exceptional performance for global markets through the development of strategic leaders of various institutions.