Tuesday, 31 January 2012
No one wants to do a bad job. I honestly, honestly believe this, that isn't to say from time to time that people don't from time to time do things to make others look bad or don't in frustration or boredom sabotage things just for some interest. At the core of our beings though I believe we all want to do a good job and be recognised for it. Nowhere is this more true than in aid work, only the mildly insane would put themselves through cold showers, water shortages, bouts of malaria, poor diet and random sleep depravation to ensure that the did an at best mediocre job. We fixate on excellence, best outcomes, deliverables our language is of targets and goals. Coming back to Haiti I have flown back in to the age old dripping argument about who should have done what, what money hasn't been spent and what is wrong with aid today. After 9 years of this and a further 6 watching it from the safety of The Royal Air Force I can honestly say I am tired of hearing it. I understand the arguments for accountability and greater transparency but playing elite level rugby has taught me something: the team doesn't get better through you identifying other people's faults. At the end of every rugby match the statistician sits down and collates the tackle count, the yards gained, the handling errors and every other possible metric ...... Whilst I was at London Scottish they even needed a metric for time spent with my hands down my shorts rearranging my sports support..... And at the next training session the coach sat you down and went through your stats with you. The emphasis was on improving your own game, we called the adjustments the one percenters, the one percent that makes a game changing difference - everyone can do the 99% but that extra one was the aim. You see elite rugby has realised that to improve team performance you have to concentrate on 15 personal performances. Players who criticise other players are usually hiding their own weakness, as all 15 players reach their peak the team performance gels and the game improves. I think this translates very neatly to aid work, we are a team driving towards excellent performance in serving communities. Our responsibility is to ensure we are achieving excellence in our role, sure we can support others in their roles but our aim shouldn't be to conform them to our standards but rather to support them in their drive to the highest standards they can achieve. I have played with better and worse rugby players over the years, I have gone running with players trying to get back to full fitness, stood out in the rain to receive penalty field goal attempts and sat with players in a quiet corner of the club bar to offer feed back when it was asked for. Strangely this is what I feel like I am doing now on an institutional level, working with teams looking to improve their 'A' game. A team that argues on the pitch is doomed to failure, systems will fracture, relationships will break down and the result will be poor performance. We as the aid & development community could do well to learn this lesson. Let's concentrate on brining our 'A' game and improving that, once we are in that position of excellence people will naturally gravitate towards us to find out how we do so well. For those of you who are interested I spent 4.5 minutes of an 80 minute game (over 5%) with my hands down my shorts, the coach's solution was to wear Lycra cycling shorts which I still do to this day. I mention it not for hilarity, although it still makes me laugh, but because often the route to those one percenters is not in our core business but in some idiosyncrasy that is completely unrelated. Once we solved the hands down shorts equation my handling errors diminished too. The Logistics Project is committed to its 'A' Game but will always have time to go running with you, stand out in the rain to perfect your kicking or sit for some constructive feedback should you need it.
Friday, 27 January 2012
It's 0535 and I am awake, sat out on a balcony of the hostel at which I am staying. A combination of time differences and an icy blast from the shower mean I am wide awake. Just outside the gate I hear voices; men going to work joking with the security guards. Every now and then their conversations are interrupted bythe hum of a UN turbo diesel. Cocks crow, and dogs bark as dawn struggles to break through. Already I can see the vaguest hint at a rosy glow across the valley as the sun hides itself just beyond the horizon. All is peaceful. The peace in Haiti has struck me this time. I was here in both 2010 and 2011 and there was always angst. There was an attritional, grinding angst that was energy sapping; every traffic jam was an opportunity for aggression and hatred to spill out, yet somehow now we feel closer to that Caribbean caricature of easiness. I say this against a back drop of a former colleague, Big Dave, having been shot in the stomach in a bank robbery on the day I arrived. Big Dave had committed two years of his life to helping Haiti and whilst I only met him once face to face in 2010 he was often at the other end of the phone helping out, the way logisticians do.... The trade in favours among not for profit loggies is a strong market in any economic climate. The last I have heard is that Dave ran 2 blocks to the hospital he has served these last 2 years and was operated on successfully and is to be moved to the US for further care. My thoughts and prayers stay with him and his wife. I can't however become negative about Haiti. So much of the media has focused on what is not being done here: money not being spent, rubble not being moved, jobs not being created but it is a look at the negative half of the equation. Yesterday on the drive to Mirbalais I saw comparatively little rubble compared to my visit in 2011, every now and again an empty plot or a partially demolished house would tell you of the calamity that befell Port au Prince in January 2010. I am not saying there isn't huge work to be done, I am saying huge work is being done. As I sit here now the rosy glow has broken over the hilltops across the plain on which Port au Prince sits. The barking dogs are now accompanied by a church bell. The sun is rising on Haiti not just today but in general. Some say it is exhaustion and two years of death and pestilence that have brought this new peace to Haiti. That makes no sense to me, my experience of wars and civil strife has taught me that such things rarely tire. I get the feeling hope has broken out, maybe be cause Michel Martelly, arguably the people's candidate, got into power they feel they have a voice. Hope is more powerful than the dollar when it comes to reconstruction. I saw that in Delmas 32; about a mile from where I sit. Back in 2010 JPHRO made a commitment to clear a neighbourhood. I remember walking through 20ft piles of rubble with Phil, the JPHRO engineer, and realising the only thing you could do was start, bucket load by bucket load. It developed into one of the most successful program's I have seen, most notably because the community leapt into action to help and improve the JPHRO system. Hope sprang forth and people started to clear their own plots. I understand the need to address corruption, complacency and mismanagement but I think to focus on the negative dishonours those like Big Dave who pour their lives out here and elsewhere in the world. I want to focus on hope, the JPHRO rubble clearing, PIH's Mirbalais hospital and countless other projects that are making a difference but most notably the peace that Haitian hope is brining.
Wednesday, 25 January 2012
Well as you will know I am out in Haiti right now so I thought I would prepare some blogs to fill the time in case I get no internet connectivity (forward thinking is the logistician’s friend) and to be honest no one wants to hear the jetlagged ramblings of a logistician. So what to blog about…. What better than techy stuff, you know time delayed blogs, apps and kit. I thought I would put together my top techy items that make my work life more efficient. In no particular order…..
The iPad 2
Take a picture of your colleague with the iPad and get to draw a pink moustache and wild curly hair on them…..Doh! In all seriousness this is a great app for working cross culturally in logistics, no matter how fluent my French gets there are a few technical words that I just can’t recall. A picture paints a thousand words, snap away in the warehouse with the iPad and then draw on circles to highlight points or arrows o show where to move things. I love Skitch more for this than the countless friends I have drawn facial hair on.
Monday, 23 January 2012
Thursday, 19 January 2012
Wednesday, 18 January 2012
Tuesday, 17 January 2012
|"culturally appropriate planning?"|
At this point I decided that maybe I was superfluous to this “culturally appropriate plan”. Paws was giggling uncontrollably – and she wasn’t one to generally giggle – and I knew that with curfew approaching I had no option but to let Al Jerez execute his plan and hope the highways police didn’t stop him.
So what did I learn…….always get an outline brief of the plan before you release someone to pursue it their creativity may be far greater than your own.
Friday, 13 January 2012
I am British so I don’t want to get all Austin Powers on you but I have lost my blogging Mojo a little this week. It has been an eventful week; it was the second anniversary of the Haiti earthquake. I still have plenty of friends out there working on the reconstruction and have lost some friends recently to violence and cholera. We are also gearing up to back to Haiti on a short trip to shine The Logistics Project’s light on a few logistical dark corners, so we are prepping and packing and will blog more on that nearer the time.
|A sneaky peak at the new website|
|Just say no.....|
Things I could have taken from my career to prevent this shortfall of undies are as follows:
- Correctly assess your maximum and minimum re-order levels, take into consideration seasonal changes. Does the impending wet season mean you need a greater buffer stock.
- Choose an appropriate trigger, the simple irritation of low stock may not always be the most appropriate re-order marker. Sometimes an algorithm of stock over consumption can be a more effective measure.
- Regularly review your operational setting, changes in output, personnel or supplier can lead to a need to review your minimum stock levels and reorder triggers.
So tonight as your jockeys (or female equivalent) fall to the floor use that as a trigger to review your min/max stock order levels.
Monday, 9 January 2012
To date blogs have generally been a light hearted look at logistics, I am still amused that the most popular blog is the logistics of my packed lunch. Today though I want to tell you why we do what we do. So let me start with a story:
|Haitian National Flag|
That is why we do what we do, we believe it helps.
Thursday, 5 January 2012
|This year we will mostly|
So what is the correct way to cover the bodily function, emotional outburst, random boredom home wrecking behaviour that can occur. How can you carry that kit? Do you need to hire Sherpas like Everest climbers? Perhaps a little trolley arrangement? The answer to disaster preparedness is a mind-set and not a set of physical attributes or equipment schedules. Sure “Mr Squiggles” is the best resolution for that emotional outburst but any good parent will tell you that you develop a hyper vigilance for items that can charm a two year old out of the maelstrom of emotion about the thing that they can’t quite remember. Parents always know where the nearest café or public lavatory will be and can quickly adapt everyday items into makeshift diapers, garments or toys.
There are some key principles for disaster preparedness in the under twos
Multi functionality – A packet of wet wipes is a good toy and a functional tool for cleaning of babies, garments and surfaces. Taking this one thing can help you in a multitude of situations.
Don’t rely on the plan – That thing you were relying is lying in a muddy puddle half a mile back - as are your hops of baby going to sleep. Having a developed sense of the local resources will help you discern what unlikely item will fill the gap until you have access to the a better solution.
Stay Calm – don’t declare an emergency at the first site of tumbling Starbucks. There may well be a local resource such as a Starbucks napkin that will save the day. Your precious wet wipes can remain unemployed and free for removing facial chocolate before visiting aunt Maud. (a note to non parents – a Starbucks napkin does not have the tensile strength to remove chocolate from a toddlers face)
Know your stockholding – The first thing to reach for in this case is the management information. How many diapers do I have and where are they?
Disaggregate your stores - Oh no the diapers got soaked in the Todller apple juice and latte incident……fear not here are some I keep in another location. Even stores protected against rain damage can get damaged by fire so don’t rely on your mitigating packaging.
In short the whilst a healthy equipment schedule and a solid framework of a plan are an essential pivot around which to use your creativity in any disaster situation, when in doubt think “what would mamma do?”
NB My kids never do any of the above, this is all for the purposes of demonstration.....I love you guys!
Wednesday, 4 January 2012
|The humble Peugot 106|
thanks to Clarissa Draper for the photo.
2. Priority & Function Sure those little fluffy toys pack out nicely and are easy to fit into almost any gap but the first dirty nappy (dookie filled diaper) will inform you that you should have packed the slightly less flexible pack of Pampers. It is also worth considering operational issues and interdependent function; if you pack the travel cot – place the mattress in the must pack pile.
3. Build your load ahead of time - In the RAF we called these chalks, because you would draw a chalk square on the ground the size of your load bed and see how much you could fit in it. It saves paying truck drivers waiting time for excessive rearranging of loads. If you have the load in your head it will take far less tweaks to make it fit around that unexpected wheel arch. (I always used to reduce my chalk by 5% of the expected load bed to make room for the truckers sleeping mat and tea set in Niger just to make sure I never went short of space.). In loading children get acquainted to the little areas within a folded pushchair (stroller) that you can stuff “Mr Squiggles”or “Barney”.
All too often in disaster relief and development settings you don’t get the ideal vehicle and you do have to make do and shuttle or even if you have to split loads across multiple vehicles., give a thought to whether it makes more sense to have a little of everything or whether you transport category by category. For instance in an NFI (non-food items) distribution you can’t start until you have a reasonable amount of each item. In a mass vaccination campaign don’t take the vaccines out first and wait for needles as it will test your cold chain particularly if you have a hold up on the second trip/vehicle. In a disaster relief setting it makes no sense to truck your education sets up hand in hand with food because hungry children don’t concentrate.
So next time you load the children for any trip, consider that these are skills that will make you invaluable as a competent aid logistics load planner. If you find that load planning software means a tissue to dab away the tears perhaps The Logistics Project can help.
Tuesday, 3 January 2012
When stood in Gunung Sitoli (Indonesia) 2004, Rawlakot (Kashmir) 2005 or Port au Prince (Haiti) 2010 the predominant thought of collision is of tectonic plates. The subduction of one plate by another creating violent tremors at least that is how I remember it from pre GSCE geography. I have been musing on another collision that occurs on these occasions, a collision of the many streams of Geography.
|Henry Morton Stanley|
"Dr Livingstone I presume"
|IOM - The lead agency in Haiti's recovery.|
Monday, 2 January 2012
|Jorge Boero - Dakar Rider and Adventurous Spirit|
I don’t know how many of you follow The Dakar Rally. To many it seems a pointless endeavor for petrol-heads but I have to say I love the adventure of it. It had been my intention today to write a light piece on the logistics of The Dakar. Sadly though Jorge Boero, an Argentinian biker crashed and died in yesterday’s special stage. It is a sad day for The Dakar, bikers and of course Jorge Boero’s family.
Many of you will wonder what the link from The Logistics Project to enduro bike riding is. There are actually several links, as medical logistician I have worked in northern Darfur to run Medical Emergency Response Teams to deal with land mine strikes amongst the humanitarian community. I was massively impressed to see that The Dakar managed to have heli-borne medics with Jorge Boero within 5 minutes of the accident. This is a speed that any metropolitan ambulance crew would be happy to achieve.
There is a second link and it is The Geographic Information Management Project (The GIMP). Back in 2005 I was in Kashmir with the United Nations Joint Logistics Centre (UNJLC). Part of UNJLC’s effort was to create maps of the disaster affected area for the humanitarian community, we had an impressive array of GIS specialists but one of the challenges was to collect the raw tracking data for them to work with. There were a plethora of people trundling the main routes between towns who were willing to take GPS tracks. The problem was, that in Kashmir the disaster affected area covered a huge area of semi-rural communities who lived in small pockets spread liberally among mountains and valleys. The routes to these communities were less well travelled as many of them were impassible by 4x4 at an early juncture so further information hadn’t been gathered. I have for many years been an avid mountain biker and it struck me that a couple of fit and lightly equipped mountain bikers could quite easily map these areas with a few days of concerted effort hence the RECCE 246 team was born with the help of UNDSS. The team walked, biked and, where possible, drove into the most inaccessible ares of Kashmir to track the routes into the disaster zone.
On forming The Logistics Project it struck me that such a team could be needed again in the future. We are also passionate in involving everyday people into disaster relief and development. My time leading JPHRO taught me that inexperienced volunteers could accomplish mighty things with a little direction. Many brought skills such as carpentry, cookery and put them to best use. The Logistics project came up with the idea of The GIMP; Mountain Bikers, Fell Runner, Mountaineers and Enduro Riders deployed at short notice for an intense period of gathering GPS tracks for GIS teams to use. When we realised that Geographic Information Management Project spelled GIMP we initially laughed and thought we would look for another name. Then I checked the definition of gimp and it turns out that it is the finishing touch to upholstery, a flattened braid; that kind of summed up The GIMP to me. It isn’t core to what The Logistics Project do but it is one of the things we do to add value to our presence in disaster zones. It is a way to engage the skill , expertise and passion of those willing to take a risk and do something amazing, perhaps the spirit of Jorge Boero. If you are an experienced mountain biker, enduro rider, mountaineer or hill walker and you like the idea of being involved in The GIMP feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.