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Commuting v Computing

I feel that there was a shift at work this week. It might only be my perception and although not seismic, I am sensing the wheels of industry moving again even if only at a slow grind. It’s almost as if after a period of stop and idle at the red robots the lights are about to change and already everyone has re-engaged first gear and is starting to move off – perhaps begining to accept what has happened and adapt to what is coming.

Many of you will have been exposed to change models which illustrate how people respond in times of flux. If not, you will probably be familiar with the grief model from which it was derived. The result of the clinical work of Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross who laid out the steps of grieving that human beings go through during times of loss, it identifies the stages as denial, anger, bargaining, despair and finally, acceptance.

I don’t think anyone would argue that what we are experiencing today feels like a period of loss, even for those who are not grieving over a Covid death. What we have lost may be different from person to person but there are a few losses universal to all of us: our freedoms as we are confined to our homes, the loss of a predictable future, loss of income and the life we left behind, our routines, social gatherings – you know the stuff…omg, remember when you used to be able to go out for a meal? If that now seems like part of a former, far-off life, that’s because it is!

This week, all over Europe, communities are slowly coming back to life, In the UK the newly-elected Leader of the Opposition is clamouring not for an end to restrictions but for roadmap to that end and that’s where I am now going to jump to, in terms of those five stages of grief. As with any period of loss, there comes a time when your thinking will be along the lines of acceptance which may sound like ‘I can’t control this pandemic, but I can do my part by washing my hands, staying positive and  working remotely – doing my best with what I have got’.

The fact that you work remotely and can’t leave your house doesn’t mean you can’t be productive and life has to stop. It’s the new normal – you can work from home, you can still connect with family and friends etc. Your thinking may be to move to more positive thoughts away from recession and job loss to something like ‘the world is going to change for the better, we will be more compassionate, tech savvy, interdependent’ or whatever.

Denial is the intellectual and emotional rejection of something that is clear and obvious. Evolution has created in humans the ability to deny both physical and emotional pain for a short period of time in the service of self-preservation. I think we are all past the denial stage. With COVID-19 denial may have sounded like: ‘This whole thing is so over-dramatised, it’s the same as the ‘flu – people get that all the time. Or, look at the fuss they made of Y2K and that turned out to be a damp squib’. And yes, all of these were mine.

The next stage is anger where we blame others, get angry and hostile and sometimes become unruly and disobedient. We have seen lots of this sometimes from politicians: blaming China – had they quarantined earlier we wouldn’t be having this problem (that’s Trump), the government can’t lock me up and tell me what to do and I’m bored and I’m having a party (you will know people who are here- rebels without a cause thinking they could buck the system.)

The next stage the bargaining phase is when we start to acknowledge our new reality and try to compromise to find an easier, less painful way out and still maintain that we have some level of control. We finally start to work with what we have got which takes me to the subject of online working. It is here that I think most of us may be – it’s certainly where I am. It breaks no rules and still qualifies as work, not play, so long as you stay away from YouTube, eBay or Amazon!

Now this is not an easy place because it is a period of learning and adjusting. Just this week I have been part of an interviewing panel and it can be really challenging as people struggle with online interviews and glitches like children crying in the background or your husband passing behind you with only his underpants on (cue see no evil monkey emoji). We have to formulate a new way of operating online and it’s not second nature for a lot of people, especially if you haven’t been used to remote working. For one thing, it takes a huge amount of self-discipline.

According to a SKY news item the ther day, a judge in Florida has warned lawyers in his county to make sure they get out of bed and dress “appropriately” for online hearings, amid the corona virus pandemic. Apparently said judge wrote an open letter to a Bar Association, saying that he has seen some lawyers appear topless on the video conferencing software, Zoom, as the profession gets used to working from home as a result of the spread of COVID-19.

Judge Bailey said: “We’ve seen many lawyers in casual shirts and blouses, with no concern for ill-grooming, in bedrooms with the master bed in the background. One male lawyer appeared shirtless and one female attorney appeared still in bed, still under the covers. What’s the saying? ‘Only in America?’ Sadly, this time, not.

Make no mistake, this is neither trivial, nor overly fastidious. Many psychologists have been sermonising in the media recently about the need to follow a set routine to maintain both self respect and self-discipline. Preparing for work much as you did pre-pandemic adds to the psychological boost of getting back to work, even if it has to be carried out remotely and beware the old saying ‘if all else fails, lower your standards’!

So understand that while you may not be getting it all right, what you are experiencing is an uncomfortable, new normal which for some may be temporary but for many others will be a permanent shift in work aspects and attitudes. There is an end to all of this but it won’t necessarily take us back to the beginning. Then again, who really wants to spend their life going round in circles?

According to a SKY news item the ther day, a judge in Florida has warned lawyers in his county to make sure they get out of bed and dress “appropriately” for online hearings, amid the corona virus pandemic. Apparently said judge wrote an open letter to a Bar Association, saying that he has seen some lawyers appear topless on the video conferencing software, Zoom, as the profession gets used to working from home as a result of the spread of COVID-19.

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DIS Parley Committee selection disingenuous 

25th November 2020

Intelligence and Security Service Act, which is a law that establishes the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service (DIS), provides for establishment of a Parliamentary Committee. Recently, the President announced nine names of Members of Parliament he had appointed to the Committee.

This announcement was preceded by a meeting the President held with the Speaker and the Leader of Opposition. Following the announcement of Committee MPs by the President, the opposition, through its leader, made it clear that it will not participate in the Committee unless certain conditions that would ensure effective oversight are met. The opposition acted on the non-participation threat through resignation of its three MPs from the Committee.

The Act at Section 38 provides for the establishment of the Committee to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Directorate. The law provides that the Parliamentary Committee shall have the same powers and privileges set out under the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act.

On composition, the Committee shall consist of nine members who shall not be members of Cabinet and its quorum shall be five members.  The MPs in the Committee elect a chairperson from among their number at their first meeting.

The Members of the Committee are appointed by the President after consultation with the Speaker of the National Assembly and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. It is the provision of the law that the Committee, relative to its size, reflect the numerical strengths of the political parties represented in the National Assembly.

The Act provides that that a member of the Committee holds office for the duration of the Parliament in which he or she is appointed.  The Committee is mandated to make an annual report on the discharge of their functions to the President and may at any time report to him or her on any matter relating to the discharge of those functions.

The Minister responsible for intelligence and security is obliged to lay before the National Assembly a copy of each annual report made by the Committee together with a statement as to whether any matter has been excluded from that copy in pursuance of the provision of the Act.

If it appears to the Minister, after consultation with the Parliamentary Committee, that the publication of any matter in a report would be prejudicial to the continued discharge of the functions of the Directorate, the Minister may exclude that matter from the copy of the report as laid before the National Assembly.

So, what are the specific demands of the Opposition and why are they not participating in the Committee? What should happen as a way forward? The Opposition demanded that there be a forensic audit of the Directorate. The DIS has never been audited since it was set up in 2008, more than a decade ago.

The institution has been a law unto itself for a longtime, feared by all oversight bodies. The Auditor General, who had no security of tenure, could not audit the DIS. The Directorate’s personnel, especially at a high level, have been implicated in corruption.  Some of its operatives are in courts of law defending corruption charges preferred against them. Some of the corruption cases which appeared in the media have not made it to the courts.

The DIS has been accused of non-accountability and unethical practices as well as of being a burden on the fiscus.  So, the Opposition demanded, from the President, a forensic audit for the purpose of cleaning up the DIS.  They demand a start from a clean slate.

The second demand by the Opposition is that the law be reviewed to ensure greater accountability of the DIS to Parliament. What are some of the issues that the opposition think should be reviewed? The contention is that the executive cannot appoint a Committee of Parliament to scrutinize an executive institution.

Already, it is argued, Parliament is less independent and it is dominated by the executive. It is contended that the Committee should be established by the Standing Orders and be appointed by a Select Committee of Parliament. There is also an argument that the Committee should report to Parliament and not to the President and that the Minister should not have any role in the Committee.

Democratic and Parliamentary oversight of the intelligence is relatively a new phenomenon across the World. Even developed democracies are still grappling with some of these issues. However, there are acceptable standards or what might be called international best practices which have evolved over the past two or so decades.

In the UK for instance, MPs of the Intelligence and Security Committee are appointed by the Houses of Parliament, having been nominated by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. This is a good balancing exercise of involvement of both the executive and the legislature. Consultation is taken for granted in Botswana context in the sense that it has been reduced to just informing the Leader of Opposition without much regard to his or her ideas; they are never taken seriously.

Furthermore, the current Committee in the UK has four Members of the ruling party and five MPs from the opposition. It is a fairly balanced Committee in terms of Parliamentary representation. However, as said above, the President of Botswana appointed six ruling party MPs and three from the opposition.

The imbalance is preposterous and more pronounced with clear intentions of getting the executive way through the ruling party representatives in the Committee. The intention to avoid scrutiny is clear from the numbers of the ruling party MPs in the Committee.

There is also an international standard of removing sensitive parts which may harm national security from the report before it is tabled in the legislature. The previous and current reluctance of the executive arms to open up on Defence and Security matters emanate from this very reason of preserving and protecting national security.

But national security should be balanced with public interest and other democratic principles. The decision to expunge certain information which may be prejudicial to national security should not be an arbitrary and exclusive decision of the executive but a collective decision of a well fairly balanced Committee in consultation with the Speaker and the minister responsible.

There is no doubt that the DIS has been a rogue institution. The reluctance by the President to commit to democratic-parliamentary oversight reforms presupposes a lack of commitment to democratization. The President has no interest in seeing a reformed DIS with effective oversight of the agency.

He is insincere. This is because the President loathes the idea losing an iota of power and sharing it with any other democratic institution. He sees the agency as his power lever to sustain his stay in the high office. He thought he could sanitize himself with an ineffective DIS Committee that would dance to his tune.

The non-participation of the opposition MPs renders the Committee dysfunctional; it cannot function as this would be unlawful. Participation of the opposition is a legal requirement. Even if it can meet, it would lack legitimacy; it cannot be taken seriously. The President should therefore act on the oversight demands and reform the DIS if he is to be taken seriously.

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The Maccabean Uprising

25th November 2020
Jewish freedom fighters

 Jews drive away occupying power under the command of guerrilla leader Judas Maccabees but only just

Although it was the Desolation Sacrilege act, General Atiku, that officially sparked the Maccabean revolt, it in truth simply stoked the fires of an already simmering revolution. How so General?

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Atomic (CON)Fusion

25th November 2020

For years I have trained people about paradigm shifts – those light-bulb-switch-on moments – where there is a seismic change from the usual way of thinking about something to a newer, better way. 

I like to refer to them as ‘aha’ moments because of the sudden understanding of something which was previously incomprehensible. However,  the topic of today’s article is the complete antithesis of ‘aha’.  Though I’d love to tell you I’d had a ‘eureka ‘, ‘problem solved’ moment, I am faced with the complete opposite – an ‘oh-no’ moment or Lost Leader Syndrome.

No matter how well prepared or capable a leader is. they often find themselves facing perplexing events, confounding information, or puzzling situations. Confused by developments of which they can’t make sense and by challenges that they don’t know how to solve they become confused, sometimes lost and completely clueless about what to do.

I am told by Jentz and Murphy (JM) in ‘What leaders do when they don’t know what to do’ that this is normal, and that rapid change is making confusion a defining feature of management in the 21st century.  Now doesn’t that sound like the story of 2020 summed up in a single sentence?

The basic premise of their writing is that “confusion is not a weakness to be ashamed of but a regular and inevitable condition of leadership. By learning to embrace their confusion, managers are able to set in motion a constructive process for addressing baffling issues.

In fact, confusion turns out to be a fruitful environment in which the best managers thrive by using the instability around them to open up better lines of communication, test their old assumptions and values against changing realities, and develop more creative approaches to problem solving.”

The problem with this ideology however is that it doesn’t help my overwhelming feelings of fear and panic which is exacerbated by a tape playing on a loop in my head saying  ‘you’re supposed to know what to do, do something’. My angst is compounded by annoying motivational phrases also unhelpfully playing in my head like.

  • Nothing happens until something moves
  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started


  • Act or be acted upon

All these platitudes are urging me to pull something out of the bag, but I know that this is a trap. This need to forge ahead is nothing but a coping mechanism and disguise. Instead of owning the fact that I haven’t got a foggy about what to do, part of me worries that I’ll lose authority if I acknowledge that I can’t provide direction – I’m supposed to know the answers, I’m the MD!  This feeling of not being in control is common for managers in ‘oh no’ situations and as a result they often start reflexively and unilaterally attempting to impose quick fixes to restore equilibrium because, lets be honest, sometimes we find it hard to resist hiding our confusion.

To admit that I am lost in an “Oh, No!” moment opens the door not only to the fear of losing authority but also to a plethora of other troubling emotions and thoughts:  *Shame and loss of face: “You’ll look like a fool!” * Panic and loss of control: “You’ve let this get out of hand!” * Incompetence and incapacitation: “You don’t know what you’re doing!”

As if by saying “I’m at a loss here” is tantamount to declaring “I am not fit to lead.” Of course the real problem for me and any other leader is if they don’t admit when they are disoriented, it sends a signal to others in the organisation stating it’s not cool to be lost and that, by its very nature encourages them to hide.  What’s the saying about ‘a real man never asks for direction. they end up driving around in circles’.

As managers we need to embrace the confusion, show vulnerability (remember that’s not a bad word) and accept that leadership is not about pretending to have all the answers but about having the courage to search with others to discover a solution.

JM point out that “being confused, however, does not mean being incapacitated.  Indeed, one of the most liberating truths of leadership is that confusion is not quicksand from which to escape but rather the potter’s clay of leadership – the very stuff with which managers can work.”

2020 has certainly been a year to remember and all indications are that the confusion which has characterised this year will still follow us into the New Year, thereby making confusion a defining characteristic of the new normal and how managers need to manage. Our competence as leaders will then surely be measured not only by ‘what I know’ but increasingly by ‘how I behave when I accept, I don’t know, lose my sense of direction and become confused.

.I guess the message for all organizational cultures going forward is that sticking with the belief that we need all-knowing, omni-competent executives will cost them dearly and send a message to managers that it is better to hide their confusion than to address it openly and constructively.

Take comfort in these wise words ‘Confusion is a word we have invented for an order not yet understood’!

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