Sunday, November 01, 2009

They never learn

I'm constantly amazed that in spite of being able to create and build huge projects, in an amazingly short period, organisations here can't ever seem to think about the most basic, simple requirements.

Not anything difficult, just the most basic admininstration and procedures.

I posted the other day about a major change to the flow of traffic just outside Knowledge Village, done in the dead of night so that the morning rush met a brand new road system - but no-one thought of the need to erect signs warning of "Changed Traffic Conditions".

The Metro was promoted by the brand-building 'My City - My Metro' ad campaign - but no-one thought to run a campaign telling people how to actually use the trains.

The Metro also has stations at the airport - but no-one thought that airline passengers would need to take their luggage on the train.

The National had another one in its report on the Abu Dhabi F1 race.

By all accounts they've created one of the world's best F1 racing circuits and infrastructure, and all in an amazing time-frame.

Then you get to the most basic parts, getting there and back.

They put in a whole fleet of shuttle buses - but no-one thought that they may need to tell passengers where to catch the buses or where the buses were going.

A passenger said:

"I found that while it got us there and to the event very well, there was no instruction getting back. People were getting on wrong buses, buses were going to wrong stops."

The electronic signs on the buses simply read 'Gateway', which not surprisingly confused a lot of passengers.

As usual, no-one thought of the basics in advance.

Having created chaos they hurriedly made the changes which should have been in place from the beginning:

Several changes were made yesterday to improve pedestrian traffic flow. A metal barrier separated the bus passengers heading towards the colour-coded parking zones from those heading to the three park-and-ride locations at Marina Mall, Shahama and Zayed Sport City.
The electronic signs on the buses now read Purple, Orange, Blue or Lime directing them to specific car parks.

"It’s a lot better tonight now that they have the bars filtering you into a line."

Mark Robinson, 30, from the UK, said it took him only five minutes to find a bus. The previous day getting on to a bus had taken an hour and 40 minutes, he estimated.

Organisations staffed by people from all over the world, many of them very highly paid, presumably recruited for their expertise. And time after time after time, across organisation after organisation, they get the basic simple stuff completely wrong.

The National story is here.


LDU said...

Is there a policy group which can assess these issues and make submissions recommending changes (for the future)?

Seabee said...

Hi LDU, haven't seen you here for a long time...

In a word, no.

Anonymous said...

I'm constantly amazed that in spite of being able to create and build huge projects, in an amazingly short period, organisations here can't ever seem to think about the most basic, simple requirements.

I'm not sure why. Most of these huge projects are built or commissioned to be built in the UAE are by governmental or quasi governmental bodies, largely for reasons of national prestige and are massively subsidised with state funds with little consideration given as to how such projects could be run to make a profit. With an apparently limitless amount of government money to bail out these projects if they do not make enough revenue to keep themselves afloat, who (not least their own managements) really needs to worry overmuch about such minutiae as customer service.

Only managers who feel the real pressure of competitors taking market share, the need to maximise shareholder returns and the threat of insolvency and break up should their efforts to attract and satisfy customers fall short, will really run a business that addresses customer (rather than governmental) concerns. Aspirational statements by local rulers about the need to 'serve the people etc.' can be no substitute to the real incentives on management (which are clearly lacking in large parts of the UAE) to provide customer driven service. And lest you think I am picking on the UAE, I would say the same considerations apply to any state provided/funded service anywhere in the world, particularly those that trespass on sectors best left to the private sector.

This is not to say that shareholder beholden managements don't sometimes cock it up - see Heathrow Terminal 5 opening. But such cock ups are rapidly remedied and punished. Your constant, and apparently ongoing, amazement about customer service in the UAE (a country whose economy is largely dominated and financed by the state in its various guises) perhaps illustrates that private sector remedies, punishments and incentives are not very familiar here and may be at the root of many of the issues that you refer to on this blog.

Keefieboy said...

Is there a policy group which can assess these issues and make submissions recommending changes (for the future)?

The Common Sense Policy Group? These operational things are (to my mind) just too obvious for maybe that's why they don't get done. But a good Ops Manager ought to be able to envisage the scenario and make the appropriate provisions.

Anonymous said...

Guys: the Approach here for these small obvioues things is" do them after falier, we will monitor and improve the situation as we progress" as the organisers or the teams main focus goes on the gigantec being done in time and there is usually a very basic knowledge and experience team then DOES NOT BRAINSTORM AT ALL which is being held responsible for these small things you guys are discussing.

The rule of the desert mentality, do not blame or question, we need anoth 40-100 years to build that obvioues feeling and consideration in our nerve system.

I am just analysing with my personal view, I am not making fun of any race or background OK!

Seabee said...

Anon@4.19, 'Government is bad and private is good' is a naive idea based on a political view which is at odds with the facts.

I have very little time for incompetent, bloated government organisations, but private enterprise is riddled with exactly the same problems.

Bad planning, incompetent management, poor customer service and ignoring the basics are not the exclusive preserve of government bureaucrats, the private sector is equally guilty of exactly the same things.

Just look at the facts.

You blame government for the problems here, yet non-existant customer service from private companies is a daily complaint, for example, banks, insurance companies, motor trader service departments, retail outlets.

All over the world during the last year private companies, going bust due to bad planning and bad management, have had to be saved from extinction by government bailouts.

In the US the motor industry has yet again only survived on government handouts, over 100 banks, all private, have gone under this year with more closing every week. That's not new either, it's only the worst record since 1992.

You mention T5 in the UK as one example of a badly run private enterprise, but there's hardly universal approval of the way the railways and water supply are being run since privatisation.

More than half of private companies which start up go bust within two years - again that's bad planning and incompetent management.

Companies are increasingly run not for the benefit of shareholders but to enrich the executives.

The problem is not whether it's government or private, the problem is bad management.

Anonymous said...

I was covering the GP for one of the newspapers here.

On the first day, Thursday, we were given a car park pass and told the colour of it corresponded to our car park on the circuit. Easy? No.

The pass was orange and there was no orange car park. Every poor attendant kept directing me on to another car park for about a hour until I finally found one who directed me to the correct car park. Which was actually green!

Next day our car park was signposted - mauch easier.

But on the Saturday, feeling confident at last I knew where to go, I was surprised to say the least that it had been changed with no notice to a different car park, miles away from where we needed to be at the media centre. The reason? Our car park had been commandeered for VIPs.

No issue for me as my computer gear etc was already locked in the media centre, but hard for photographers and TV crews to lug all their equipment on foot in the heat for about two miles because a minor celeb needs to park right next to the main paddock.

There followed a bit of a complaints fest in the media centre and on Sunday we at least had a shuttle bus to ferry us to the media centre from the remote car park. Which worked well.

So just like the other arrangements it took three days for common sense to prevail.

But that said, there were bound to be teething troubles at a new venue of this magnitude and the delays were insignificant compared to the chaos at the Dubai World Cup at Nad Al Sheba the past two years, and they have been hosting it since 1996!

Lord knows what will happen with the new Meydan this year.

I will say that the roads to and from Yas Island are fantastic and you can now get to the Corniche from Shahama in about 15 minutes across the new bridge from Saadiyat Island - a huge time saving.

The hotels there are pretty good and now all the security is gone it's well worth a visit to one of them for a meal, They have great restuarants, particularly Barouk in the Crowne Plaza Yas Island - top-notch Lebanese cuisine and a great setting with tables indoors and outside alongside a garden terrace.

Stills bar in the same hotel is huge and has a vast terrace over looking the sea - a great place to watch the sunset.

And of course the YAs Hotel itself starddling teh circuit is just amazing, like something out of a sci-fi movie both outside and inside.

All in all it was pretty impressive to my eyes despite a few hiccups. Dubai and Meydan take note!!

Anonymous said...

The problem is not whether it's government or private, the problem is bad management

So what in your view encourages good management, if not the incentives of the private sector? Do you really think that the state and private sectors are indistinguishable in terms of management performance?

Seabee said...

You need incentives to be a good manager? No incentive so I won't bother? Let's hope you never get to a management position, or even worse that you're already in one.

To be a good manager what you need is the determination to do a good job, a refusal to accept doing the least amount you can get away with to keep your job. Pride in your ability and in what you do, a refusal to accept second best.

You believe incentives make people good managers? Give them an incentive and they'll work for the good of the company, the shareholders, the customers?

So why are so many private companies so badly managed?

The outrageous incentives given in, for example, the finance industry, resulted in the destruction of the companies in the stampede for personal enrichment.

You also think that the public sector doesn't have incentives? It does, anywhere in the world.

Here, why do so many Emiratis refuse to work in the private sector? The incentives in government employment are so much greater.

Around the world government employees have huge advantages over the private sector. The certainty of employment, the pensions, the stress leave and all the rest of it. And in the UK, a 'gong' at the end of it.

Anonymous said...

I can't agree more on the argument that bad management is the rule, rather than the exception in many companies here.

Seabee you are right in saying good managers and inspired and inspire to be the best they can be, and to do the best they can because it gives them a sense of achievement, confidence and fullfillment. Unfortunately too many ppl around us are in it just for job security. The worst part is when you have too many ppl in the same organization that feel they need to do the bare minimum, just try to look busy, get on the boss's good side and get a paycheck at the end of the day, that mentallity can be contagious. And the most dangerous thing for an organization is to have complacancy spread like a disease.

Seabee said...

Anon@11.09, added to that is the fact that far too many people accept a job at a salary they obviously think is acceptable but then, just like the previous Anon, expect an added incentive to do the job well.

Dubai Information said...

excellent point seabee, jobs are indeed taken with the expectation that the salary is simply a guaranteed cash flow to live and breath while on the clock