Like A Teacher
I didn’t realize when I moved to Cambodia that teaching would be a huge part of my job. Consulting and designing were tasks I expected. I have to admit the role of teacher has caught me a bit off-guard.
When I first got here I had to ask a lot of questions. I couldn’t understand why things weren’t happening efficiently. I had to get to the bottom of processes and thought patterns.
I’ve been here 5 months and I got a bit cocky. I’ve been out of touch with my empathy. Out of touch with what the reality still is in the village.
On April 29th, the weaving manager called from the village to tell us he had run out of cotton. Luckily, Kongkea was heading to Takeo the following day to set up our new office(!) and could pick some up in Phnom Penh. I thought the crisis was averted.
Joellen and I arrived in Takeo on Tuesday (May 4th) and learned that not only had we run out of cotton inventory in the office, but also a couple of the weavers had used up all of the cotton on their looms. So, two weavers were sitting with empty looms. Waiting and twiddling their thumbs. Just hanging out. It takes 7-10 days to dye and prepare the warp, which is the cotton that runs lengthwise on a loom.
I kept asking the manager why he didn’t anticipate this situation. I couldn’t fathom why the warp hadn’t been ready and waiting when the weaver finished. I was fuming. Frustrated. At my wit’s end.
And then it came to me clearly – the manager doesn’t know how to anticipate. He’s never been asked to anticipate before. He’s never been taught how to anticipate. Of course, everything in Cambodia is about surviving today. It’s not that he hasn’t heard me ask, but he doesn’t know how to do what I’ve asked. Man, I felt silly and stupid then.
Joellen and I put together a lesson on how to think ahead and how to back into a production calendar. We led an exercise that felt like a logic problem. “If the weaver finishes on the 20th, then what do we have to do to make sure she can start a new pattern on the 21st?” Then we backed through each and every step, discussed how long it would take, and wrote it on a calendar.
So now our focus is on setting up the new field office in Takeo and training our staff. We have to seriously invest in their education and the only way to do that is to be more present. So for the next couple weeks, Push Pull will be in the village at least once a week for two to three days. Jo and I were planning to alternate until we realized that she’s heading back to the States on Saturday for a month. So, she’s in the village this week. Next Wednesday, I’ll head down to Takeo for a few days.
So, have tools on teaching? Know some important business lessons? Or how to teach management? Send those resources my way. Class will be back in session very soon.