Another dot in the blogosphere?

Been there, done that

Posted on: September 20, 2021

Today I reflect on what a tragedy on the international stage and work in the local arena have in common. 

The US military conducted two drone strikes as it left Afghanistan. The first got its intended target while the second was a horrific mistake. The latter not only got the wrong person, it also killed seven children. [1] [2] [3]

On 11 September, the New York Times published its investigation of the second drone strike.

Video source

It revealed that the target, Zemari Ahmadi, was an aid worker of non-profit called Nutrition and Education International. He had no links to terrorism. 

It explained how the children became victims and provided evidence of how the supposed secondary explosion was not due to a car packed with explosives.

The US military admitted to this awful mistake one week later on 18 September.

Video source

There will be much commentary and critique from politicians, news anchors, and experts. Rightly so because the US military needs to be held accountable.

The rest of us might take a principle away from this: It is critical to have an outside perspective. Not only does an outside agency provide a check and measure, it helps cover blind spots.

For example, organisations have external audits because they cannot trust themselves to be objective about their own processes. How can they if they have self-interest, internal bias, and blind spots to contend with?

Individuals from the outside do not have the same blind spots simply because they are outsiders. They offer perspectives that the audited organisations do not have.

This assumes that both the organisations and the auditors behave professionally, of course. The organisations need to be open to examination and the auditors need to use multiple methods and sources.

I have had the privilege of working with different organisations when I was a professor and now as a consultant. I enjoy getting new perspectives from clients and I know I have given them something crucial to think about or act on.

But I have also met representatives from some organisations who are insincere, indecisive, or insecure. They say one thing and either do something else or they do not follow up. 

Organisations would rather just keep doing what they are already doing. The problem with this is that they are not held accountable if they cover up mistakes or if their current processes lead to mistakes. 

In the US, the press has the freedom to poke its nose into just about anything without it being cut off or ending up too bloody. The press is an outside check and measure. 

In my own work, I need to be invited to be that professional outsider. I am impressed when organisations make that move and I leave critical impressions when I provide my services. But I am also disappointed when they make promises and do not deliver.

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