by Mohamed Keynan
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Rarely do organizations or groups of people come together without reasons. Organizations are formed to accomplish specified goals and people usually come together for a purpose. Having a well-articulated and inspiring mission is a plus for any purpose, but it is not nearly enough. We also need a vision of success. While an organization’s mission will tell us why it exist, a vision of success will describe the far more important work of how an organization should look like when its functioning well and when it has accomplished significant goals given what its society demands and in relations to its environments. Clarifying specified mission and developing succinct vision of success is particularly important for public and non-profit organizations as they are tasked with special civic responsibilities.
And there are other reasons. Societies with a defined vision of success are far more likely to have a "shared concept" of what a future success is and more significantly how such a "success" is to be achieved. Moreover, a discussion of a vision of success can clarify where we are now, where we need to be, and how we should bridge potential gaps. Hence, such a discussion could lead to a consensus about means and ends. In my practice as a research analyst, I often find that clients show great difficulties articulating desired outcomes if they cannot conceive what their success vision looks like. Think about an architect who designs a house for which he has no deeper appreciation of how the final product will look. She is unlikely to stay in business that long. Developing a vision of success is a hard work that requires flexible attitude because we are in fact "inventing" a future that has not yet arrived. It requires team work, cooperation, faith - and like Jazz, improvisation is the rule.
Can We Learn and Thrive?
In many societies today, people are facing what leadership guru, Ronald Heifetz, calls "Adaptive" challenges – that is, issues that cannot be resolved with what we know now or by repeating what we have done previously. Resolving adaptive challenges require changes in fundamental beliefs and behaviors as well as learning news ways of solving problems. Stakes are higher with adaptive challenges, either people learn, change and thrive or they perish. A mediocre existence is probably still an alternative. Since our people have survived over two
decades of war with little help, I’m pretty confident we can learn and develop adaptive capacities to deal with current adaptive challenges – and we will at last thrive. However, much work remains to be done. The starting line is to develop a vision of success, and this work must start with individual Somalis within the country and abroad.
Can We Prioritize?
Let’s face it, we have multiple loyalties –we are to be loyal to our families and friends, to organizations we work for, to our tribesmen, and still to our country. The same is true of our faith systems. Obviously, how deeply loyal we are to be to our immediate family is markedly different from that demanded by an organization we work for, our country, our tribal groups and religious affiliations. Yet at any moment, any of these identities are pulling us in different directions. Clearly, we have to manage the demands of these various identities reasonably well or things can easily get out of hands. Our tribal loyalties went a bit far in the 1990’s for far too many but I think most of us have started to manage this issue. Wouldn’t you agree we are making a progress? A quick check then: Are you for or against a federal system of governance? How about Mogadishu’s place as our Country’s capital City? Should it be defined clearly in the constitution? Lastly, are you as annoyed as I’m when the political debate of the day about the constitution becomes the future leadership rights of Somali women?
In each case, before we take a clear stand on these issues, we must prioritize our various loyalties. Our many identities do not and should not have equal weight and not all issues have equal weights at any times. To resolve our festering issues, an honest assessment must be done to prioritize issues. Regrettably, no "objective" assessment tool will do the work – remember, adaptive issues are about deeply held values and they are also about our feeling towards each other. A much better and rather subjective way to manage such issues is for each of us to honestly think about what Somalia will look like if we were to succeed – a vision of success for the country. I have my image of what Somalia will look like. To get it, I will be more than happy to define Mogadishu in the constitution on "stone" and allow any future leadership role to Somali women in our constitution. If nothing else, because these two deserve much better!
Mohamed Keynan is a research analyst. He can be reached at: email@example.com