Lessons from Work

Communication:  Working on the stairs on the construction project,  there were multiple changes from the blueprints we had, some by the architect, some in the project itself, and we didn’t have a bar bending schedule.  I tried to use specific terms (rise and tread on stairs) to talk about the project.  I got a lecture from Maiyo about using terms used by those on the ground.  Those terms are insufficient for staying on spec..  They said step.  I asked for the definition of step, and unfortunately, they misdefined it to be the same thing as “tread”.  On a stair case you take one more step than their on treads (you either count the landing or the floor above/below).  Anyway, especially without a good drawing (a key to later success) it is very very difficult to get your point across to people who don’t know trig and are working in their third language.  Lesson: define your terms, draw big, draw clear, and draw early.

Levels of management: On this same issue with the stairs and we, at a number of times had two levels of management above the worker working at once.  This might be necessary to ensure everyone knows whats up especially when translation is needed.  However, it is very difficult especially on the guy at the bottom having one guy on your shoulder, and another a meter or two away judging everything.  Lesson: teach methods, set standards, make sure it is understood, and get out of the way.

Friday afternoon we finally had all the expectations clear and they were able to tell me to go away for 10 (read 70) minutes for them to finish doing a good job.  By the very end of the day we were able to be all smiles after two days of arguing over and redoing a job already done once.

I then planned to get pictures printed for the group in Nairobi, but that Friday night, a visiting staff asked if I needed anything to print.  They loved the pictures.


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