Tanzania does not have much of a culture of prevention yet. This is what businesses are up against here, the ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ mindset. Trouble with that and motorcycle maintenance (or any kind of maintenance of course) is that to ignore a problem that is developing is to prepare yourself for a bigger problem and potential accident in the future. It’s this culture that meant that the eRanger ambulance motorcycles, donated by the Tanzanian government to hospitals around the country, stopped working after 1000 km. They were not maintained, the locals didn’t know how and they didn’t assign a priority to the task. That's how they ended up in Claire's workshop to be repaired.
An example of this attitude of just making do for now became apparent while I was on Safari. We noticed at the start of day 3 that the Toyota Land Cruiser had a flat tyre. We told the driver that morning. To his credit, we did then go to a Maasai camp and they had a truck with a compressor. Our driver said it was just a slow puncture, no need to change it. By lunchtime it had gone nearly flat again. This time he confidently said he had “fixed it”, which of course meant more air was pumped in.
So naturally two hours later it went completely flat on a dirt track in the Serengeti and the car was rendered undrivable. This meant the driver had to get out of the car and change the wheel. It’s a good job we weren’t in the Tze Tze fly area! Or on that ford with the crocodiles on one side and the hippos on the other. Or next to the Lions for that matter. They may be well fed but perhaps want to see if we really do taste like chicken.
A pyramid schema
Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper, A Theory of Human Motivation.
Maslow's theory posits that a human’s basic needs must be fulfilled before he/she can go on to more complex tasks, such as planning ahead and self improvement. He later graphically represented this as a pyramid.
At the bottom tier are the basics, as you achieve stability in physiological requirements such as food and drink, shelter etc. you are then able to move up and prioritise other needs, until you reach a peak, something called self- actualisation.
So, in Tanzanian mindset we're still at the bottom tier. I need to earn money because today I need to eat, I will do whatever I can to ensure my survival, I do not wish to start to use Excel, create a gant chart to plan my month ahead or to do something to prevent my bike breaking next week because I need all my time to deal with staying alive today.
Birth of the Toyota Way & Kaizen
To an extent, this was how the UK was before the Japanese principles of Kaizen (continuous improvement philosophy) were introduced into manufacturing, just after the second world war (with the help of US management coaches), initially to car production (you may have heard of the Toyota Way? worth reading about. The principles are still practised today by the company) but then exported around the world and applied to different industries.
In practice, it went something like this. A car would be on a production line and, say, it was time for a door to go on. Only it didn’t fit, something was wrong. The old system was to then send that car to a ‘rectification’ room where it was made to fit somehow, with some jiggery pokery. Then Kaizen came into being. Instead of being sent to the rectification room, the operative would slam his hand on a big red button by his station and all work would stop. The fault was then investigated with all staff and management and a root cause analysis was performed to find out what went wrong.
In this hypothetical case, a screw hole was drilled incorrectly because someone had knocked the machine during lunch. This machine was then repaired and work could resume after the normal checks and balances. Perhaps people would be told to eat outside in future, as well as given a bench. It was the birth of many philosophies of thought around process improvement practices.
No, not NOW Eckhart!
Of course, Tanzania is a long way from this just yet. In the West there’s a lot of encouragement from self-improvement gurus advising people to live in the present moment, in the 'now'. But it needs to be clarified this is a luxury, the preserve for cultures who are not starving or having to fight to protect their livelihoods every day.
There’s a huge drawback to the people of Tanzania with just living in the ‘now’. It means that tomorrow your ‘now’ will not be much different from yesterday’s ‘now’. When yesterday’s ‘now’ was a day you only just got by, by whatever hand to mouth means available to you, then the outlook is bleak for all your tomorrows.
But I don’t like to focus on the negative. Change is certain and change did happen for the economies of the West, but it took a free market to make it happen, respect for the rule of law and relatively low levels of corruption. In this day and age, when free market principles are being threatened by a resurgence of protectionist policies, I wonder if change will happen for developing nations as quickly as we in the West experienced it?
There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all - Peter Drucker