Project: Customs Reform Project in AFGHANISTAN
Client Organization: Afghanistan Customs Department (ACD), Ministry of Finance
Donor: Department for International Development (DFID), GOV UK
Description of the Assignment: As part of the Customs Reform Project, the Afghanistan Customs Department (ACD) Strategy and the Border Management Initiative (BMI) the work focused on building capacity to address concerns regarding the security at the borders and the weakening revenue collection. The Custom House in Islam Qalah was selected as the pilot location. In response to the Deputy Minister’s priority the assignment also included a plan to realign Mobile Verification Teams and build capacity within the leadership cadre at the Customs Headquarters.
My Contributions: For the Islam Qalah initiative, conceptualized a strategy focusing on a three step process which produced: an assessment based on predetermined criteria; a 6 month intervention plan; and a set of implementation and monitoring procedures. This was carried out by a carefully selected Management Intervention Team (MIT) consisting of Department Managers supported by consultants. During this assignment period technical support was provided to guide and oversee the MIT activities (e.g. develop tools, the governance structure, work plans, training and reporting mechanisms) and to realign the work of Mobile Verification Teams. For the leadership cadre carried out a training needs analysis, produced a draft accountability framework for the Department, developed a one-year leadership training program and produced a business case for the establishment of an experienced team of executives to ‘shadow’ managers and executives to the desired bench strength.
Outcome: Building capability was achieved by introducing management intervention processes, practices and procedures as well as strengthening management and executive competencies. Staff supported the implementation of planned change in the workplace. Managers who contributed to the initiatives positively influenced staff through role modelling. The organization learned to mobilize resources to achieve change and effectively connect the implementation of activities with the need to monitor progress.
From my Journal: Daily interactions with everyone involved with the change initiatives were essential. In fact, the day was not complete without it. The client was motivated to reduce ineffective practices in the workplace and to acquire skills in the process. Communication was central even though most conversations were held with the assistance of translators. In this environment, emails in English have limited use; only memos required by policy are translated; and training guides are carefully reviewed to ensure core messages are clear. This is where I truly discovered the usefulness of carefully crafted visuals.
For security reasons, project teams share a guesthouse. This is the guesthouse board posted near the kitchen for consultants to indicate who is in for dinner. It also serves as a shopping list. I think the Smoked Salmon was written with permanent ink.