Postcard from Oman: The culture of human caring shines bright

John Dobbin in the Middle East

COVID-19 has certainly brought into sharp relief just how poorly some organisations are coping with radical uncertainty.

Inflexible bureaucracies are retarding the flow of critical information and knee-jerk decisions are being made in a vacuum; and many workers are suffering extreme duress from uncertainty, work/ non-work boundary erosion and, in extreme cases, the monitoring of their every interaction on digital devices. 

I am witnessing examples around the globe of wholesale failure of traditional organisational structures and leadership paradigms to withstand perturbation. The good news, at least here in the Middle East, is that the culture of human caring is shining brightly through the darkness.

The first thing the CEO of an Omani telco that I consult for did was to jump in front a video camera and broadcast a message to every staff member that the health, safety and financial security of the staff and their families, were the number one priority. Not the customers, not the shareholders, but the staff! And every action since then, even if sub-optimally executed, has been consistent with that proclamation. I have heard similar stories from other middle eastern organisations. 

For those who have never visited the middle east, the warmth of the people is breathtaking. You don’t just launch into business conversations over here, you have sincere conversations about each other’s well being and news before getting commencing the agenda. It is slower pace than Australia.

I am busy helping clients implement adaptive organisation structures and methods — dynamic communication and collaboration networks, adaptive leadership practices and empirical workflows. My speciality is de-mathematising complexity theory: porting knowledge from complexity science into the domain of business management. A year ago, this was seen as radical. Now it is essential. 

I reside in both Dubai and Muscat. Before the virus I drove over the Hajar Mountains and across the desert once a week. Right now I’m stuck in Muscat, my wife is in Dubai and our kids are all in Sydney.

If you are ever this way, please drop me a note and we can meet over some delicious Arabian coffee.