The bad side of effectiveness

Apparently, for you and me to acquire the certification effective, at what we think and do, requires us to deliver expected outcomes for self and organisations. Really simple, is it not? There are many references to effectiveness: in strategic plans, scientific dossiers, election manifestos, curriculum vitae’s, job application letters, government policy briefs and communiqué. Effectiveness is a word we find everywhere, used by everyone, in order to satisfy what they wish and planned to achieve. In this however, lies a level of selfishness that you may not easily associate with effectiveness. After all, it is satisfying when we are effective.

In wanting to achieve our intended outcomes, we do not always consider what impact our effectiveness, has on others’ context both individual and institutional. Not many in the world, even those alluding to unity and their focus on ‘global-good’ (supra-national institutions like the EU, UN, AU) appreciate the intrinsic and selfish side of effectiveness.

Well, effectiveness cannot be that bad, why would it be? What reason do I have for going on about effectiveness and its intrinsic and selfish side?

Well, effectiveness that is built and won on the premise that it secures our intrinsic intended outcomes, does not always consider its negative impact on others.  In effectiveness is an extremely dangerous monster.

Those working for civil society organisations, international or national, should pay attention to this difficult problem. The so-called ‘do-gooders’ cannot achieve and sustain success longterm, when this intrinsic and selfish side of effectiveness manifests.

The bad side of effectiveness:

In 2011 President Sarkozy of France and Prime Minister Cameron of Great-Britian attacked Libya, and the forces of Muammar Gaddafi. American, still mired in its own want for historical recognition in Iraq, was contemptuous of joining the Sarkozy/Cameron project. Fast forward to 2015 and Muamar Gaddafi long dead, Libya is almost a failed state and creating a new problem for the Sarkozy/Cameron project legacy. Individuals, taking advantage of the lack of law and order, use Libya as the launch pad for ‘exporting’ desperate asylum seekers to Europe, in extremely dangerous boats.

What is selfish about effectiveness here? Well, the military power of France & Great Britain was no match for Muammar Gaddafi’s army. A job well done, Gaddafi overthrown, killed, and what would come next is a new nation-state, that allows access I suppose, to some of its resources like oil. For Sarkozy and Cameron, colourful biographies were in the pipeline on two bold statesmen, that saved the people of Libya. To be fair to the two, their intended outcome was achieved at that point in time, and they showed clinical effectiveness at their work.

Unfortunately, Libya today as mentioned above is a nation-state that is chaotic and creating unforeseen problems for Europe and Africa alike. Effectiveness being what it is, intrinsic, selfish and blind of its past, Europe has come up with another pretty effective solution for the new problem in Libya. Barricade itself and let the Africans, especially the poor and vulnerable, deal with their own problems.

Effective Europe at work Pic. Credit: The Economist

Effective Europe at work
Pic. Credit: The Economist

I do not want to blame all our problems in Africa on Europe, and indeed Africa should ever take on more responsibility for its own troubles. However, the latter is only fair, if the situation is not complicated by failed interventions like the one in Libya above. African leaders, led by Uganda’s Museveni cried out against action in Libya, and they have not been remiss, in reminding the world of the ill consequences of the Sarkozy/Cameron project. A project that delivered personal outcomes for the two European leaders but misery on Libya and indirectly Africa.

African leaders have the right to point at the selfish interests of their Northern exclusively caucasian peers. However, the intrinsic and selfish side of delivering our own outcomes or effectiveness is never far away from human beings. The Africans dying at sea, as a result of the Sarkozy/Cameron project, are running away from a problem in Africa. A problem, directly or indirectly, our African leaders are accountable for. Like their European peers, African leaders have their intended outcomes and they shall achieve them.

What is selfish about effectiveness here? A clear example of such outcome and the resulting selfish-effectiveness is the reaction by some African leaders regarding the operations and intentions of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Africa. If African leaders can successfully challenge the legitimacy of the ICC on themselves, then they have done well in protecting thyself. If the latter was achieved by African leadership, those exposed to dangerous seas en route Europe, will continue but at the mercy of the gods at sea and the mighty European navy.

Effective at securing ourselves, but at whose cost?

Effective at securing ourselves, but at whose cost?

Burundi is an ongoing example of individual outcomes achievement (effectiveness), and the terrible consequences on others.  What more do we have to say to prove that what is effective for one individual or nation, is not always effective for the others, especially the poor and vulnerable? The ongoing political crisis in Burundi is a classic example of selfish-effectiveness.  The president of Burundi is cleared by the constitutional court to stand for what others terms an ‘illegal’ third term in office; there is a lot of bickering and at the end of it all, and an attempted coup de tat; the president thwarts the coup, returns home and voilà! the third-term project is on course. The president has been pretty effective at securing his and cronies interests. Why would we not call that an effective outcome for the Burundian president?

What is selfish about effectiveness here? Sections of the population in Burundi, scared and desperate, are moving en masse to Tanzania and other neighbouring countries. Had the coup to succeed, and the president’s strategy declared ineffective, perhaps the trek towards Tanzania and other neighbouring countries may have stopped by now – who knows?

Effective at protecting self, but at whose cost?

Effective at protecting self, but at whose cost?

My take away:

In all three scenarios above:

– When political institutions and politicians achieve intended outcomes, those with bionic eyes will see direct or indirect cost to the poor and vulnerable
– The nature of effectiveness discussed in this blog is cumulative and seamlessly selfish i.e. smoke Muammar Gaddafi out, but when things go terribly wrong, abandon those exposed to the heat you (Sarkozy/Cameron) have created and barricade yourself in safe Europe. Protect thyself, and let those ‘born to suffer’ do so. Pretty much effective at everything they do!
– Ever vulnerable, desperate and powerless, it is the poor people in Africa that are the victims of all three scenarios above, some unfortunately, inflicted by fellow Africans

This blog is not for want of political engagement. As a matter of fact, I am pretty much apolitical. However, as believer in effectiveness and what good it brings to the world, I am saddened by the moral of effectiveness in this blog or the lack of. The desire to achieve outcomes/effectiveness can make humanity selfish after all, and is a major contributing factor to the chaos and troubles in Africa today

When the powerful in the world work on being effective at their ways, who should talk for and defend the powerless from selfish-effectiveness?

Categories: You, the Leader!


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