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Learnings from trip to the Middle East

After the COVID hiatus, ABM Risk Partner Tony Anderson visited the Middle East recently and noticed what had changed and what had stayed the same. And even this frequent traveller had to relearn how to get through airport security – he was sent back twice!

Here are his thoughts:

Remote work has been embraced

In the last couple of years, remote tools have enabled considerable amounts to be achieved and harnessing software such as Microsoft Teams and Project have been invaluable. They are now essential for organising projects, sharing documents and on-going contact.

Face to face is still the preference

Nonetheless, there has always been a strong preference for face to face meetings in the Middle East and this has not changed. As soon as restrictions were eased, my contacts made it clear they would like to see me, even with this meaning they would incur travel expenses.

Remote or travel?

I noticed that the impacts I was able to achieve on site and in-person would have taken more time if done remotely – in that sense face-to-face is better than “face-to-screen”, but it does take travel time and cost. Remote work is successful but might take a greater man-hour investment to achieve the desired high quality result. So, is there a clear decision pathway? To me, the client relationship may be the determinant – if your deliverable is an easily defined packaged then stand-alone remote operation is probably ideal. If your project is to become a program and go further to embed into company culture, then sustainability and continual improvement are vital with significant benefits from time on site. Face to face enhances the effectiveness of face to screen.

Keen to collaborate

I did see an increased desire to collaborate with peers, even from ‘competitor’ companies. The sharing of non company-specific IP and the desire to see better implementation has long been a part of the safety and risk discipline’s ethos, but it was still great to see how many people were keen on user groups/forums/communities of best practice with people from across their sector.

Systems need a continual improvement loop

This is a general learning but reinforced by one particular experience – a well-structured system implemented a decade ago can, without continual improvement, become very cumbersome and fall short in key areas. If any of your processes are the same year in year out, without any form of review, now is the time to look at improving them.

My final thought to ponder relates to the stricter controls applied to a lower risk environment - every person on my long-haul flights had a QR Code attesting to a very recent negative COVID test in addition to boosted on-board air circulation and upgraded cleaning protocols. Once out in the community, controls are relaxed, yet the inherent risk is greater.

It will be interesting to see how things have changed when I return in a few weeks.


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