Friday, 13 March 2009

Lemon Tree

I have had the strangest day today, which I can’t explain but will try to describe. The day started with what has become the customary greeting from my client Mr Dung, which sounds like, baan kaw hoya (tone going down) ghum (tone going up)? Which means, how are you? My response is always a smile and the phrase toy hoya, meaning I am fine.

I had discovered earlier this week that Mr Dung had never used the computer which sits on the large desk in his very large office. This is 1 of the 2 computers owned by the company and I learned that Mr Dung has it, not to use for work but as a status symbol. As he had some availability today and I had been having no joy with the other employees, I offered to show him how to use it. This is when it all got a bit strange. We were sat trying out some of the functionality of Word, when suddenly 2 guys arrived to connect the computer to the internet. As we couldn’t use the computer while they were working on it, Mr Dung announced that we should do karaoke! This is a very popular past time in Vietnam so he plugged the karaoke machine into the TV, which is also in his office, and we began to sing. Dung, my interpreter, decided that she and I should sing Lemon Tree by Fool’s Garden. What an appropriate choice, I thought, as I was starting to feel a bit of a lemon myself at this point – how basic computer training turned into karaoke, I will never know. Mr Dung followed this with a rousing performance of a popular Vietnamese song.

We returned to his office after the customary 2 hour lunch break and I introduced Mr Dung to the internet. He started to surf the web and I showed him the online IBM toolkit for small businesses (called the IBM SME toolkit) which offers free advice and is available in a variety of languages including Vietnamese. After spending some time reviewing this, he announced that he wanted to have the company networked and that Arjan (our group techie) could come in and help with this. He followed this announcement, with another bombshell, which was that his company was going to be inspected in a months time for their ISO 9001:2000 certification and that he wanted me to help ensure that they were ready for it! This is the first time he had mentioned this and I know enough about ISO certification to know that it takes a lot more than 1 person and 2 weeks to prepare for it. He had essentially asked me to boil the ocean. I went into expectation management over drive and with a smile on my face, agreed to provide some recommendations for the company based on the industry, company and process analysis I had done and the things I have heard and observed over the past 2 weeks. These I said would help them on the journey towards certification. All I can say is the work just keeps getting more and more bizarre.