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Letters to a Young Manager

Selling Relief Goods, #514
LTYM > Culture

Dear Sophie,
I agree that we often make judgements without asking people what their intent was. And we assume the worst!

The CEO of a global international organization was visiting a food security program during a widespread famine in Ethiopia, his home country. He saw some people selling some of the relief items in the black market. When he confronted the community elder about this, he confirmed it. These these items were for basic human needs. They were being sold for cash, he thought, rather than providing for the families.

When asked why he was selling them, the elder responded, "Don't you think we know what our family needs and selling some of the items allows us to buy other items we need?"

The CEO responded, "You're right; you should decide".

The elder's intent was to provide for his family, the same goal the relief organization had. We needed to trust that he understood his family's needs.

In our organizations, we would do well to trust that people have good intent.
Sincerely yours,



Trust that people know how to manage their lives

Discussion Questions:

1. What are the ways that organizations don't trust their own people?
2. We need to ensure auditors what we are protecting against fraud and theft; this is basic to a corporation. How would you ensure adequate protection while giving your people the freedom to manage their teams and departments?
3. Is the black market a legal use of donated goods? Was the CEO right in his final judgment? Why or why not?
4. What are the cultural and context considerations in this case?

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