How do Measure Success?
This blog post is in response to comments made by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff regarding Canada's pull-out from Afghanistan in 2011.
The other day I was having a conversation with Ryan McDonald and Kim McDonald of UnCommon Marketing and the topic of success came up. Specifically, how do you know you have been successful? For Dexterity Consulting we measure success on several levels - the most important one is the number of dollars that go through this firm into the charitable sector. Others might measure successful business by the number of sales and the cash equivalent of those sales. Still others might look at success by way of lives affected.
How we choose to measure success frames the way we operate and the decisions we make, whether they are business decisions, life decisions or political decisions. Politics seems to be on top of mind these days (okay, when is it not). From Obama's response to the BP oil spill; to Canada's pull out strategy from Afghanistan.
We all have opinions on the actions of our leaders. These opinions are shaped by how we determine whether their approach will lead to a "successful" end. So, how do you measure success?
Yesterday, Michael Ignatieff shared with Canadians his views on the "every man, woman and piece of equipment pull-out from Afghanistan." I started to think about how we have put this finite deadline on an issue that has run through generations. What will happen when Canada pulls out? Do we care?
So, I started to ask questions. I met with Perry Berezan who has been over twice to play hockey with the troops (yes, they need some down-time too) about what he thinks about our role there. He's not a military expert, nor is he social psychologist or missionary - he is a former NHL hockey player - Calgary Flames (I must admit I was a little star-struck when we met at his downtown Calgary office). I also spoke with Michael Smith, a wealth manager based in Cochrane, Alberta who has been on the periphery of some of Afghanistan's social issues through the activities of his business colleague and his wife. Again, Mike has no real connection to the issue, but definitely has an opinion. Success for these two gentlemen looks very different, but they each articulated one central theme - success in this case means that we leave the country in a better state then when we entered.
Here's what I know about the issue:
Canada's role in Afghanistan is three-fold -
In April of this year the Canadian Military issued a report on the activities in Afghanistan.
According to this report the signature projects of the Canadian military are: Education (ensuring that all children have access to local educational institutions); Polio Vaccination Program; Dahla Dam Project (providing irrigation and potable water to farmers and rural communities in the country).
In addition to these humanitarian projects the military objectives include improving security infrastructure; border patrol between Pakistan and Afghanistan; supporting the electoral process within the country and training local forces upon Canada's withdrawal.
Whether we agree with the mission and its mandate is not what I am concerned about (with this post at least). What I want to know is, as Canadians, will be satisfied leaving Afghanistan knowing that basic needs will not be met, or they might be met, but by the Taliban and others who will fill in the vacuum upon our withdrawal?
I do not think we have achieved success if we leave the country in a more vulnerable position than when we first arrived. I do not think we have achieved success when women and girls are still being attacked trying to access education and knowledge. I do not think we have achieved success when irrigation systems and water "rights" are being managed by tribal chiefs who will sell those rights to highest bidder. Aside from NATO forces, the next group that has money are those that our troops are fighting.
For more information on project benchmarking in Afg'n.