An Australian volunteer who was doing whatever volunteers do in PNG.
I was there for 2 years until Dec 2005 .. I hope I made the most of it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Memo Crazy

I don't write much about my work. Maybe that is because there is not a lot to tell. But as that is all I am doing these days (no trips planned away - not counting the one home anyway, more about that in a later post as changes are afoot), I guess it should be time for me to elaborate about a bit of work culture I have witnessed.

The big difference for me working here as to anywhere else in the past, is the old school reliance on Memorandums as a communication tool. Maybe I have just bypassed the companies/organisation that still use things and gone directly into the ones that are enlightened and have entered in the electronic age.

Here though it seems that this organisation would fall apart if memos where not used. Everything it seems is communicated using these babies. I am no tree-hugging hippy but do have green tendencies and to me it seems like such a huge waste of paper. In fact I have stack of memos sitting on my small desk that only slightly, partially, briefly relates to me (nothing I can't find out in a meeting anyway - and invariably get told about it then as well).

During the student strikes at the start of September, the memo craze got turned up a notch with student body sending out about three or four official notices every day and then posting them up all over campus. In return the Administration responded with their own memos, which got posted up. I can see a need for memo in this case as it really is the way to communicate to the student population, but the volume created was pretty excessive.

I guess maybe that is partially related to the Melanesian culture. Any sort of issue, point or information will get discussed to death. Case in point is on my first trip to Mt Hagen when I saw the compensation ceremony, it was literally discussed for hours and they had even pre-arranged the outcome beforehand.

Go to any get-together like a party or celebration and there will be guaranteed to be speeches, where whoever has the floor will discuss not just the reason they are all gathered but probably national politics as well.

So in terms of using memos and multiple memos and official memos, this is just another way for whoever is writing them to get their point across, whether it is truly required or not.

It is one of those little cultural differences that you notice, especially where in Australia we are more direct and things usually just get done, it is discussed and planned as in so much as needed to and then it happens.

Which brings me to the office renovations. We have got the posts cemented in and the joists are on top and so it has stayed for the last two weeks. Workmen who were on site everyday are now no where to be seen. Apparently there has been the usual complication of cash-flow, i.e. they need us to give them money up-front to keep going.