Two Days in Bangkok
July 19, 2013
Good Shephers Sisters - Bangkok entrance
Upon returning to BKK from Nong Khai, (which is in the north east of Thailand, not the north west, as one of my astute readers pointed out to me) I was met at the airport by Sister Louise who escorted me to her facility in central Bangkok. This a very large facility that I had visited on a prior occasion.
Good Shepherd Sisters – Chiang Rai preschool
On this one property they have a preschool for nearly 100 children ages 3-6 from the nearby slum community.
Good Shepherd Sisters – Chiang Rai sewing room

They have a pre- and post-natal care center for about a dozen unwed mothers, a live-in shelter for about 65 at risk young women, an extensive center for training in computers, cooking, baking, hair dressing, make up, massage, reflexology, sewing, and probably some other skills I’m neglecting to mention. In addition to all that they also operate a large sewing center employing 130 women, some of them from the shelter and some of them mothers of the children in the day care center. This is an impressive, modern facility with about 100 women working on machines and another 30 doing hand work including embroidery, cross-stitch, quilting, and the like.

Interestingly, not unlike the situation at Nong Khai, Sister Louise wanted me to do some team building among the leaders of the various groups in their sewing center. So, we met as a group of those 14 women, plus Sr. Chalaad who did a fine job of assisting me with interpretation. Sister Louise began the meeting with her introductory remarks and sat in on the first few minutes of discussion. Then, we “dismissed” her so we could get some “real and important work” done. She departed with a good laugh. Her staff got a kick out of her dismissal as well.

Good Shepherd Sisters – Chiang Rai group session
Similar to the previous work in Nong Khai, we divided into small groups of four or five people and began with an open discussion about why teamwork was important and why they thought they should spend their time working on improving teamwork.
Heaven at Good Shepherd Sisters – Chiang Rai

They came up many “constructive responses” to this and enthusiastically wanted to proceed. So we did the “Team From Hell” and the “Team From Heaven” exercises.

And when we assessed where they are now the pattern was similar to what we found in Nong Khai, with the exception that, when asked where they wanted to be, they all said “Heaven” — as you can see in this photo.

Good Shepherd Sisters – Chiang Rai session results
With this as a frame of reference, the path to travel towards better teamwork became clear. The next day (after my most interesting commute through BKK traffic {see below}), we spent a lot of time on the question of “What do you need to do your very best work — as a team?” This brought a blizzard of needs and ideas up to the board — all in Thai language, of course. Later, as I listened to Sr. Chalaad tell me what these needs were it looked like they could be sorted into four “buckets”. So, I tested that notion.
Good Shepherd Sisters – Chiang Rai team sorting
Team Sorting
Once the four buckets of: (a) Clear, accurate order information, (b) Production scheduling (individual jobs and all jobs collectively), (c) Group relationships and how we treat one another, and (d) Skills training and development were posted and explained to them we confirmed that those were, in fact, the correct four buckets. With that agreed upon, the teams went to work to put all the ideas/needs into the appropriate buckets. Again, with enthusiasm, they rearranged the needs and ideas, eliminating duplications until they were satisfied that all of the dozens and dozens of ideas were in the proper buckets.
Good Shepherd Sisters – Chiang Rai needs "buckets"

Next, we had the “where do we go from here?” question and discussion. After a time, we agreed that teamwork was not about just coming up with a bunch of good ideas. Teamwork is also about consolidating all those good ideas into a workable plan and presenting that plan to “management” for review, perhaps modification, and approval to proceed. Turns out this notion is a bit intimidating — perhaps because of the Sisters’ absolute authority, blended with Thai culture. Anticipating this, I had an agreement with Sr. Louise that she would openly welcome input from the group about these important issues.

We talked about the need sometimes to “be brave” and what that meant in their particular environment. Pretty soon, they each decided that they were willing to “be brave” and take their recommendations to the Sisters. Each of the four areas of concern soon had a volunteer Team Leader and two, or three, or four team members. Each Team Leader has committed to condense their issue into a one or two page summary, along with specific recommendations for addressing the issue, and scheduling a meeting with the Sisters. And, each Team Leader has committed to a deadline for completing that work.

Good Shepherd Sisters – Chiang Rai team

So, we ended with a clear focus on the four areas they identified as important to improving their teamwork and productivity. Each area now has a Team Leader and an action plan for proceeding.

Late in the day Sr. Louise rejoined the meeting to hear from the group what they had been doing all day long, to hear from the four Team Leaders about their commitments, and to make a few concluding remarks of her own. She was openly supportive.
Good start, I think. We’ll check on progress in a few months.

Oh Yeah … here’s my note about the commute in Bangkok traffic:

When I left Nong Khai I flew directly to Bangkok so that I could spend two more days working with the Good Shepherd Sisters there. They were quite accommodating and picked me up at the airport and drove me to their facility.

Late that afternoon I needed to get to my hotel so they summoned a taxi for me. Off we go … into the BKK commute traffic … traffic from hell. Sometimes we would sit for at least 5 minutes without moving an inch. I did not keep track of the time but it was way, waaaay more than an hour. Probably closer to an hour and a half. Finally we got within a couple of blocks of my hotel so I just got out of the taxi and walked with my baggage the rest of the way.

The next morning, needing to return for another all-day meeting, I figured I’d better find a better way to make that journey. So, I walked two blocks to the Sky Train. Traveled one stop. Got off. Walked downstairs two levels to the Subway. (A new experience for me. I’m an old hand at the Sky Train, but a Subway virgin.) Rode two stops on that. Got off. Surfaced. Found a motorbike taxi. Finally got him to understand where I wanted him to take me. Mounted up. Headed into the insufferable traffic to begin the weave. Right of cars. Left of cars. Between cars. Everything but over the cars. Might have even touched the sidewalk a time or two. Took me right to the door of where I wanted to be. All in one piece.

Time: less than a half hour. Cost for all three fares: Less than a quarter of the cost of the taxi ride.

The return that afternoon was the same but in reverse, of course … and no difficulty getting the motorbike driver to understand where I wanted to go this time. “MRT – Train” was all I needed to say.

This travel pattern works really well. Just don’t tell my mother that I rode on the motorbike.