Of Villains and Victories

A few years ago, I received an email that was more like a thesis detailing my shortcomings. It was authored by a prominent business leader in the CSP I was working for. My fault: I was “showing reluctance” in helping the company address in its fight against revenue leakages. As a result, his team was being forced to identify leakages, in effect doing “YOUR” job. The  word: “YOUR” was in capital letters, bold and underlined. The latest leakage was proof of “YOUR” utter failure in “supporting the business, clearly abdicating YOUR role”. Those who have been in RA for some time know the utter shame that the RA guy feels when a leakage happens under his watch. It need not be something he did or did not do, it may not matter if it was somebody else to blame: the leakage simply haunts you. It keeps you awake. There is no need for somebody else to remind you of that mishap, or many others that have assaulted your spirit in this world of CSPs. In those lonely moments of self-flagellation, the last thing you need is some sucker helping you, particularly when his assistance is only in the form of whipping the areas you cannot reach.

Thus it came to pass that on a fine morning, I was summoned to give account of my failings. I hung my head in shame and shuffled to this business leader’s office intent on atoning for my sins, committed and yet-to-be-committed. He had gathered his team around his huge desk, no doubt, to barbecue me in front of the masses as a lesson to other RA folk who might be nursing ideas of abdicating “THEIR” roles. It did not take long for me to realize that the leakage that had been identified by HIS team (because of MY failure in this job) was only ferreted out using a report that I had painstakingly designed and scheduled to be going out regularly to that particular team. The report would show instances and quantification of the type of leakage that I was now guilty of “not” addressing.  I pointed out this interesting turn of events but this guy was a real piece of work. He wouldn’t budge. Here was a man who really liked the taste of his foot in the mouth and I was interfering with his culinary experience.

Fortunately, I have now been in this business for a number of years, my hide has thickened and my blood pressure has settled quite close to the medically-safe limit. I hardly use swear words – because I have already exhausted the whole set of invectives that constitute my sailor’s thesaurus and I hate repetition. I consider it to be beneath a self-respecting sailor to recycle 4-letter words. Neither do I seethe inwardly – if I did, I would already have exploded a few years ago and in a fit of rage, mowed down a whole village using automatic gunfire. When I am really mad, I find it intensely therapeutic to think of how wonderful it would be if all countries joined together and established an Imbecile Processing Zone (IPZ) where each region could export the finest of idiots to compete against the crème de la crème of fools from other countries. Think of gladiators in the arena but this time fill the arena with fools of every race, creed and color. Over the years, I have built an impressive list of my nominations to be unveiled one day, when this dream IPZ comes into being. This guy promptly went in my list as number 378. Anyway, I digress.

I sat patiently waiting for an apology, which did not come, even after it was clear that for the single finger pointing at me, four were pointing back at the owner of the hand. It is generally not a good idea to roll with pigs in the mud so I promised I would check my reluctant attitude at the door next time. Before readers think of me as a mouse, I would like to say in my defence that when I looked at the faces of the guys who were “led” by this leader, they were truly embarrassed on behalf of their boss. I had been in the trenches with them and they knew if I was reluctant or committed. That is all that mattered.

I was reflecting on this last week as I wondered what I have really learnt about RA. Thinking of that incident, it reminded me of what we all set out to achieve in RA space. What we all want to see, at the end of our work, is an organization that has become “RA” oriented in its thinking and doing. An organization that does not look towards the few guys who work at the RA workstations but takes the challenge of revenue assurance as one of every team’s key objectives. I will be the first one to admit that I have spectacularly failed in effecting this culture change so many times that it no longer hurts as much as it used to but the wounds are still raw. However, I have also been fortunate, in this career, to have witnessed a few times, somebody in a team within the organization, living according to this ethos. For that I am eternally grateful to the gods of the RA universe. I bow down to them because I know my evangelism has sown some seeds somewhere.

As 2014 came to a close and one more year of this evangelism cycle starts, I hope to gain just one more follower in the organization who will take upon himself the challenge of being RA-aware in his work. If more followers should be found, I shall bless the gods of RA universe even more but for now, just one more follower will do. Should that happen, I think it might just make up for the apology that I never received, years ago from idiot number 378.

The music I hear is the sound of those sparse victories, that graced our past and the beginnings of the few that are yet to come, laced with Auld Lang Syne.

Joseph Nderitu
Joseph Nderitu
Joseph Nderitu is a consultant who specializes in revenue assurance. He is currently contracted as Head of Revenue Assurance and Fraud Management at Vodacom's operation in Tanzania, having previously served in the same role at Vodacom Mozambique.

Before his work with Vodacom, Joseph was an internal audit manager for Airtel, with responsibility that covered their 17 countries in Africa. Whilst at Airtel, Joseph led reviews of the Revenue Assurance, Customer Service and Sales & Marketing functions.

Prior to his stint at Airtel, Joseph was an RA manager at Safaricom in Kenya. He holds an MSc Degree in Information Systems.