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Coligação of the BNCs

Brazil’s BNCs held their big meeting, their Coligação, at the Casa Thomas Jefferson in Brasilia.  Ambassador Shannon gave his speech at the evening opening program. I got to give mine the next day at the opening of the working sessions.  The evening program included the round of speeches plus a chorus that sang the American & Brazilian national anthems and some selections from Andrew Lloyd Weber hits.  

Chorus at BNC

We stayed for the morning of the working sessions.  My colleagues and I presented the types of programs that could help BNCs.  I announced our new program to help the BNCs develop a program of intensive English training plus cultural aspects for U.S. universities in support of the Ciência sem Fronteiras program and during a brainstorming session we talked about how this might work. Coligação members took into account our ideas and will develop a working plan.  

Opening of BNC Coligicao

We took the occasion of the Coligação to bring together our PAOs and some leading local employees to talk about our own plans and aspirations.  Such face-to-face meetings are important to build common visions and align our own understanding of the situations we face. 

Our biggest problem is that we have too many opportunities. This really is a problem.  It is hard to prioritize among the many excellent opportunities. You always regret the road not travelled, the choice not taken.  But it is a better problem to have than the opposite. 

Of course, we have too much office work to do too. I am trying to cut that and streamline processes, so that there are fewer places where thing get stuck and fewer approvals, so that we can get away from our desks.  Our people are smart and well trained to make decisions and we need to trust their judgement and commitment.  I don't want work, in the sense of the stuff we do in the office, to get in the way of accomplishments we can make only when we are out of the office with our Brazilian partners and contacts.

Office work, like all bureaucratic tasks, accretes.  A little at a time, the rules designed to address particular problems build, like sediment at the bottom of a lake. We can always think of extra steps and necessary precautions.  One of my jobs is to keep on digging away at the accretions.  It is a job that never ends and if you ever stop working the accumulated accretions can paralyze real effort, all the while making everybody work harder.  When you see a really busy office, with everybody constantly doing the urgent tasks, this is what you are often really seeing.

I, the boss, can be among the biggest sources of needless work and I take seriously my duty to be careful.  I like to have more reports, so I know exactly what is going on.   It makes me feel secure to have control over what my colleagues are doing.  In general, however, I can trade control for innovation, but I really cannot have lots of both at the same time.

Our job is to interact with, engage and influence Brazilians.  This is what is important. All the other things we do just support these goals and are not ends in themselves.  I try to keep this foremost in my thoughts and actions, but it is not easy to resist the gravity of the office.

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Maybe you could insist on the reports being ten lines or less.

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