Friday, May 18, 2007



It's been a time of revisiting principles and looking inwards at what I believe an organisation and its people should be and believe in. Massar started almost from its inception with a sheet of project principles, which became part of the employment conversation with all incoming team members. It wasn't contractual, but it was intended to ensure they understood what was expected beyond the 9 to 5. The principles read as follows:


The way we will run this project:

· Nationally. This project is for the benefit of, and should feel owned by, all the people of Syria.

· Independently - from overt political, commercial or personal interests, messages and agendas.

· Responsibly. We will not forget that we are spending other people’s money, and creating something with public impact. We will manage robustly and with accountability.

· Cost effectively. This means selecting options that provide the greatest lifetime value, not necessarily the cheapest option.

· To high quality standards. This does not mean gold-plated solutions, but fitness for purpose.

· Collaboratively. We will treat stakeholders, users and suppliers as partners. We will listen to others, and spread involvement as widely as is practical.

· Modestly. This project is not for our personal advancement or profile.

· Openly. We will be transparent and honest, even with the bad news. We will communicate actively.

· Innovatively. We will be unafraid to break new ground whenever it is the right way forward.

· Passionately. We will drive constantly to achieve our targets, and will be completely committed to the project and its vision.

· We will always have a bias for action.


The principles underpinning this project are:

· Syrian. It comes from Syria’s own vision, is managed by Syria, and designed for this country and people.

· Our users. The empowerment of our users matters above anything else. The ONLY point of our existence is to create benefits for them.

· Completely accessible by all. No person should feel “this is not for me”, because of their gender, background, education, location, economic circumstances or physical disability.

· Learning and growth. The essence of the experiences will be personal development through enjoyment.

· The involvement of The First Lady does not give us prestige or an easy ride. Our projects have to succeed on their own terms.

· To international standards. We will produce outcomes to stand comparison with anything else the world can offer.

· Enduring and growing. What we deliver will be long-lasting and a catalyst for future development and initiatives.


We will behave towards each other:

· With openness.

· With trust and respect.

· With a positive attitude.

· As equal partners in a common cause.

· With humour.

I'm proud of these principles; I think they have stood the test of usage in Massar. There have been many occasions when we have made hard decisions on the basis of them, and had the comfort of knowing that we did the right thing, whatever others might have preferred. Massar is a stronger organisation, a stronger concept, by being driven by principles and values, and by those values being baked into the whole team.

The problem with principles, though, is that you have to live by them always. If circumstances involve compromising princples, there may be a distance you can travel, some flexibility. But ultimately, you come to a point where you have to say the principles can't be moved any further.

Massar as a concept must be fast-moving, risk-taking, as our client put it once: "a small revolution". It has to push the envelope if it is to mean anything; it has to open new windows; it has to challenge the status quo. The things it cannot be are institutional, cautious, slow, predictable, establishment. Yet right now, these are the very qualities Massar is most at risk of ingesting from its parent body. I fear further dilution of Massar's original spirit, through organisational correctness, bureaucracy and conformity. It's time to stand up, whatever the consequences.

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