Using Role Play to Help Cultural Communication
John: “I asked for 2 Kitenges, different sizes, with green and yellow, and I asked for money back.”
Janine: “Well how much money did you give?”
Janine: “And how much was the Fabric?”
John: “Let me just ask?”
Janine to Joseph: “No, don’t say a word. John, How much do you think the fabric was?”
Janine: “Ok, so you are expecting 300/= in return”
Janine: “Ok Joseph, how much was the fabric?”
They all started laughing.
Janine: “So, you see, Joseph could have made 700/= because you didn’t ask for a receipt.”
John: “Oh yes. I see.”
And this is the method I used to teach the Healthcare CDC manager (Nelly) and the three Division level Healthcare Field Managers the management tactic of setting expectations.
I said to Nelly, Pius, John, and Joseph – When you are ready, one of you will send the other friend to Tanzania to buy some fabric (and I motioned to my room). They laughed. As I left the living room, I heard them talking, and soon enough Pius and Joseph were at my door.
I had set up 8 fabrics and had post-its of 2 colors (in case they asked for receipts or for change). I bantered with them – the traditional greetings “Sakromwita” “Amangana” “Mbuyah” and listened to their questions about the type of fabric I had and the prices. I tried to sway their choice (seeing if that would have an effect) I also tried to overcharge and see if they would say anything like “I was sent by a friend who only wants me to spend X amount.” When they made their choices and paid (fake money of course) I bagged their fabric and tied the bag asking them not to open it when they went into the other room.
** Something was definitely lost in translation, or maybe they were just too excited because as I turned out of the hallway into the living room, both bags were open and the fabric was out. I made them come back and select again. As a note, they did not give me color or size specifications when they were shopping. **
When we were all in the same room, I question the friends. Like at the beginning of this post. John had sent Joseph, and Nelly had sent Pius. I listened to what the “senders” had requested and then I had the “sendees” repeat what they were asked to bring. There was a difference. Uh oh. Nelly had asked for a Kanga with yellow and a Kitenge with green in the print, and she had wanted different sizes, and I knew Pius had purchased a Kitenge with no yellow in it at all. (click here to read the difference between the two, Safari Maji
We talked about the difference of what is said and what is heard. I advised that a good way to make sure someone is clear on what you are asking is to have them repeat back to you what you have asked.
I continued to pick holes in their list of expectations by asking questions like “did you ask them to go on the same day? If you did not ask them to go by a certain day – you could be waiting 10 days for your fabric and you could not blame them because you did not give an expected delivery date.” After a good amount of questioning and explaining, I had the sendees get their bags and hand it to their friends. I said to them “You set expectations so you know what is in that bag, before you open it.” I had them open their bags and they laughed! The purchase was not at all what they had wanted.
I let them try again – switching roles. Nelly and Enid (her 2 year old daughter) came to “Tanzania” to purchase fabric and then it was returned to Pius. Joseph sent John to get fabric – and John was a TOUGH negotiator. I think he actually started to think there was an additional lesson outside the setting expectations one I was focused on – I don’t know if he was trying to teach it though – the art of negotiating price. It was all made up anyways, but we negotiated price – HARD. Both times the buyers asked for receipts (written on post-its). And Nelly even left only purchasing one Kanga because I didn’t have what her friend had asked for. We returned and again asked the questions of the friends – “What expectations did you set?” “Now what do you think is in the bag?”
Mixed in with this lesson was the issue of keeping someone accountable to those set expectations that they agreed to, and not getting taken advantage of. They were laughing during the lesson (which is always good), and they said “We have really understood.” We spent some time discussing the connection between the lesson and it’s transfer to the Healthcare program – managing the Field Officers and setting expectations with them so that the managers are not left with surprises. It was a fun lesson, and they really did understand; this past week they have been in meetings with me where we are listing out tasks to achieve a program goal and they start saying “Yes, and we need to set the expectations for this.”