Throughout corporate Arabia from the boardroom to the grounds men the commonly used term ‘Inshallah’ rings alarm bells and raises red flags for anyone who comes across it. No longer is it the honor binding pledge of trust and only God can come between us! Now it’s become an excuse to procrastinate or excuse oneself from an event or making a decision. It’s as easy as that say ‘inshallah’ and it becomes the slimy, wriggling out clause.
Inshallah is a noble saying added on the end of an intention to keep ones word or engage in a future event. This term invites Gods trust to limit or mitigate any risk of that event being sabotaged.
For those of who have no idea what I am talking about, the Arabic term Inshallah translates as God willing. This term is widely used throughout the Muslim world and here in the Arab Gulf it is used commonly by all whether Muslim, Christian, Western, Expat or Atheist.
Whilst researching the origins of this term I came across advice which made me nod vigorously in agreement at the warning that said “be aware” of the misuse of the term Inshallah, stating “that in many instances when there is not a hope in hell of something happening, it is thrown in for good measure.” (www.grapeshisha.com/culture/inshallah.html)
The number of times I hear conversations such as, “Will the report be ready for tomorrow? “The team meeting will be at 8am sharp!” Without any hesitation the answer will be ‘inshallah’. Nine out of ten times I know neither the report, PM or team will materializes on time! And the strangest thing is that no one is held accountable and no consequences for the biggest abusers of this term.
Major construction projects use ‘inshallah’ shamelessly when asked about handover dates, pending milestones and information. Residential developments commonly run 2-3 years late, over budget and quality drastically cutback. Some projects still have no end in site leaving customers helpless and frustrated. Some infrastructure projects span years pleading contractor ‘issues’ I do sit and wonder if the accounts department told them ‘inshallah we’ll pay you’ and then forgot and ‘surprise!’ it becomes a new issue when the contractors ‘down their tools!’
As a witness to this modern phenomenon my opinion is that people who use ‘Inshallah’ wrongly can be categorized as follows:
Category 1 – Senior Executives & PM’s
- These individuals fail to understand that when they use Inshallah wrongly they do not lead by example and lose respect of those they manage.
- This category failure to deliver on their “Inshallah’ decisions or actions this results in frustration, increased risks and gridlock for those in the project who depend on them.
Category 2 – Middle Managers including Project Managers
- Some in this category parade around as if they are empowered enough to make decisions or take action but clearly seem to be paralyzed and don’t. Maybe because these decisions are made elsewhere in the organisation and imposed on them. So they too are caught up in an Inshallah gridlock but fail to admit it or change it.
- There are those who use this term to dodge decision-making and accountability by doing nothing. They sit on the fence expecting others to speak and make noise so there is no come back on them. These procrastinators clearly don’t have the skills and competencies for their position and need to be exposed as they are a liability for the individuals and teams under them.
To all those in the above categories, I say either lead, deliver or get out the way!!
Category 3 – Everyone else
- Team and department members become forced to use this term wrongly with each other and with vendors, contractors and stakeholders. In the pits of their stomachs they know they can’t deliver as they too become victims of the management ‘inshallah’ gridlock.
As harsh and critical as I may sound but the end result of the “inshallah gridlock’ is increased risks to project deliverables, deadlines, communication breakdown and threatened team harmony as individuals then fight for survival.
This situation can easily be solved through effective Project management training, more open and honest communication and appropriate disciplinary measures, however the first step is to identify the offenders and their reasons for misusing this term.
I do believe it is time to separate the genuine inshallah’s from the fake ones and once again restore faith and principle back to this noble term and those who use it.