Today was my first day back at the IBM
office in RTP, NC, USA after being on the Executive Service Corps
assignment in Da Nang, Vietnam for almost four weeks. I have to say
that it was nice to be back, getting into the rhythm of my “day
job” - conference calls, e-mail, meetings, sametime chats. Still,
I already miss the ESC team, the IBM Vietnam team, and working with
the city departments of Da Nang. And I know that I'm going to get a
craving for My Quang in the next couple of days!
Dave, Eileen, and I were the last to
leave Da Nang. Our flight left Da Nang at 2200 on 26 May (Saturday).
This gave us most of the day to enjoy the city one more time. We
spent some time at the beach in the morning where a paragliding
competition was underway.
Since our flight left late, Dave and I
visited one of the local restaurants to have one last taste of local
fare. We didn't quite know what we ordered, but somehow, we wound up
with more food than we could eat, good company, and a great last meal
to remember from Da Nang.
Getting home from Da Nang was a long
journey – but all in all, uneventful. My flights took me through
Incheon, South Korea, then to New York City, and on to Raleigh, NC.
To get home, my first flight was a red-eye to Incheon, followed by a
13.5 hour flight back to the US. Even with that, I am convinced that
getting over a 11 hour time difference (southeast Asia) is easier
than getting over a 6 hour time difference (Europe). That said, I
was happy to have Monday off for the US Memorial Day holiday. Others
in the group had a bit of excitement – Eileen wound up spending
most of her layover in Incheon re-booking on a different set of
United Airlines flights back to Chicago. After all was done, her
scheduled arrival time in Chicago was going to be about five hours
sooner than her original schedule.
Peter and Dave made it back to San
Francisco and Connecticut, respectively with no drama for them
either. Though Dave was still battling a bit of a stomach bug even
after he returned home. He's feeling better now. Bounty, Nancy, and Lex had relatively
quick flights back to their families and all made it home safely.
Looking back on the ESC experience, I
am very happy I was able to participate in the work. I learned so
much about the culture, people, country, and the unique challenges
IBM faces as it expands quickly into growth market areas. I found a
new vacation destination – Da Nang in particular and southeast Asia
in general. And I made a new set of friends both within IBM and
outside of IBM. I learned about the challenges which the city of Da
Nang faces – and these aren't so different from what many other
cities around the world also face. I learned more about food safety
than I ever thought I would – some of it good, some of it not so
good – and I realized that just because we're used to food delivery
in one form does not mean it's the best way to do things or the only
way to do things.
I've already noticed a couple of
possible connections between my regular job and potential follow-on
projects to implement items in the roadmap we laid out for the City
of Da Nang. I suspect that more of these connections will appear in
coming months. And I do expect to continue interacting with the
local IBM team in Da Nang, answering questions, clarifying what we
intended, and finding other subject matter experts (SMEs) for the IBM
Da Nang team to call upon.
I am grateful that IBM offers employees
the chance to take part in these service corps assignments. I
believe that they help the recipients, IBM, and the IBMers who take
part. Everyone benefits in some way from the experience.
And now it's back to the task at hand –
I'm writing this blog entry late on
Friday night, Vietnam time. It's been a whirlwind couple of days
going through a final push to the finish for the Service Corps team
working with the city of Da Nang. I'll try to describe what we
accomplished over the past 48 hours.
On thursday, the whole Service Corps
team worked together to build and revise our summary presentation
which was scheduled to be presented on Friday afternoon to members of
the People's Committee for the City of Da Nang. Much work was put in
to make the presentation meaningful and concise, hitting on the
important aspects of our three weeks of work here in Da Nang. This
was no easy challenge as every team had many important pieces of
information to deliver.
The team mostly finished this work late
Thursday afternoon. But that was the English version. This put
incredible pressure on our team of translators along with IBMers from
the local IBM team from Vietnam. The translators worked tirelessly
until after midnight translating and re-translating the presentation
In parallel, each of the teams
collected the important detailed information from their three weeks
of investigation, consideration, and recommendations. This detailed
information, along with the summary presentation, was delivered to
members of the Da Nang city government via memory stick during our
final presentation. Much of the information, thanks again to our
team of translators, was also translated into Vietnamese.
Friday morning was used to go through a
dress rehearsal for the meeting in the afternoon. This included a
run through of the presentation while paper copies were being put
together. Our completed report, with details, totaled over 200 pages
Peter Williams was our designated
spokesperson for the meeting and he did a masterful job delivering
our messages. Attending the meeting was Vice Chairman Mr. Viet and
also Mr. Thanh, the most influential person in the Da Nang city
government. Mr. Thanh has brought much business and prosperity to Da
Nang and continues to do so. After a brief introduction, Peter
presented our findings to Mr. Thanh and Mr. Viet. After the
presentation, Mr. Thanh provided thoughtful comments on our findings
Here's a picture of the food safety
team, just before the summary presentation to Mr. Thanh:
The People's Committee then hosted us
for dinner at Memory restaurant, located in the city center, right
along the river. Dinner conversation was a continuation from the
afternoon meeting, where we discussed various opportunities for
growth which may be possible for Da Nang. This was an amazing day,
both in the formality and information discussed during the final
review session in the afternoon as well as during dinner following
As our time here in Da Nang comes to a
close, everyone agrees that while the city, the beach, and the food
are all amazing here in Vietnam, the most incredible aspect of
Vietnam is it's people. The people of Vietnam are wonderful to get
to know, always friendly, work very hard, and are eager to learn and
apply new technologies. I've made a number of new friends here in Da
Nang and found another place in the world where I'd like to come back
and spend more time at. This has been a great experience and I have
learned many things about Vietnam, the people of Vietnam, and myself
during the past four weeks.
One of the food safety team's
recommendations to the city of Da Nang, Vietnam, to improve food
safety, is to begin measuring success of the city's food
safety-related activities. To display this, our food safety team is
suggesting that a food safety dashboard be created and managed.
To facilitate the creation of this
dashboard, we held a cross-departmental “Workshop of
KPIs/Dashboards” with members of all departments in the city who
are collectively responsible for ensuring the safety of food all
along the supply chain. During the workshop, we showed several
examples of how dashboards are used by individuals, billion-dollar
corporations, and governments. We described what makes a good Key
Performance Indicator (KPI). We suggested what questions need to be
answered for each KPI around data ownership, accountability,
frequency of collection and so on. We also presented a starting
point for what might become a food safety dashboard for the city.
This was only a draft and just to get a discussion started:
The attendees of the meeting found the
information quite useful and have already suggested some additional
measurements which they would like to see added to such a dashboard.
We are really hoping that this is a catalyst for the departments to
work even closer together to further improve the food safety in Da
Nang – for citizens and visitors.
Today was a very important day for IBM
in Da Nang. IBM opened a new office in Da Nang – the third IBM
office in Vietnam and the first office since opening the Ho Chi Minh
City and Hanoi offices in 1996. The IBM Da Nang office is one of 10
new IBM offices to open in IBM ASEAN in 2012, bringing the total
number of offices in IBM ASEAN to 34 by the end of 2012.
IBM held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and
reception with speeches by several IBM executives including Tim Wong and John Gallagher as well as local
dignitaries in the morning. This was followed by an open house of
the new office space and great discussion with clients and other
IBMers who attended the event. The IBM team in Da Nang is very
excited to have dedicated office space in one of the most sought
after office locations in the city – in the Indochina Tower office
right in the center of the city, on the waterfront.
The food safety team spent the
afternoon honing our final presentation and recommendations for the
city of Da Nang as well as preparing to host a collaborative
inter-departmental Key Performance Indicator (KPI) workshop tomorrow.
We are very excited to be hosting this workshop and are looking
forward to getting the departments working together for the
advancement of Da Nang as a smarter city, using the information they
are already collecting in more insightful and intelligent ways.
was a “back to the office” day for each of the sub-teams working
here in Da Nang. The water management team had meetings with their
government partners to discuss their findings and recommendations.
The transportation team had a similar meeting with the Department of
Transportation. The food safety team worked the whole day on
consolidating the set of information and findings which support our
recommendations as well as preparing for an important meeting we now
have scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
I have described before, food safety in Vietnam involves at least
three different departments: Health, Agriculture and Rural
Development, and Industry and Trade. After meeting with these teams
individually and reading several documents and reports, we have
realized that a critical success factor to improving food safety in
Da Nang is for these teams to work much closer together than they
have in the past. The city government, like almost every government
around the world, is continually challenged to work with the least
funds necessary to provide the best support possible. To do this,
any overlap or inefficiency needs to be taken out of the process of
ensuring food safety for the city.
have proposed to the collection of departments that improved handling
of information, establishment of several goals, and the accurate and
timely measurement of key performance indicators (KPIs) which show
how well actual results are tracking to targets suggested by the
goals is paramount to their becoming a smarter city – more
instrumented, better inter-connected, enabling them to be more
first step towards getting there will be taken on Wednesday afternoon
as we host a KPI workshop with members from all departments
attending. We hope to get the teams talking with one another, more
comfortable working together, and then establish a starting set of
KPIs and targets for those KPIs based on the stated goals for the
city of Da Nang. With these, we then hope to show what a Food Safety
dashboard for the city could look like, fed in a timely manner from
information contributed by each of the respective departments. We're
looking forward to the meeting and getting the departments working
it was Saturday, we were able to take a sight-seeing trip to Hue
(pronounced “Hway”). Hue is the location where the King/Emperor
lived back in the 1900s-1920s.
Today (19 May 2012) would have been Ho Chi Minh's 122nd birthday. Flags and banners have been raised through-out the country to celebrate this.
first stop sight-seeing was the King's tomb. It is in the
mountainous area, the location felt very peaceful and isolated:
of the interior of this room and one other is done in base relief
with cut glass and porcelain. It reminded us all of French
palaces. The amount of work necessary to create the sculptures must
have been immense. Every flat surface in the room is covered in cut
glass and porcelain.
One thing that is very interesting about
Vietnam is that its architecture and rulers were influenced by
French, Chinese, and Japanese styles. This shows through in every
spot we visited today.
After a lunch stop, we continued on to
Our first stop in Hue was a monastery which had a
couple of pagodas. Here, the style was distinctly
last stop for the day was the King's residence. The residence
is behind a garrison (which reminded me of Fort Sumter) and takes up
a huge amount of space inside the city. Most of the residence
buildings are no longer standing, having been first destroyed during
the war with the French in the 1940s and then again damaged during
the American War during the 1960s.
just so you don't think things are completely normal here, here are
two pictures for some fun. First, an example of livestock
was within the city of Hue. Also note the train tracks -
everything is narrow gauge here.
And finally - while you see a
fair share of cattle used in the rice fields, there is also quite a
bit of a different domesticated animal - water buffalo. Here is
a picture of one which was quite close to the road:
roads here are, well, not so great. The road we took from Da
Nang to Hue is pretty much the only way to get there and is clogged
with tour buses, trucks, and motorbikes. As the travel time
showed, average speed is pretty slow.
It is amazing to see how
hard the people work here. Much of the crop management is done
by hand. Rice is by far the dominant agricultural crop and
fishing is the next biggest industry. And the fishing is done
either using large nets or from very small boats (not much bigger
than canoes). The challenges for Vietnam start to really show
when traveling in the countryside. The country is beautiful,
but day-to-day life is still somewhat primitive.
The team here in Da Nang has been
anticipating discussions with the leaders of the city of Da Nang to
review our findings and recommendations. Today was the first chance
we have had to review our consolidated set of findings across water
management, transportation, and food safety with the Department of
Information and Communication (DIC).
We spent the morning collecting,
consolidating, and refining the presentation to be given in the
afternoon. Time needs to be allotted for translation, which for this
presentation happened over lunch – thank goodness we have such a
great team of translators! By early afternoon, we were well prepared
for our first review of our consolidated findings with the DIC.
We chose a format for the presentation
which resulted in five different speakers to present for roughly
10-15 minutes each. I had the honor of presenting the methodology we
used to prioritize our collected set of recommendations. We suggested a
tiered approach be used to select which projects
to work on immediately, next in line, and so on.
Our member of the team from Royal Dutch
Shell, Lex Backer (far left, standing), presented on the topic of
food safety, assisted by our translator, Quynh Houng Ngo (standing,
middle of the picture).
The main receiver of the material was
Mr. Son, the director of DIC (on the far right in the picture).
The discussion, while lasting a bit
longer than expected (we expected a 2 hour meeting that stretched to
3 hours by the time we finished), seemed to be well received by the
Department of Information and Communication. We were all quite happy
as the meeting adjourned.
We had the great honor of being hosted
for dinner by Mr. Son form DIC at a very nice restaurant in Da Nang
immediately following the meeting. Every meal we have seems to offer
something new and different to try, and all of the food is quite
flavorful. This time, we had several appetizers followed by a soup
cooked in a steamed, full pumpkin. The walls of the pumpkin are
served with the soup which contained vegetables and chicken. This
was followed by a hot pot of fresh vegetables, meat, and fresh
noodles. Very tasty and best of all, it was great to get to know the
people from DIC better over dinner conversation.
Tomorrow we are taking a trip to Hue,
the ancient capital city of Vietnam. We're looking forward to a day
of sight-seeing after a hard week of work.
Whew! It seems we are near the
pinnacle of effort for our assignment here in Da Nang. Today started
early and finished late, with quite a bit of work in between. As I
have indicated, our team has been working collaboratively but
relatively independently on three separate work-streams: water
management, transportation, and food safety. Today was the day where
we began the task of really coming back together as a single team to
build a consolidated and consistent set of recommendations to present
to the city leaders. But I'm getting ahead of myself – we did this
over dinner and afterwards.
The food safety team's day began with
another revision of our findings, recommendations, and roadmap.
There is a famous quote which really summarizes where we are:
n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n'ai pas eu le loisir
de la faire plus courte.”
[English: I would have
written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.]
To get to the essence of our
recommendations takes time and energy to really distill the ideas and
describe their value succinctly. We had the opportunity to discuss
our progress and recommendations with the Department of Health in the
afternoon, and so getting ready for this was our primary objective
for the morning.
Our afternoon was spent in a very
productive meeting with the Department of Health. In this meeting we
reviewed our progress to date, tested our recommendations with the
department leads, and gathered their comments and suggestions. We
then factored this into our discussions with the rest of the team.
This evening, the team combined all of
the individual recommendations and then assessed the combined list.
Interestingly, the independent work which the teams had done resulted
in a quite sensible prioritization of recommendations which we were
able to segment into four roughly equal tiers. In each tier is a
balanced set of recommendations covering each of the three focus
areas. With this put together, we're well positioned to build our
combined presentation for tomorrow's first review.
Tomorrow will be another busy day.
Formulation of our first combined presentation in the morning,
translation of that presentation in the late morning and early
afternoon, and then a first meeting with city leaders to present our
findings and recommendations later in the afternoon. It is really
exciting to see how much the group has been able to accomplish in the
short time we have spent here. There is much still to be done, but
we all feel quite pleased with our results so far.
Our work here is really starting to
take shape as a consolidated set of recommendations for the city of
Da Nang. And none too soon, it appears. On our way home from
meeting with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
today, we had the mis-fortune to be on the road right around 1700
(5:00 PM). The rumors of Da Nang being free of traffic jams are not
quite true. As you can see from the picture, this roundabout (there
are many in Da Nang) gets congested just like other cities across
Good thing the traffic team is looking
into ways to help the city address the expected rise in population
and automobile usage. The city has targets for 2015 and 2020 for
levels of public transportation rider-ship. This should help with
the traffic increases at least.
What we are learning here is that the
challenges that teams face in implementing new projects are just
about universal – worries about funding, skills, and staffing seem
to be a language spoken around the world and under every type of
government system. Because of this, our recommendations need to be
especially sensitive to the funding and skills requirements which
they will bring along.
For the food safety team, we have built
a value vs. effort bubble chart, using cost for the size of the
bubbles, in order to these characteristics of our recommendations
relative to one another. The characteristics we are using were
suggested by the transportation sub-team. This is just one example
of how the teams are working independently in each area while also
collaborating and building on one another in putting together a
combined set of recommendations for the city.
We had another busy day working on the
executive service corps projects here in Da Nang. One thing that is
unique to our food safety-related work is the number of city
government departments which are associated with this very important
topic. It seems that every meeting we have with government
departments turns up another department which has some association
and at least partial responsibility for ensuring the safety of the
food supply to the residents and visitors of Da Nang.
So far, we have found that at least
five city government departments are involved: Department of Health,
Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Department of
Industry and Trade, and to a lesser extent, Department of Culture,
Sport, and Tourism, as well as the customs department. In addition
to this, the city is a peer with other provinces within the country
of Da Nang and so there are dependencies with government offices in
neighboring provinces as well as with the National government.
This morning, we met with the
Department of Industry and Trade to learn more about their role in
food safety. It is clear that this department holds a piece of the
puzzle around building a holistic view of how food travels from farm
to table (or as we like to put it here – from farm to chopsticks!).
Where the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development handles
the earlier stages of food production (farms, live animal transport,
etc.) and the Department of Health the later stages (consumer
awareness, restaurant certification), the Department of Industry and
Trade handles areas in the middle (wholesale and retail markets).
We spent the afternoon organizing and
prioritizing a list of roughly twenty different recommendations which
are have developed after looking across the current state of
addressing food safety in the city. Our recommendations are aligned
over five themes: end results; supply chain; governance;
communication, awareness, and training; and visibility of
information. Within each of these themes there are opportunities for
improvement. Some can be implemented with low cost and effort while
others will take planning and additional budget and skills to
The next several days will be very busy
as we coalesce our recommendations for food safety with the other
teams' recommendations on water management and transportation. What
is really interesting about this is the inter-play that each of these
sub-areas have upon one another. A city really is a system of
systems, and making changes in one area has effects on several other
areas around it.
We're really rolling now in solution
mode, getting our recommendations put together and prioritized for
the city to consider!
Today was another very busy working day
for us on the service corps team. Several of the sub-teams had
separate team meetings in the morning to review information, develop
a long-term view, and begin the task of defining a roadmap for the
future. Some of the teams, including the food safety team, had
additional meetings with members of the city government. These
meetings are scheduled to continue through the rest of the week.
As one of our team members put it over
the weekend, the teams have reached a point of maximum divergence as
we each have digested a huge amount of information, both from the
people we have met as well as the sources we have called on within
IBM and across the world. We are now working more towards
re-convergence, to result in a consolidated and organized set of
recommendations for the city of Da Nang to implement over the next
Every time you travel around the city,
something new is discovered. The city is an amazing mix of new and
old, and is changing right before your eyes. I mentioned in a
previous posting the high level of construction that is under way in
the city. This includes infrastructure such as bridges and roads as
well as high-end hotels and offices. In addition to the building
though, it is interesting to note that the style of shopping is
changing as well. We experienced an example of this before dinner
this evening. Within 100 m of one another are two extremes of
shopping experiences in Da Nang. On the one hand is the Con Market
(pronounced “cone”). This market, in a more traditional style,
resembles a combination flea market (American term) and farmer's
market, including everything from fruits and vegetables, to canned
sauces, to fresh pork, beef, chicken, and fish. On the other hand,
there is the “Big C”. This is a multi-story, combination
shopping mall and “big box” store. It seems you can find just
about anything at the “Big C”. There is even a multi-screen
movie theater and food court on the top floor. Shopping style is
just one example of this city undergoing changes.
Other trends that we are expecting to
see for the city are impacting the set of recommendations we are
considering. Some of these trends:
Very fast population growth
(mostly from migration from rural areas into the city)
Changes in diet (a move to eating
a diet containing more meat products)
Higher use of refrigeration –
in transporting food as well as in merchant's shops
More congestion and traffic –
as people trade in their motorbikes for cars
More visitors into the area –
from both domestic and international travelers
Greater demands on the water
Greater demands on the electrical
This really is a City on the Rise –
growing up before our eyes. We're confident that our recommendations
will help the city take advantage of what has worked (and avoid what
hasn't) for other cities as they have gone through similar
This being Saturday, the team went on a
sightseeing trip to two great locations which are relatively close to
Da Nang. We first visited My
Son (pronounced “Me Son”, where the “o” in “Son”
sounds like “soap”). My Son was an ancient holy site of the Cham
(pronounced with the “a” like “cat”) people who were settlers
in the area in the 9th to 14th centuries AD.
This people were eventually moved out of the area by people migrating
from the north and from the south.
The ruins at My Son are very
interesting. As I walked through the area, I was reminded of a
vacation I took with my family to visit some Mayan ruins in Mexico.
The type of construction and the form of the ruins is completely
different though. The people used a type of brick which has not lost
its color over many hundreds of years. Also, no mortar was used
between the bricks as they were laid to create the temples. Several
teams have attempted to re-create the type of brick and the
construction methods but have failed. It is quite easy to point out
the parts of the ruins which have been re-constructed and those which
While we were walking through the
ruins, a group of children on a school trip were very interested in
talking with us. They are eager to practice spoken English as they
only are able to learn reading and writing of English in school. The
kids are like children everywhere – full of energy, a little bit
shy, but very fun to talk to.
After leaving My Son, we headed over to
an ancient seaport which is also south of Da Nang and called Hoi
An. Hoi An was one of the busiest seaports in the central part
of Vietnam in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Because so many different types of people came to the port, the city
is built up with a large variety of architectures. The narrow
streets and riverfront walking areas are wonderful to stroll through,
look at items in the endless number of shops, and negotiate for the
best price with the merchants.
It was rather hot out in the sun today,
but the whole team had a great time learning about the history of
Vietnam and visiting these two historic locations.
Today was another heads-down working
day for the teams. Our sub-team, working on food safety, spent the
morning working on two broad areas. First, we reviewed the materials
which we had gathered so far, noting areas where we felt we needed
more information. This resulted in a set of questions which we
submitted by e-mail to our counter-parts in the Department of
Agriculture and Rural Development. More on that in a moment.
The second area we spent time
discussing was a brainstorming session on what our first draft set of
recommendations should be for improving food safety for the city of
Da Nang. Keep in mind here that the current food supply chain works
very different from most western areas. In countries such as the
United States, the food supply chain relies heavily on refrigeration
in order to keep food fresh as it travels from where it is processed
to where it is sold and eventually consumed. In Da Nang, the food
delivery system relies on “fast and fresh”. Particularly for
meat products, live animals are brought in daily into slaughterhouses
which are located within the city. From here, food moves very
quickly from farm to table, much of it without the benefit of
refrigeration. Because of this, time to market is incredibly
important. With this in mind, we are considering what
recommendations are appropriate for the city of Da Nang to consider.
A word about communication. This is
the first time that I have had the need to work through an
interpreter for both spoken and written communication. While this
can be very frustrating at times, it is also amazing that we can make
effective progress using these means. This is a credit to our great
interpreters who are doing a marvelous job of providing both spoken
interpretation during meetings and written interpretation as we send
text correspondence to one another. My thanks to them!
Our afternoon was spent in a combined
meeting of the food safety, water management, and transportation
teams. We each reviewed our progress so far, what has gone well,
what challenges we have faced, and indicated our preliminary
findings. We also discussed the intersections and cross-cutting
issues which have impacts across all of the teams. One very
interesting aspect is that food, transportation, and water are all
inter-related. Further, it is clear that both food and water, as
well as transportation have very big requirements on energy
production and the need for a reliable energy supply. At the end of
the afternoon's meeting, we were comfortable with our progress so far
– though there is much left to do! We had the pleasure of meeting
with the IBM Country General Manager (CGM) for Vietnam – Vo Tan
Long. He gave us some really good insights from his experience
working with other ESC and CSC teams who have been in Vietnam in the
The team elected to have a relaxing
dinner at a restaurant in Da Nang which has the goal of helping deaf
residents of Vietnam. Because it is difficult for the deaf to
communicate, they often find it difficult to live in the country.
This restaurant offers them a good job, lessons in reading, writing,
and sign language, and even a place to live. The staff is very
friendly and the food (western style: burgers and pizza) is really
fantastic. If you're in Da Nang and just want a good pizza, check
There comes a time in all of these
projects, it seems, when everyone realizes “the party's over”.
That day started for our sub-team today. Our task here in Da Nang is
centered around helping the city improve their infrastructure and
prepare for the expected rate of population growth. With this in
mind, and knowing that we only have three weeks to put something
together, we began in earnest to dig through the material we have
gathered, start to make sense of it, and begin developing an approach
which can be repeated by the Department of Agriculture and Rural
Development after we have completed our assignment.
Like every city, there are issues which
can be addressed immediately. And like every city, all work needs to
be considered with respect to the budget which the department must
remain within. And what we are coming to see is that the food safety
issues facing the city of Da Nang are very very similar to the food
safety issues facing other cities of similar size around the world.
The current processes and practices for food handling are different,
but the goal and end result is the same – delivery of fresh food to
consumers in an efficient and safe manner as well as educating both
consumers and sellers on the proper handling and storage of food for
This morning, we developed a set of
themes to serve as a backdrop for the recommendations which we will
be sharing with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development later next week. For each of the themes, we will be suggesting a set
of recommendations, along with suggested plan or roadmap for how to
get from where the city is now (As Is state) to where the city
desires to get to (To Be state), over the next 5-10 years. This is a
very common approach to high level strategy and planning – identify
the current state, identify the desired state, and then put
activities in place, on a schedule, to arrive at the desired state in
the desired timeframe.
We met with members of the department
for a third time this afternoon and presented this overall approach
to them. They are very interested in what recommendations we are
going to suggest, and also the timeline against which we think these
recommendations can and should be implemented. We are close to
having a strong base of understanding the current state. We will be
discussing the desired state with the department early next week, and
then spending much of next week formulating the recommendations and
roadmap for implementation.
We are also hoping that the methodology
which we use will be usable by the department to apply to other areas
of food creation, delivery, preparation, and consumption after our
engagement is complete.
No pictures today since the inside of hotel and company conference rooms look the same all over the world!
Today brings us to the one week mark in
our service corps assignment here in Da Nang, Vietnam. Our schedule
for the day included an additional meeting with the client followed
by time collecting notes, additional information, and brainstorming
solutions to assist the city in improving food safety.
One thing which is clear to us already
is that the city has already put in place several successful programs
to improve food safety for residents and visitors. In or experience,
the food quality is very good, procedures are followed, and overall
the system that is in place is working quite well.
Food production turns out to consist of
several quite complex processes. There is food production at the
start of the process, either the raising of livestock or the planting
and harvesting of crops. In the middle there is distribution of
either live or processed food, followed by either sales to consumers
through various market shop formats or through preparation for
consumption at restaurants of various types. At each stage of this
supply chain, there are checks for quality which must be made, with
information logged and reviewed. Making this more complex is that
the procedures followed are different for food produced locally
(within the city of Da Nang), imported (from the perspective of the
city) from other provinces within Vietnam, or imported from other
countries and delivered to Da Nang. Tracing food origins, both for
quality control and for responding to food-related incidents is a
monumental task, even when looking only at the 700 tons of meat
products which are consumed within the city of Da Nang every month.
With a growing city, this number will just continue to rise.
We are now looking ahead to the future
as the city prepares for the expected growth in both permanent
residents and visitors to the city, beaches, and exclusive resorts
which already exist and are being built. It is astounding to see all
the construction underway in the city of Da Nang. Several years ago,
there was only one bridge across the Han River which separates the
city proper from the beach area to the east. Now there are five
bridges with another two, with quite interesting architecture, under
construction. Likewise, in the city center, there are several high
rise building projects underway for offices and luxury hotels. This
is clearly a city on the rise.