"Adel is doing some work around services, the DG(Director General) wants you to meet with him" my manager at the time told me. it was year 2013, first time i had heard of the man. A meeting was arranged, old yesser building, third floor, it was the largest meeting room that could comfortably seat 12 people around a U shaped wooden table, the lights were amber not the bright LED light setup we have today, different times.
Reached early for the meeting, had a feeling that this man is important, and sat there on one of the edges, having no idea about what the agenda or who all were expected to participate. A tall, confident and charismatic gentleman entered the room, wearing white thobe and white shemagh his signature style, introduced himself as Adel and we started discussing services. The thing about services is ... it means different things to different people ( obviously... ). He was talking services from a government service point of view, while ... i was from the technology based implementation and its nitty-gritties. So he concluded the meeting and politely said "I have a meeting, ill call you once am done, and i need to show you something so that we are on same page".
He was different, the way he carries himself, the way he communicates, was clear, precise, and yet conveyed the feeling that he is listening and understanding what the other is trying to say, and not to forget ... smiling to indicate he is in the moment. There was something in his persona a balance of sorts , and that you get a feeling that he can lead a conversation, that he can bring solutions, that the next time you meet him it would be on a better and newer platform of understanding and clarity.
Where were we!!!, ah yes
The next meeting, was at his office, called me in, offered coffee, and as we started discussing he said, "let me show you something", he was working on an excel sheet, and showed me a list of government services, in arabic, and some attributes, he went through couple of them highlighting what each meant, and what was the purpose of it. "Ahaaa now i get it", i thought to myself.
That collaboration grew, in terms of mutual respect, care and understanding, and he would go on to become my manager in the future, a change that I welcomed and embraced whole heartedly as that was the kind of man he was.
Building a Legacy
The Vision he had encapsulated in that excel sheet, went on to become Government Services Observatory system "Marsad", A much needed mechanism for consistently raising level of transparency, maturity and quality of government services, relating procedures and delivery channels. An innovative solution was heavily needed which can transform the whole business model of service transformation and delivery.
During one of our conversations, back in the day, he mentioned about building our legacy, and this effort that we are making, would be our legacy, for hereafter, his aspirations stretched beyond the mortal existence to the ever lasting one.
Citizens can now access services at their convenience anywhere at any time and powerfully shape the transformation vision. As statistics show, within a certain period of six months, electronic service usage has increased to 5.4 million in comparison to the consumption of traditional services, which decreased to 2.5 million. Additionally, 53% of the submitted applications are now completed in one day or less.
It usually takes a life time of effort to be part of something of such impact, and touch the lives of people in a positive way and yet, i wonder a person somewhere consuming a government service digitally would realize that Adel Asiri has made their life a little easier.
He used to open up at times about his personal life, personal challenges and seek suggestions, he made me feel my suggestions mattered, i would assess that he was seeking diverse opinions about something. The nuances and dynamics of a culture that he existed, adding on top the intricacies of understanding personal struggles is beyond my limited capacity, i saw these discussions as an act of kindness, perhaps he was trying to convey that he did not see a colleague as only a colleague but a confidant. He would always conclude such discussions saying "A am sorry to bother with these things", wish i could convey the feeling of importance he gave me, and the gratitude for the same, i used to thank him for considering to share these. He would ask after my health, family and did everything possible to help support in those.
The interactions highlighted his love and value for his parents, his family, his children, and how much he wanted to give, and the priorities for it. Growth in his career would in future would make it more challenging, and as fate would have it, he would get opportunity to spend more time with his family as he wanted to, one could only wish circumstances were different,( God knows what is better for us and we trust in his plans.)
Excellency Eng. Abdullah Al-Swaha, giving Award to Adel Asiri - 2018
The National Enterprise Architecture team was handed over to him at a point where, there was a team, there was a vision, there was a plan, it was relatively a new field for Adel, however he immediately realized its value, and in short time took its reins, and took it to the next level. The Qiyas assessments which were used to asses the e-government maturity level, was transformed during his tenure to assess the maturity of digital maturity of government agencies.
He was blessed with team that was diverse and talented, in terms of skills, capabilities and cultures, strong talents tends to attract strong talents. He used to give opportunities to his team members to push their limits, and grow, if some one had a plan or be innovative he would evaluate and give the opportunity to pursue them. There is always constraints for being under a system, when it comes to giving opportunity to team members, i believe he tried and did the best possible.
The NORA Story
The national enterprise architecture scope was at the level of whole of government, we needed something that would facilitate transformation at the government agency level. Part of being a good leader is in asking the right questions, and that would lead to set the efforts in right direction.
Adel asked "Why do we need to develop NORA when there are other alternatives?". Which triggered comparison studies, benchmarks, and learning from the previous EA engagements Yesser had with government agencies. A report was prepared to the effect, Adel was convinced of its value for the country and its application in the government. The project was initiated, team was formed, and the project would take a years worth of effort to conclude.
There were different projects which he assigned ownership to different people, this one was given to me, he let people run with it and approach him any time when help was needed. Never once I have seen him micro-manage, he gave people space to do their stuff, to innovate, and stepped in only when it was absolutely necessary.
We completed the first version of NORA, I approached him, asked that if we can get a reputed third party to review NORA. He asked smiling, "Are you not sure of your efforts?", to which i replied, "Its not that, we could ask government agencies to follow NORA , and they would, and i am confident that the team has done an excellent effort, it would enhance the credibility of our effort and put at ease the adopters". He said "Sounds good, who do you have in mind". I suggested some, and he choose one of them, and asked to send it for their review and feedback.
Surprise!!! ... a few days later he forwarded an email from a reputed international entity giving excellent rating on NORA based on a comprehensive review. He did this on his own, and wasn't any of the entities i had suggested. It made me happy beyond measure, seeing how much he valued and believed in the effort his team was doing. And this ties back to one of the later decisions he had to make.
We were ready to publish NORA, but one of the team members who was part of the team, and represented another important department in Yesser, was firm on a stand that "We should not publish NORA now, we are not ready", i asked him the rational for the position, to which he kept replying we need to do more effort. We were working on this for more than a year, and this was a difficult moment for me, and i guess this predicament also reflected on my face. I requested Adel for a meeting.
Adel called me, we stood at the office door, half opened, standing by the door, he asked "What's happening with the NORA, you appear to be in difficult position"
"We are ready to publish, but there is objection from one our key team members to delay publication", i replied.
"What do you think? " he asked
"We have been working on this giving it the needed time, we have been thorough to the best of our ability, we have also done independent reviews of what we have developed and they have come out as excellent, hence it is my recommendation that we go ahead and publish", i replied.
"Go ahead, i shall make the rest of the arrangements", Adel confirmed his go ahead.
Once we published, he asked me for the team and the efforts from each individual, he made sure the team was awarded and recognized for their effort, including financial remuneration based on each individual's effort. (On a later date, his efforts would be recognized by his excellency the minister himself.)
The rest, as they say is history!
There are other events that can be narrated, but let it be for brevity.
A Growing Career
The strides Abo Lara had made in a short time, and the achievements and results that came of it accelerated his career growth, he was a VP Transformation, and Deputy DG of the e-government program. I noticed he was quickly loosing weight, and attributed it to the stress of the new role taking its toll. I remember he was always cautious of his diet, i had to asked him, but was hesitant to ask directly, "Adel, you look a bit different", he smiled and asked "Why did you say that", i said : "It seems that you are loosing weight, are you trying a new diet, or is it the stress, if there is anything i can do to help, would be glad to"... to which he replied "Thank you Mohammed, its not the diet". Once he was VP our interactions got lesser, with his new responsibilities and demanding schedule. And then one day ....
I was part of NEA team reporting to the new manager at the time, one day after asar prayer, Adel said "I need to talk to you Mohammed", and continued "I am building a VP Office team, and i want you to move to that team as a consultant, i will initiate the process from my side". That lit up my day, and was delighted to hear it, i was having this feeling for a long time that I could do more but wasn't able to.
Adel's responsibilities now extended to other sectors, in addition to his current sector of responsibilities, he used to involve and make me participate in different types of initiatives and projects. Some of which were new to me, Adels kind support, guidance and encouragement kept me going, i was happy. He knew exactly what to expect of me, how to bring the best of me at work, that i think was one of the rare qualities he had.
The Trial ...
الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفُورُ
"It is he who created death and life to test which of you are best in deed, for he is the Almighty, the Forgiving"
Adel's wasn't keeping well, he came back after a surgical procedure, i came to know of it, but he did not mention the details to me, its a very difficult conversation to have, but it bothered me not knowing what's happening to him. So one day i went into his office and asked if he has time to discuss, he asked "What would you like to discuss?", i said "I would like to know what is happening", he paused a bit, perhaps wondering what is the best way to say it. He gathered up courage, and trying to sound as normal as possible explained his condition and the procedure he had undergone, and the future treatment plan. I became numb for moment, i couldn't believe this could be happening to him, couldn't speak, i kept looking at the floor, trying best to avoid staring. He continued to speak, with hope, and about spending more time with family, and continue the treatment, giving it priority.
مَنْ يُرِدِ اللَّهُ بِهِ خَيْرًا يُصِبْ مِنْهُ
If Allah intends good for someone, then he afflicts him with trials.(Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5321)
Eventually he stopped coming to office, and our interactions were limited to ones over WhatsApp.
The hope was that, he would continue his treatment, and get well, as one must never loose hope, or stop trying to get better. It was couple of weeks back, i got a voice note from him ... and that would be the last time i was going to hear from him again.
The gist of which was, reflecting on our journey and history, encouraged to continue innovating, and more kind words, and he concluded the note saying
"Keep the high altitude, keep the hard work.. and also ... dont ...." took a deep breath and continued " don't hesitate to believe in yourself always and always ... thank you"
Thursday, i heard the news, i was deeply saddened, heart broken, going through a pain i couldn't describe, a news that i couldn't come to terms with. Until ....
Adel Asiri ( allah yarhamhu ) was laid to rest, people lined up to offer condolences to the family, i stood aside unsure what to do, but observed from a far. Thinking who really was Adel to me ...
One of my dearest colleagues asked me to go the family, i stood in line, as every one walked one by one, i approached Adel's father, shook his hand, and something urged me to kiss his forehead, it was that moment that i came to terms with the situation, felt as if ive kissed my own fathers forehead and the one in the grave was me..
الْبَلَاءُ بِالْعَبْدِ حَتَّى يَتْرُكَهُ يَمْشِي عَلَى الْأَرْضِ مَا عَلَيْهِ خَطِيئَةٌ
The servant will continue to be tried until he is left walking upon the earth without any sin. ( Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2398 )
"Until we meet in Hashar my dearest Adel, rest well like the new groom, you earned it, may your good deeds and the amazing legacy you have built give you happiness in your afterlife, and we leave to Allah that he would take care of all that you have left behind, as has happened to ones before us and will to the ones after us."
اللَّهمَّ اغْفِرْ لَه ُُ وَارْحَمْهُ، وَعَافِه ِِ وَاعْفُ عَنْهُ، وَأَكْرِمْ نُزُلَهُ، وَوَسِّعْ مُدْخَلَهُ، وَاغْسِلْهُ بِالمَاءِ وَالثَّلْجِ وَالبَرَدِ، وَنَقِّه ِِ مِنَ الخَطَايَا كَمَا نَقَّيْتَ الثَّوْبَ الأَبْيَضَ مِنَ الدَّنَسِ، وَأَبْدِلْهُ دَاراً خَيْرا ً مِنْ دَارِهِ، وَأَهْلاً خَيْرا ً مِنْ أَهْلِهِ، وَزَوْجَاً خَيْرا ً مِنْ زَوْجِهِ، وَأَدْخِلْهُ الجَنَّةَ، وَأَعِذْهُ مِنْ عَذَابِ القَبْرِ
One does not survive ... but prepare and wait till its ones time... so will I.
Thank you for the brief. I worked closely with Adel during my time in Yesser and he was a great character, no doubt. May Allah bless his soul and provide patience to his family and friends.
Ameen ya rab.Delete
Masha Allah. May Allah accept.ReplyDelete
May Allah accept his deeds nd bless his soul.
Well written nd to have known such a character is a blessing in itself.
Having an idea of the relationship with Adel. May Allah accept it a salih amalReplyDelete
Ameen ya rab, Miss you Umma, May Allah bless you and Uppa, elevate your status, grant you the best of Jannah, forgive your shortcomings, and keep you happy.Delete