Management by distrust
By: Basil Springer
“In an environment of management by distrust and conflict, most people will take what they can get. In the new management philosophy, people will take, at most, what they need” – Excerpt from The Deming dimension by Henry R Neave - www.demingdimension.com
Last week in this column we observed that Business is, more than any other occupation, i a continual dealing with the future; it is a continual calculation, an instinctive exercise in foresight. I also made a passing reference to the management of West Indies cricket. Since then the manager has resigned. Will the board now engage in an instinctive exercise in foresight in finding a replacement? There were several responses to the column, some of which I would now like to share with you.
Tony’s response: ‘On the cricket. I think our cricket suffers from paradigm paralysis. We are blinded by our successful pass. I fear too many will view your call for structural change to mean changing some elements of the guard. I strongly believe that we need seriously to exam the changing environment of the game (read business) and to redefine our strategy, goals and objectives. Then, and only then, can we really determine what the structure must be. I feel strongly though that we must within that structure find something to replace the counties and leagues. Our club cricket, as it is practised today, will never develop talent to the professional level that is required for today's test cricket. It will highlight talent but never will it truly develop that talent’.
Now to an excerpt from Vincent’s response: ‘We in The Bahamas know very little about cricket but we like to believe that we know a little about management.
One area that you did not address specifically is the public service which is large and inefficient in many of our regional countries. Many of us are convinced that the institution remains so because it is so firmly rooted in past practices and insufficiently interested in making any innovative changes. In too many places there is little appetite for change… we now understand why there is often such conflict between government organizations and business. One looks to the future and the other celebrates the way things have always been done.
We introduced the notion of having a stated vision, mission and set of objectives for the Ministry of Tourism in The Bahamas ten years ago instead of looking for guidance to legislation that was written decades before. To a very large degree, those declarations have been used by individuals in our organization to decide whether to pursue a certain activity and to determine how the outcome of the activity should be measured. They have made a significant difference to the operating posture of our Ministry even though the people within the organization have not changed much. Indeed in many respects, we have made software changes while the hardware has remained the same.
As I write this, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism is in Malaysia at the Inaugural Meeting of Commonwealth Ministers of Tourism and we are, as far as I have been able to determine, the only representatives from the Caribbean. We are here because we have developed some systems that we believe can be sold to emerging tourism economies….from the reaction from the press and other delegates so far, we are on to something’.
I shared Vincent’s response with Ian and here is his response: ‘….Re the public sector my conclusion is that the core problems are… it is 'management by distrust' and …the power of the Ministries of Finance input focused rather than output focused (perspective)’.
In The Deming Dimension, by Henry Neave a story is told of a Corporation and their procedure for obtaining bereavement-leave (leave when someone dies). The original procedure was defined on two closely-printed pages.
‘All employees shall receive time off with pay up to a maximum of three (3) days of working time lost if there is a death in the immediate family’.
It went on to specify when the first day would be, what would happen if the funeral fell on a non-scheduled work day, the complexity of computing the rate of bereavement pay, a definition of the employee's immediate family, verification of death and verification of the relationship to the employee.
After some deliberation, the management scrapped that procedure, and replaced it with one comprised of just 20 words: "If you require time off due to the death of a friend or family member, make arrangements with your supervisor."
After the change in policy, the number of absences for bereavement went up by over 20%. So much for that change of heart? No, on closer investigation, the total days lost through bereavement-leave were found to have decreased by about 36%. What happened is that with the original policy, many people had not taken time off to attend a funeral, either because they were intimidated by the original procedure, or because the deceased was uncooperative enough not to fulfill the criteria! Those who did take time off had tended to take more time than they actually needed. Wouldn't you?’
Public Sector reform take heed!
(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. (CBET) - www.cbet-inc.org )