By Basil Springer

““It is therefore a central 21st century challenge for management that its organization becomes a change leader. A change leader sees change as an opportunity. A change leader looks for change, knows how to find the right changes and knows how to make them effective outside the organization and inside it” – Excerpt from Peter Drucker’s book ‘Management Challenges for the 21st Century’.

LLast week in the Barbados Parliament, the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) was debated. What I did gather from the little that I heard and read, on the live radio broadcast and from random newspaper reports, about the CSME debate is that there is general support for the formalizing of a CSME but that progress with the ‘market’ component is projected to gain momentum well ahead of that of the ‘economy’.

Whatever the outcome of these debates, the underlying fact remains that the Caribbean, as a whole, is a relatively poor region (e.g. the average per capita income is less than US$3000 compared with an average of more than US$30,000 in OECD countries). Our survival depends on our response to the changing global environment. We must change and be innovative in addressing the challenge of poverty reduction. We cannot escape the phenomenon of change, we must ‘Embrace Change’. In this context, we could all do well to read the book, ‘Who Moved My Cheese’ by Spencer Johnson M.D. It is billed as ‘An amazing way to deal with change in your work and in your Life’.

This response to the changing global environment must come from individuals and enterprises. If we continue to do what we have been doing we will continue to get the same results or our output may even decline. We must change otherwise we may become extinct. Individuals and enterprises are required to change their mind sets. Individuals will be faced with changing their skill sets and will have the additional challenge of addressing cross cultural communication change with the continuing impact from the global environment.

Regarding CSME, my view is that the states of the Caribbean have, to some extent through the movement of individuals and the movement of enterprises, already begun activities which will contribute to greater Caribbean unity. Given the level of existing movement of people and institutions, I submit that the legal framework which is in place and the setting of a specific date for the formal advent of CSME is not going to result in any major change. This is a good start but we must also aggressively adopt strategies for the expansion of the economies of the region, which are relatively stagnant.

The strategies for future development are going to rely on what Drucker refers to as “Change Leaders”. He states that the four requirements for being a change leader are:

(1) Policies to make the future; (2) Systematic methods to look for an anticipate change; (3) The right way to introduce change, both within and outside the organization; and (4) Policies to balance change and continuity. He advises that ‘one cannot manage change, one can only be ahead of it’.

In the context of the Caribbean, who are the Change Leaders? In my opinion they are not Government leaders, they are not private sector leaders, they are not union leaders, they are not civil society leaders and they are not media leaders. They are indeed a combination of the above.

The Vision of CSME is what is being debated and promoted but the Action is not given the attention that it deserves. Vision with out Action is mere folly. Barbados is in the fortunate position that it has a formal social compact which provides a regular communication forum for the social partners. This forum should be used to address the challenges which face us in the changing environment and to develop the concept of change leaders. It will be necessary to partition the responsibilities of the social partners for greatest efficiency to propel the nation forward. The Prime Minister of Barbados is taking the lead within the Caribbean Community to promote the CSME concept. I contend that we are now at the stage where we must promote the concept of change leaders and convert the laudable CSME vision into action.

There has always been the temptation for governments, particularly in developing countries, to get carried away with their mandate from the people and want to lead everything themselves. The results have been disastrous. There is the need to refocus on the relative leadership roles of the social partners. In my book, government should focus on policy, regulatory and support functions. These support functions should include the raising of developmental funds to get projects off the ground, what I call ‘parental support’, to a stage where the private sector will find it attractive for ongoing investment. The private sector’s role is to invest, ‘to do business’ and grow the economy. The unions should embrace change and inspire harmony between the employers and employees in the interest of increased productivity for fair compensation. Civil society should then support the public, private and trade union sectors and the media should be the communications link with the general public.

(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. (CBET) -