“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” – Psalm 23: 4
In parallel with the heightened concerns of the current food and energy crisis, which may not yet have reached its zenith, there is an accompanying measure of comfort manifested by a theme of excellence that has pervaded my own recent Caribbean experiences. This is a good sign and portends pangs of hope, but alas it is not enough. We shall have to convert the vision of excellence into action. It is the combination of sustained excellence, enhanced productivity and increased competitiveness that could arrest the negative impact of the engaging food and energy crisis. Herein lies the challenge for our leadership. It is not going to be easy but I think that with a high level of vision, diligence, determination and persistence, we shall overcome.
Let us reflect on these experiences. At the end of February, the social partners (Government of Barbados, Barbados Private Sector Association and the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados) in association with the National Productivity Council, the Central Bank of Barbados, Office of Public Sector Reform, Barbados Employers’ Confederation and the National Initiative for Service Excellence, all engaged in a week of excellence. The theme was “Taking service excellence to the streets”. I facilitated an interactive dialogue session on “building trust in the workplace” and “the results of an absenteeism study” with primary interventions by two experienced Caribbean practitioners.
Early in April, I delivered the feature address at the National Bank of Dominica’s 30th anniversary awards ceremony. My topic was “The future: delivering excellence to stay ahead of the competition”. I observed that “the bank has earned a reputation of being innovative, product savvy, able to promptly respond to the needs of the indigenous communities which it served while, at the same time, embracing cutting edge technology in delivering these goods and services”.I made four suggestions for immediate implementation by augmenting the thrust of the existing strategy, namely: (1) continue to respond promptly to the needs of the indigenous communities; (2) adopt innovative strategies; (3) enhance product knowledge; and (4) introduce cutting edge technology.
The next week, as a member of the Barbados nominating committee, I attended the Anthony N. Sabga Caribbean Awards for Excellence in Trinidad & Tobago. I concluded that regional corporate firms can contribute significantly to growth in the region with a little visionary input and partnerships with public and other private sector firms. My hope for the programme is that a Centre of Excellence will be created by Ansa McAl which would be designed to provide opportunities for young entrepreneurs or fledgling businesses to grow systematically and contribute to the enhanced socio-economic well being of the Caribbean.
Last week, I was invited to Trinidad & Tobago to present a paper at the 22nd Session of the UN-ECLAC Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee on Public-Private Partnerships for Development: A Caribbean Perspective – The Barbados Experience.
I recommended that Barbados’ Social Partnership builds on its strengths and strengthens its weaknesses, in five areas. (1) Governance – Formally establish the social compact as an entity with a specific mission and autonomous operation which is an advisory body to the Prime Minister. Integrate the social compact into the governance structure of Barbados by preparing the appropriate legislation. (2) Marketing – Establish a strong public relations arm so that all persons in Barbados think “smart partnership” in their day-to-day living. Promote the concept of the social compact throughout the Caribbean so that our regional partners will ultimately be operating with a similar philosophy.
(3) Operations – a special round-table interactive dialogue meeting design will probably be more effective in utilizing the time, knowledge and experience of those present, rather than a plenary type arrangement where there is a temptation for one or two persons to control the show. The Barbados protocols seem to have matured over the period of the social compact but it may be useful for the leadership to review them to see whether any modification or strengthening is required. (4) Human Resources – Appoint a full-time CEO, with highly qualified and experienced supporting staff, who will service the social compact and will be familiar will all issues being considered at all times. (5) Finance – Fund a budget to adequately manage this centre of excellence in strategic thinking and effecting immediate solutions with the best brains available.
This event was a sub-regional meeting of Caribbean ministers and senior officials. This will be followed by a full Latin American and Caribbean meeting in early June in the Dominican Republic when UN-ECLAC celebrates its 60th anniversary. The paper will be presented to this larger audience with the hope of extending the benefits of the smart partnership philosophy, experienced in Barbados, to a wider audience.
These above experiences are all focused on spreading the theme of excellence. The sooner these types of thought processes can pervade every “nook and cranny” in society, the sooner we shall be able to effect sustainable solutions to the current food and energy crises and any others which may arise to challenge us.