“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7
Many thanks to those readers who endorsed and augmented the content of recent columns in this series, out of which a comprehensive mix of concepts emerged: strategic visioning, stakeholder unity, strict discipline, implementation priorities, timely communication, dashboard monitoring, optimal efficiency and, more idiomatically, ‘not throwing out the baby with the bath water’.
This solution-oriented leadership approach is a preventive maintenance and curative process which is vital for many institutions e.g. government department, NGO, statutory corporation, private business, irrespective of the state of the business health.
We may borrow from the rigour of a medical practitioner’s protocol: discuss symptoms with the patient, conduct investigations, diagnose the problem(s), prescribe the treatment solution and administer the treatment with an exemplary bedside manner. In the context of a business, the shepherd (business doctor) replaces the traditional medical practitioner.
In the graphic, the ‘shepherd’ fish leads its followers through the water avoiding baits which might appear attractive to the inexperienced, hence making the services of the shepherd indispensable.
Now that we have addressed Cricket West Indies (CWI), maybe we should turn to LIAT – The Caribbean Airline – and apply this approach.
Call in the shepherd and share symptoms. The symptoms, as reported in the press, are a dearth of capitalization from countries, which are served by the regional island-hopping carrier, and financial hemorrhaging.
The shepherd will systematically investigate the corporate governance, financial investment, marketing, operational and people development dashboards of the airline.
Whereas, the existing management of the airline may be comatosed into mounting the hypothesis that these dashboards are all flashing green and that the airline deserves a new lease on life, a more in-depth and objective shepherd’s investigation would probably quickly reject such a hypothesis.
In attempting to diagnose the problems, an experienced shepherd would find many weak business management cells. These are likely to include: little visioning among stakeholders, mendicant country policies, the significant benefit for Antigua (LIAT’s headquarters), shared capitalization in proportion to projected economic benefit, government interference, complacent employees, myopic capitalization concepts, anachronistic taxation policies, weak public relations strategies, lack of appreciation of the global value of the Caribbean brand and the potential positive impact of the airline on regional tourism, operational inefficiencies, unprofitable routes and lack of mindset, skillset and cross-cultural communication among employees.
The shepherd’s recommended treatment solution is not likely to be a plaster to cover the sore or a course of medication for a few weeks to stem the hemorrhaging but rather a surgical option. Close the airline down! Get the best price for any valuable assets and strike the best deal with staff and creditors.
The economies of the Caribbean cannot survive without a LIAT – The Caribbean Airline. All stakeholders (including beneficiary countries) must be innovative and search globally for a strong and visionary partner to set up a new airline. The biggest challenge is to get the patient to agree to this treatment solution.
The existing LIAT governance model is not viable because some governments would not contribute but still want to benefit from the service. Caribbean Airlines may be able to offer a limited profitable interim service while the beneficiary countries caucus to determine a new, mutually beneficial governance system.
If, as suggested for CWI, LIAT takes the politics out of the operational space and pursues a classical business approach, involving all stakeholders, then a strategic sustainable business solution is likely to emerge.
There are at least 21 Caribbean economies that LIAT supports and at least 6.5 million people who will in one way or another be negatively impacted if common sense does not prevail.
Funds are always available for good projects but not for half-baked ones or projects fraught with political interference.
These concepts will be expanded in future columns.