‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” – Jeremiah 29:11
May I congratulate Dr. Jean Holder on his stewardship as a diplomat in the Barbados foreign service, in the tourism industry and as chairman of LIAT for more than over 16 years.
In 1963, as second officer in the Eastern Caribbean Commission in London, he was instrumental in recommending the statistics department at the University of Wales (Aberystwyth), as an excellent choice to pursue my master’s degree. Indeed, this was the launching pad for my PhD degree at the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London and subsequently a consulting career in problem solving and project management. In this capacity, we worked together in tourism, occasionally, over the years.
My PhD thesis was on business optimization. I firmly believe that the lack of appreciation for business optimization is a major inhibiting factor to sustainable Caribbean development. I wrote a column entitled “business optimization” on July 31, 2017. Here are a few extracts:
“Until our politicians stop clowning around and seek problem solving advice to complement their own skills, it is unlikely that the haemorrhaging in the economic growth rate and in the happiness quotient of the populace will be arrested.
“Let us bury our egos (Edge God Out), be vigilant, use our heads, take advantage of every opportunity, make the most of every chance you get and optimize the use of our resources. These are desperate times!”
I have devoted many columns to LIAT over the last nine months. The last one was entitled “LIAT’s Wineskin Transition” on January 20, 2020. Here are a few extracts from responses to that column:
“I especially like the part of getting the regional private sector involved.” – from Guyana
“I agree with most of what you point out as weaknesses, unfortunately the basic solution is that no airline is profitable without a private sector approach to management. I do not believe any private airline will partner with LIAT unless there is less political and public sector control over management and the strategies to move the airline to profitability.” – from Jamaica
“The politicians have to be prepared to give up some of their castles/kingdoms for the betterment of the airline and for region.” – from Antigua
Professor Owen Arthur, the new LIAT chairman, and his board are faced with a major challenge. Caribbean unity enhances the chances of regional sustainability. The movement of Caribbean people will stimulate Caribbean unity. LIAT has been struggling to provide this service. Let us encourage the new board to establish a new value proposition (new wine) and pour it into new wine skins so that both are preserved.
The new LIAT board must develop a strategy for change. Disruptive innovation informed by strategic thinking among stakeholders, including appropriate external resources, must be the order of the day. Do not restrict the ideas to the Caribbean shareholder representatives of the airline.
As Professor Arthur receives the baton from Dr. Holder, he may do well to remember the private sector approach he used in 1994, when he was Prime Minister of Barbados, to transform a hemorrhaging Barbados National Bank from a threat of closure to a healthy institution that attracted the Republic Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, in nine years. It is a transition of this ilk that is needed for LIAT 2020.
We cannot alter history, but we can learn from it. As we look towards a sustainable future for LIAT 2020, we must recognize that there have been waves of environmental change in business thinking and in the business environment since LIAT was established in 1956. Let us adopt a business optimization approach with disruptive innovation change strategies to keep the airline in the air with hope for a sustainable future.