“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16
Sir Courtney Blackman was eight years my senior. We overlapped at Harrison College in Barbados, but never met at school. He graduated from the University of the West Indies in Jamaica before I arrived on campus.
My first encounter with him was in 1977 when he was Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados (CBB). He was recommended by a family member to be guest speaker at the launch of Systems, my management consulting firm. He readily agreed and delivered a very encouraging address as we embarked on a bold pioneering initiative in the Caribbean business consulting marketplace. The company is still operating today, under younger management since 2000, as Systems Consulting Ltd.
Thus began a long and lasting mentorship and friendship during which he always reminded me to continually renew my intellectual capital.
In 1980, on another visit to his office, he was sitting in his chair with his two feet apparently comfortably perched on his desk, but in a position of unstable equilibrium. Suddenly, but not uncharacteristically, he broke out into peals of laughter and ended up on the floor with a loud bang. The laughter continued from his new position of stable equilibrium by which time his secretary, Mrs. Lucille Simmons, rushed into the office and asked me: “What are you doing with my Governor?” I pleaded innocence and, having been satisfied that he was safe and sound, she left us to continue our conversation.
We continually shared ideas on venture capital, transportation, enterprise development, my weekly columns, commercial banking, and the role of statutory corporations. They were all very stimulating experiences.
Systems and the CBB worked on a major technology project, starting in 1980, the computerization of the bank. This was important because the bank recognized the expertise of indigenous consultants and we delivered. Systems continued to be the bank’s preferred IT consultants for many years as it strengthened its IT department internally to what it is today.
In 1982, Dr. Blackman presented me with a book called “The Systems Approach” by C. West Churchman. He drilled into me a quote from that book: “There may be economies of scale of production, but no economies of scale of management”. This has served me well in my practice as a business consultant over the years.
My interpretation of this comment is that whereas a producer’s average cost per unit falls as scale is increased; the same is not true in management. In management, there is an optimal number of units for the manager to manage, as scale is increased.
Circa 1986, amidst much political ridicule and resistance, he created the vision of the Central Bank complex which now consists of the Central Bank building itself, the Grand Salle, the Frank Collymore Hall and, most recently, the Church Village Green. In December 15 2017, the Grand Salle was renamed to honour Sir Courtney.
His many visions and actions have resulted in the enhancement of the image of Barbados internationally, the creation of an example to his peers and subordinates, and the engagement of the wider community to participate in and benefit from holistic socioeconomic development.
I extend sympathy on his passing to his widow Gloria Lady Blackman and the entire Blackman family.
(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is a Change-Engine Consultant. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His columns may be found at nothingbeatsbusiness.com.)