Thursday, September 24, 2020

Poor leadership retards implementation

In his budget speech, Finance and Development Planning minister, Baledzi Gaolatlhe, once again accentuated poor program implementation as one of the critical impediments to effective and efficient service delivery both in the public service and the private sector.

As usual, he vaguely promised the nation that ambitious efforts would be devised to eradicate this intractable challenge.

This article contends that our persistent implementation fiasco is a multidimensional phenomenon, and cannot be easily tackled without a cultural revolution aimed at producing appropriate leadership for Botswana. Such a revolution necessitates significant paradigm transformation, which our underdeveloped leadership is not psychologically, materially and organisationally ready to initiate. The article advocates for the production and effective deployment of leadership guided by the values and principles enshrined in Vision 2016 (such as botho, openness and transparency, effective dissemination of information, democratic accountability, excellent governance, gender equality and social justice).
Evidently, such leadership cannot be achieved unless major institutions agree to patriotically harmonise their actions and resolve to steer the populace to high levels of prosperity.

Already, a lot has been said and done in an endeavour to address Botswana’s implementation paralysis.

First, the Botswana National Productivity Centre was established in 1993.

And a plethora of productivity enhancement initiatives have been introduced in the public services, such as the Work Improvement Teams, the PMS, Performance Based Reward System, Balanced Score Card and decentralisation measures.
Plans are afoot to introduce the Total Quality Management system (which has very slim chances of success given our deficient institutional environment).

Furthermore, attempts have been made to improve information management systems in government.
And all kinds of consultants have been brought into the country to assist in promoting organisational performance.

Members of the productivity movement have been sponsored to attend workshops and conferences in and outside the country to learn how organisational turnaround could be effected.

The Permanent Secretary to the president, Eric Molale, has extensively toured the country exhorting civil servants to accelerate their performance improvement responses.

Molale has also put his foot down and uncompromisingly fired some people perceived to be “deadwoods”.

The Botswana Confederation of Commerce, Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM) and government jointly sponsored the creation of the Business and Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) to identify and eliminate the difficulties which retard business and economic development in the country.

Despite all these commendable initiatives, Botswana is still not fit and mentally ready to self-transform.

It is far from achieving satisfactory levels of program implementation. One of the reasons for our failure is that the professionals tasked with the mandate of promoting change lack clear focus, a sense of urgency, and sufficient authority to actualise their mandate.

Success is always illusive to drifters and chancers!
Again, they lack the capacity to appropriate foreign ideas to the local contest.

I have just asserted that poor program implementation is a function of our cultural orientation. Thus, unless we initiate a massive cultural revolution, even with plenteous resources, Botswana would continue to be dogged by the “mis-implementation curse”. It is our cultural orientation which largely explains why leaders are dysfunctional and ineffective.

A culture which facilitates entrepreneurial success and efficient service delivery is characterised by the following aspects: time consciousness, action orientation, effective organisational communication, cultural competence, competitive intelligence, creativity and innovation, highly developed and efficient work force, effective governance structures, strong sense of accountability, robust mechanisms for coordinating, monitoring and evaluating programs, humane and ethical treatment of workers, willingness to learn and apply knowledge and skills, and smart partnership. To a large extent, Vision 2016 seeks to incorporate some of these elements of business culture in our organisations.

Unfortunately, the standard of performance set by the Vision is too high for Botswana’s political and business leaders. Consequently, they have, to all intents and purposes, tragically abandoned it.

The number one problem thwarting progress in Botswana is the failure of leadership. As of now, there are no outstanding or credible leaders who are capable of inspiring the nation to surpass itself.

Our leaders are not sufficiently developed to understand and produce the requisite conditions for change, transformation and superior development. And many of them are self-serving and are, therefore, not fully committed to the country and its people. Part of the problem is that since independence, Botswana has never recognised that the key to prosperity is creative leadership. This is why we have no robust program for producing new leaders. The country is a victim of the “Succession Deprivation” syndrome. So, almost anybody can lead in Botswana, especially if they suck up to and ingratiate themselves with their gullible and cheap masters. Generally, performance standards or expectations are so offendingly low that even those who know are incompetent accept difficult positions only for pecuniary and material gains. Many leaders who are running our institutions got into their positions by default.

They never even rehearsed for leadership. But we should bear in mind that even if a country has talented people, not much can be achieved until the right type of leaders are found to facilitate development work.

Many of the leaders in the public service, the private sector and NGOs are underachievers and self-demeaning sycophants who can’t exercise independent thinking and speak the truth. And more importantly, they are not even accountable to each other. They are working at cross-purposes largely because they have lost a firm understanding of the major purpose of leadership.

As a consequence, we are unable to use our resources efficiently to achieve maximum benefits.

Some leaders are dangerously in cahoots with corrupt counterparts who regularly win tenders on a golden plate and then manufacture flimsy excuses to justify their failure to meet contractual obligations.
And perhaps the worst failure of our leaders is their inability to unite and motivate Batswana.

They encourage individualism which is weakening our nation. Batswana no longer appreciate each other because these leaders don’t encourage them to love, respect, and trust and support each other.
And by failing to create a congenial environment for workers, mediocre leaders cause Batswana to lose confidence in the entire system.

Despite the sugar-coated praise for Botswana, there is no industrial democracy in the country. Our workers have been literally emasculated by unscrupulous local and foreign investors. They are treated like dogs but are expected to generate super profits for immoral and abusive capitalists.

This situation is bound to get worse once the privatisation program gets in full swing. As long as we ridiculously subject Batswana to economic, social and political enslavement, we should not expect superior results from them.

People would refuse to be patriotic and give their all if their leadership is inconsiderate and abusive.
The powers that be should embark on an ambitious program to produce a critical mass of positive leaders. Such leaders should push for a cultural revolution to ensure that citizens change their irrelevant mindsets and strive for individual and collective empowerment.

If the productivity movement only imposes new ideas without transforming counter-productive culture, we will just waste resources, mark time and not move forward.

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