Monday, April 20, 2009

The Need for Speed

Political Leaders Must Master the Art of Speed!

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.


Today the nation of Antigua and Barbuda is threatened on several fronts. On one front there is the problem of immigration… of foreign nationals moving from there (wherever) to here in order to find and make a better life. On another front we have the energy crisis with our dependence on expensive fossil fuels. Then there is the historical problem we face with our water supply (some people have forgotten that this is a perennial problem). And, of course, there is the global financial meltdown that is affecting us not on one front – but on all fronts.

There never has been a time in our history when so much was demanded of our political leaders. The changes we face… and the challenges we confront demand aggressive, assertive, visionary and courageous decision making from the top. But something else is needed… something more fundamental… speed!

My 94 year old mother tells me that when she was a young girl, an immigrant would travel for more than two weeks to get from the ‘West Indies’ to London. Of course, in those days, the only way to get there was by boat. Today, that same trip takes eight hours – by air.

Every facet of our human experience has been transformed by modern innovations in technology. And most of those innovations have resulted in everything happening more quickly. Fedex can now deliver a package from the US in one day! I don’t have to travel to see my friends and family… I can see them now over the internet! I don’t have to go to the bookstore to purchase a book… I can buy it on Amazon… And I don’t have to wait for Amazon to ship it either… I can download some books right away!

Everything today is happening faster and faster. This is the age of speed… this is the time when we need our leaders to be speedy!

We cannot wait for the right decision… going in the right direction! We need decisions now… and we will correct our course as we go along. We cannot wait to see which direction the wind is blowing… before we raise the sails and get moving. No not to throw caution to the wind… but to grab hold of what wind there is.

We need to build a culture of speed in every sector of government: First we need speed in decision making at the very top… and at the top of every ministry and department.

Then, we need speed in delivery of services to consumers in every department of government. We need speed in communication within the government and from the government to the people. We need speed in responding to the current and future threats to the country and to segments of the population. We need speed in implementing new projects such as the car park, the library and those other projects some of which are still on the drawing board… We don’t need any more action plans… we need the government to act on the plans it already has… Act now.

We must build speed that matches our rhythmic style… Ours is not a reggae style… slow and sure… nope. We have a calypso rhythm… So let us develop a rhythmic decision making style that fits us… fast, adaptable… moving to the changes to the beats within our shores and addressing the challenging rhythms from the outside. And, yet within this fast rhythm – we must deliver rock steady results and outcomes.

Antigua and Barbuda must move quickly to respond to the knowledge based economy which is founded on innovation and the ability not only to generate new ideas but to build the products and deliver the services which emerge from the creative minds of our young entrepreneurs and university graduates. We must learn from experiences of our veteran workers and listen to the wisdom of our senior citizens.

We must develop the capacity to go from idea to product to delivery at light speed.

We must remove the bureaucratic prison that is our current system of government where permanent secretaries rule with an 18th Century mindset and 17th Century rules. It takes months to have a simple process completed after fifty pieces of paper have gone back and forth to be signed ten times. No country today can compete at a global level with that kind of pitch-like execution and delivery.

Our leaders must quickly identify and remove those processes – structural and political – that stymie and slow us down and prevent us from achieving success. And our leaders must remove those people with Victorian mentalities who keep us stuck in the past… who use the computer as an adding machine and see it as a typewriter with a screen.

There needs to be a sense of urgency about this.

For too long, we have accepted sloth bound decisions and mediocre results from some of our leaders. We have accepted their excuses as to why things take so long. We have embraced their explanations as to why this project or that project is still on the drawing board.

That attitude of acceptance and understanding, of indulgence and tolerance, of consideration and patience… just because we support them and just because we want to appear supportive… can no longer be the deal.

We need our leaders to embrace a culture of high tempo decision making and we need them to promote a culture of swift execution… and prompt delivery..

Antigua and Barbuda must make that transition to speed now. It is taking too long to bring those people to justice. It is taking too long to fix the airport. It is taking too long to deal with the medical students issue… (one way or another… make a decision). It has taken too long to solve our water problem. It has taken too long to get those Rural West projects going. It has taken too long to fix our electricity problem. It is taking too long bring those criminals to justice (did I mention that already?) It is taking toooooo long…

The up-tempo and percussion must start at the top… by the Chief Drummer. Let’s speed it up!