Robert Wynter, Contributor
In His Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), Jesus told His disciples: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Belief in Christ and converting others became one of the first recorded mission/purpose statements in history guiding the lives of Christians. St Paul later reminded us in Ephesians that salvation will be through faith and not by works. Put another way, performance (how we will be judged) is related more to the mission/purpose (faith and spreading the Word) and less so about action (works).
Organisational theory, and more specifically performance management, is replete with ideas and methods on measuring, managing and improving performance. As individuals, we make decisions on performance every day of our lives.
Which product best performs for our sake - is it a Toyota Corolla or is it a BMW? Which supermarket gives us the best value for money and, therefore, where should I shop? Was Pele or Maradona the greatest footballer? Which political party should I vote for? Which stock should I keep or buy?
One person may buy a BMW because he wants to impress, while another may buy a Corolla to get better mileage - it depends on purpose. One political leader may make me feel good about myself because he says the right things, while another may make conditions better in the country so I can live better. Again, it depends on purpose.
While it is fine to have differing opinions on purpose that suit different individuals, there are times when a mission/purpose is clearly stated; performance must be objectively measured in that context.
The purpose of private-sector companies is to add value to the investment made by its owners (shareholders); and, therefore, profit and return on equity (ROE) are the standard ultimate performance indicators. Please note that while product quality, customer service level and revenue are important indicators, they measure the means to the purpose and not the purpose itself.
In the case of an insurance salesman, his purpose is to generate premium income, not profits. Therefore, he is measured by the amount of premium income collected.
In the case of educational institutions, particularly public schools, the purpose is quite different. The holistic (academic, social, behavioural, spiritual) development of the student is the purpose of a school and, therefore, performance must be measured by the extent to which all students are so developed. Performance indicators will include overall academic performance; overall behavioural performance; student involvement in co-curricular activities; and school performance in national competitions.
It is important that each school set its own performance targets based on its own circumstances, and be held accountable for the achievement of those targets.
GOVERNMENT AND VISION 2030
The Government is not clear on purpose, hence, the difficulty in objectively measuring performance. In fact, the theme for our nation's 50th anniversary celebrations is 'Nation on a Mission'. However, we are never told what that 'Mission' is!
Having articulated the vision for Jamaica to be the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business, the mission/purpose of Government should simply be to provide the right environment, opportunities and support for the people of Jamaica to deliver on that Vision.
The obvious question, therefore, is: To what extent have successive governments provided the required environment, opportunities and support? Without clear performance indicators, we get varying opinions.
It is interesting to hear discussions comparing Jamaica under colonialism and Jamaica today. The older generation which grew up in difficult situations tend to say we are better off, and that governments and society have done a good job; while the younger generation, without the experience of the past but who know things are better elsewhere and believe things can be far better here, tend to say that governments and society have done a poor job.
The performance of a ministry and, consequently, those of the respective minister and permanent secretary are never objectively measured. Every year-end, journalists write comparing ministers in a subjective manner, rating performance based on visibility, what was said or what was done, but hardly ever what was achieved based on purpose. A few years ago when this column attempted an objective measure of purpose-driven, target-based ministry performance, access to the information was denied by the Cabinet secretary.
JOE MATALON'S OPUS
Industry organisations have similar problems to those of the public sector regarding measuring and reporting performance in the context of mission or purpose. Recently, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) hosted a luncheon to honour outgoing President Joseph M. Matalon, someone for whom I have the greatest admiration and respect.
According to The Gleaner of July 27, 2012, "Several persons paid tribute to Matalon at the function ... especially for his work with Youth Upliftment Through Employment (YUTE) programme and as chairman of the Private Sector Working Group (PSWG) on tax reform. He was praised as hard-working, dedicated, friendly, selfless, committed and described as a leader with a brilliant mind."
Although I concur with all the sentiments expressed, what I found lacking was how well the PSOJ performed (in the context of its purpose) under Matalon. The PSOJ's mission, as per its website, is "to effectively advocate for the implementation of public policy that enables strong sustainable private sector-led economic growth and development".
The endgame, therefore, should be strong, sustainable private sector-led economic growth and development; while the means is advocacy for the required public policy implementation. In fact, less than a month after Mr Matalon has demitted office, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) reports that business confidence in the economy is at a very low level. Many may ask whether it is fair to link President Matalon and the PSOJ to the JCC findings; however, my simple response is to go look at the PSOJ's mission.
ZACCA'S FRESH APPROACH
The Gleaner also carried a report on the new PSOJ president, Christopher Zacca, to whom I wish all the best in his new endeavour. Mr Zacca was reported to have said he "plans to focus his efforts on energy, trade and economic development ... and has tasked his staff to develop objective indicators of our human and economic development as an independent nation and to benchmark these to other similar countries globally so that we can say with confidence, and not with emotion, we have done well here and we have done poorly there".
This is a breath of fresh air in the annals of government and industry leaders as Mr Zacca believes the country, Government and the PSOJ (and, by extension, himself as president) must be objectively and unemotionally measured in the context of purpose. Mr Zacca must use the PSOJ's advocacy machinery to change the "lack of measurement and lack of accountability" culture in Government to move us towards Vision 2030.
Robert Wynter is managing director of Strategic Alignment Limited, which facilitates organisational transformation and leadership development. Comments are welcome at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.