Christopher Zacca is a man on a mission. His second term as Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) president can be characterised as strident, done with a sense of purpose and desire to get the group back to its core business of lobbying for an enabling economic environment.
Such an environment must be conducive to private-sector investment, output expansion and productivity improvement, all resulting in national growth and development. Zacca's recruitment of Dennis Chung to be CEO is a clear indication that the president is serious about the economy.
Not having attended its annual forum recently, I can only go by what I read in the press, which reported that the PSOJ has the answer to Jamaica's problems. Among the answers are proposals on which only the Government can take action, such as the well-ventilated tax reform and public-sector reform by cutting ministries to 11.
These appear to be very good plans that the Government should heed. However, what the PSOJ has failed to grasp - or if they did, they have failed to admit - is that the Government's capacity and willingness to execute these grand plans is far more important than the plans themselves.
I, therefore, humbly suggest that Messrs Zacca, Chung et al are collectively barking up the wrong tree. To use a variant of what James Carville used as chief strategist for Bill Clinton in his 1992 US presidential campaign, "It is the execution, stupid!"
NOT SHORT ON PLANS
Plans, plans and more plans. Jamaica is not short of plans. In the hallowed halls of many government buildings, one can find plans that have not seen, and will never see, the light of day. We have planned for many turnarounds, for many reforms, for many transformations - yet we seldom see turnarounds, reforms or transformations.
At the beginning of each administrative year, ministers and other members of parliament regale us with proposed plans and programmes, yet they never inform us why previous plans never materialised; or if they materialised, why they never achieved the desired results. Furthermore, they shy away from setting any performance targets, thereby failing to hold themselves accountable.
The PSOJ, as far as I know, rarely criticises a finance minister, or any other minister, on their respective Budget or Sectoral presentations. In fact, PSOJ and other bigwigs are regular features at after-budget-speech-fetes, regardless of which party forms the Government. They laugh heartily and drink copiously while congratulating the minister who, earlier in the day in Parliament, failed to acknowledge poor performance; failed to set performance targets against which they will be held accountable, but instead waxed lyrically of grand plans and projects to come.
Somehow, during the middle of the financial year, such as at the recent forum, Jamaica's not-too-stellar performance is heavily criticised while alternative plans to solve our problems are posited. PSOJ executives must come to terms with the fact that all plans are really hypotheses and cannot be termed good until they have been executed and achieved desired results. These misunderstandings might have been avoided had they taken the time to hearken to the philosophy of one of their own: the National Commercial Bank's erstwhile chairman, Michael Lee-Chin.
FORMULA FOR SUCCESS
From his humble early days growing up in Manchester, to his student days at McMaster University in Canada, Michael Lee-Chin rose to be one of the most successful businessmen in Canada. He must have done some things right; so when he shares his philosophies, we need to sit up, listen and take notice.
Among his favourites is one I never forget and which I use in all my strategic planning and leadership development sessions: "Success is one per cent planning and 99 per cent execution." High-performing companies, and individuals, are not those with the best plans; rather those who best execute plans.
It is, therefore, very easy for the PSOJ and other commentators (including me, of course) to prescribe plans for politicians and public-sector officials to execute, as we will never be held accountable and are never proven wrong.
Instead, the PSOJ ought to be asking the Government why previously seemingly workable plans never get executed. Why is it that having expended so much resources on tax reform for more than a decade, we have had no tax reform?
Why is it that having spent millions on public-sector reform over nearly two decades, all we have done is sprinkle holy water on a few organisations and rechristened them executive agencies, yet overall public-sector performance remains dismal - low growth, high debt, high murder rate, and poor education outcomes?
In a motivational speech delivered at the New York Giants preseason training recently, a famous fighter pilot listed the three most important ingredients of flawless execution as being leadership, accountability and teamwork. I recommend to the PSOJ hierarchy that they spend more time lobbying for improved leadership, accountability and teamwork from the Govern-ment; rather than continuing to suggest more and more plans.
Our self-styled transformational leader, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, continues to prove that she is anything but transformational. Her recent "accepting" of the resignation of former minister Richard Azan is a case in point. The fact is that with 63 elected and 21 appointed parliamentarians, such an occurrence was bound to happen sooner or later.
I really expected no better from Mr Azan, as I do not think he understands the concept of wrongdoing, having claimed he has no regrets. What I did not expect was the prime minister's lack of urgency to do the right thing and failure to demand his resignation from as far back as when the story first broke.
Even when "accepting" the resignation, the prime minister heaped praises on Mr Azan, failed to indicate why she accepted his resignation, and was content to watch the PNP delegates give the fallen Azan a rousing welcome at the conference recently.
Furthermore, the continued reference by the de facto information minister that the Cabinet had not discussed the OCG report suggested that the goodly prime minister does not fully appreciate, or accept, her own responsibility and accountability.
It is against this background that President Zacca should have a quiet word with the prime minister, while advocating leadership and accountability in public.
ECJ and accountability
Dr Herbert J. Thompson, CD, former head of the Northern Caribbean University, now chancellor of the University College of the Caribbean, and former chairman of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) has had a very distinguished career. Dr Thompson accepted an award from the People's National Party recently, for the contribution of the ECJ to national development.
Whether representing himself or the ECJ, Dr Thompson realised he erred seriously and did the honourable thing by offering his resignation, which was accepted by the governor general.
Although spurred by Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, Dr Thompson's resignation showed character, integrity, accountability and leadership. This was, in stark contrast to Mr Azan, the prime minister and, in particular, Ambassador Burchell Whiteman, who expressed shock at Dr Thompson's resignation, and who failed to take accountability for his own action of giving the ECJ chairman an award from a political party.
lack of accountability
The total lack of an accountability culture in government manifests itself in many other ways. No purpose-driven performance targets are set; instead, we get dubious targets hidden in extremely voluminous documents such as the Growth-Inducement Strategy, the Medium-Term Framework, the National Investment Policy, and the several corporate and business plans which make a mockery of accountability.
Gone are the days when finance ministers presented growth targets, then reported why they failed to achieve those targets. No one in Government is ever dismissed for poor performance, as performance is never demanded by their leaders.
I strongly recommend to President Zacca that he lobby the prime minister to publicly state purpose-driven performance targets for all Cabinet ministers, then hold each accountable for the achievement of those targets.
Robert Wynter is managing director of Strategic Alignment Limited, which facilitates organisational transformation and leadership development. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.