Sep 23, 2021 Letters
Over the next 20 years in Guyana, the ‘big picture’ will be more complex with many new and unexpected problems, and there will be great opportunities to develop a better quality of life for the overwhelming majority of the nation who are workers, farmers, the poor, the unemployed and the dispossessed.
To achieve that, the national, regional and local governments will have to transform all public sector institutions. Presently, they employ about 50,000 employees (16 percent of employed Guyanese) who provide a broad range of essential public services in many areas including: education, health, law and order, national defence, water and electricity, financial management and auditing of public revenues, business support, agriculture, family support, social security, public transport, infrastructure (roads, highways, bridges, drainage and irrigation), mail delivery and waste disposal. On behalf of all citizens, public institutions are owned and operated by governments. They are funded from taxes and fees and are not expected to generate profits.
The public sector also includes State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) such as the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), the Guyana Oil Company (GUYOIL) and the Guyana National Shipping Corporation (GNSC). They are expected to earn profits but, many times, they are subsidised by the national government.
Because of the new ‘big picture,’ the public sector has never had such possibilities to successfully:  develop a diversified, sustainable and inclusive economy;  provide more jobs, especially for women and youth;  establish a high level of public safety;  minimise bribery and corruption;  reduce poverty and income inequality in all ethnic communities;  end the wage gap between women and men;  create world-class education and healthcare systems; and  stop violence against women and children.
But all of this is easier said than done. Presently, only a few public institutions enjoy the confidence, trust, respect and support of Guyanese who despair that most of the public sector will not be able to significantly achieve the national priorities listed above.
The major problem is that many public institutions do not have “living” strategies to guide them. In essence, they are “planning to fail” because they fail to plan where they want to go. Consequently, they do not effectively measure, evaluate, learn from and adjust their activities.
The priority for national, regional and local governments is to embrace strategy planning and immediately mandate every public institution:  to update its mission (what it does), its vision (what it wants to achieve over time), its values (what it stands for) and, most importantly, its strategy and objectives (goals) to insure that they are in line with the current political, financial, economic and social policies and programmes of the government;  to simplify its systems (procedures and regulations) and restructure non-performing departments so that its services will be more transparent, accountable and customer-focused;  to upgrade the skills of all employees; and  to ensure that its budget has sufficient finances for strategy planning and implementation.
Strategy planning is a very demanding process. It has to be organised in ways that do not negatively impact an institution’s present workload. International experience demonstrates that a realistic timeline for developing a new strategy is about six months. For those institutions that already have a strategy, a review should take no more than four to five weeks.
The process should be mainly homegrown. Hundreds of Guyanese, at home and in the diaspora, have leadership abilities and experiences to support the development and implementation of institutional strategies; and they come from every ethnic community, gender, economic class and age group. There should be no dependence on international strategy consultants because, although they are helpful, most times, they offer little practical guidance and they usually do not directly participate in the implementation of institutional strategies.
There are six key steps to achieve success in strategy planning and implementation.
Step One – Each institution has to form a strategy team that must include the Permanent Secretary or Chief Executive Officer, Board or Commission members, managers and supervisors, key staff who directly interact with the public, the finance and human resources departments, members of the general public and representatives of civil society organisations. The team has to be inclusive with representatives from all ethnicities, urban, rural and hinterland communities, women and youth, economic classes and persons with disabilities. The ideas and proposals of employees and customers must be given very high consideration. One of the most effective tools for doing this is confidential staff and customer surveys.
One person in the team must be always responsible and accountable for overseeing the process.
Step Two – Accurate and detailed data has to be collected on the new ‘big picture,’ the internal systems (the performance of departments), and the external forces (the political, financial, economic, social, environmental and technological influences at the global, national, regional and local levels) that could impact the work of the institution. Keeping track of data is very challenging. Automated software does help but it must be carefully chosen.
Step Three – The strategy team has to use the collected data and feedback to:  evaluate the institution’s internal strengths and weaknesses;  examine the opportunities and the threats, at the global, national, regional and community levels; and  anticipate potential risks.
Step Four –The team would then review its present strategy or develop a new five-year strategy with short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives (goals) and priority activities (projects). Each objective and project must be SMART, that is, specific, measureable, achievable and realistic with clear timelines. This will ensure that, in any given year, the institution would be able to efficiently and effectively absorb the public funding and material resources assigned to it.
Step Five – In line with the strategy’s objectives and projects, each department and division has to  develop annual work plans with budgets and activities;  measure, evaluate, learn and adjust its key performance indicators and targets every three months to identify which projects are on track, which are falling behind, and which have been completed.
Step Six – The implementation of the strategy has to be continuously communicated to all staff, the public and other stakeholders. If this crucial step is overlooked, the strategy will fail because there would be no common understanding that could lead to the achievement of the institution’s strategic objectives.
Once a year, the overall strategy should be reviewed to assess progress and, if necessary, make adjustments.
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