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GET REAL: The buck stops at the top


GET REAL: The buck stops at the top

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WHEN THIS WAS a slave society, the buck stopped with the slave.  Enslaved workers are an expendable resource. Massa can lay all his burdens on the backs of the people he owns. In a free society massa is replaced by manager, who must justify his right to manage by the performance of the system he implements and oversees.

A good manager is as much a servant as he is a leader. Massa ain gotta justify one ting to nobody. 

In the 50th year of Independence management and management style is the growing issue.

A caller on Down To Brasstacks gave an intriguing perspective on the water situation in Barbados. In his opinion, Barbados has sufficient water for evuhbody. His reasoning is that 60 per cent of our water leaks from old pipes that need replacing and yet we still manage to survive.

If the runaway water were to be recaptured, would we still have water outages in rural parishes? According to this caller, Barbados does not have a water scarcity problem, we have a water management problem. 

Food for thought. 

At the end of the pipe the result is the same. Dry taps. To the residents of St Joseph, poor water management or water scarcity scarcely makes a difference. The reframing of the issue does not spell immediate relief.

For long-term programmes and solutions it might. If the issues is framed as a water scarcity issue, then the attitude of another recent caller to “Brasstacks” holds all the water in the world. To paraphrase this caller, “Wunna know evuh since dat water scarce and wunna wunt prepare for it.” The responsibility is squarely on the people’s backs.

A reasonable stance. If it is I who will suffer then I should take measures to prevent my suffering. This thinking then usually rolls into statements about Bajans expecting Government to do too much. That we are too complacent and not proactive enough.

The thought of Barbados as a water scarce country conjures up images of St Lucy someday looking like the Sahara.  The water conservation consciousness in John Public becomes our only hope.

This lends support to the statements of Minister Donville Inniss, who advised waterless home owners to do like him and invest in a tank and pumping system. The minister was speaking out in protest, against protests in the streets, by persons suffering from water outages.

Again the impression can be taken that Bajans too like to whine and complain and not take action.

Framing the issue as a water scarcity issue takes some weight off of the Barbados Water Authority and Government and places it on the shoulders of the citizens of Barbados.  Water scarcity, after all, is not a result of governance and management, but an act of God. Therefore the major prescription must be prayer and preparation.

However, the moderator, speaking to the second mentioned caller, pointed out to him that while the home owner is responsible for conserving the water that comes out of her tap, she cannot be held accountable for the 60 per cent of Barbados’ water that leaks out of underground pipes.

A scarcity focus places greater emphasis on consumer responsibility and wastage. A leakage focus places the spotlight on management and competence.

It is not a case of either/or. Very few people will argue against the public being more careful with how we use our water. Just like very few people will argue that children should be respectful and disciplined towards teachers. Or that West Indies cricketers should be putting in their all for the squad.

Where ever the people fall short, there must be a well-managed system to pull them up or pick up the slack. Every issue, at the end of the day, is a management issue. 

When there is an issue, a common human tendency is to pass the buck and divert blame, or at least responsibility.  But the buck stops at the top. In modern institutions management takes ultimate responsibility. The bosses either find a way to fix the problem or make way for someone who can.

If management is continually passing the buck to those they manage, then there is no one in charge and no one accountable.

Yes the attitude and behaviours of our children in schools is a challenge. The education official who says the parents must do better in order for the situation to improve, cannot justify their salary. Unless they have a plan to help the parents to do better. Otherwise they are admitting they have not any idea of a solution and should give someone else a go.

Yes the West Indies cricket team is not performing as we would like. The board member who cites a lack of commitment, motivation and professionalism as the cause should step aside, unless they have a plan to inspire, and motivate and create a culture of professionalism.

In Barbados it is said we are scarce on most resources, except one. We have ample human resources. The management of people should logically be our area of expertise.

So suppose we never find a way to recover the 60 lost per cent of water.  Lewwe say the answer to the water woes is Barbados becoming a nation of conscientious water consumers. What is the radical national strategic plan to inculcate a culture of conservation? How do we mobilise the passion for saving water?

It is still a management issue.  Specifically the management of our human resource. Harnessing the talents and passion of the people is key.

But according to Brian Lara, “What we tend to do in the West Indies is that we take very good talent and make it into mediocre talent.”

Adrian Green is a researcher, writer and performer. Email: [email protected]