Send in the consultants

consultants 2The government of Barbados is under tremendous pressure to make significant, sustainable changes in the country’s economic fortunes and to reform practices that obviously don’t work as they should. The object being, a country has global respect for its excellence and quality of life. Typically, this is the time when the “experts” are brought in to: analyze, strategize, do studies, write reports, advise, make plans and establish terms of reference.

Since I am a practicing Certified Management Consultant (CMC), I must declare that I have a vested interest and a biased view of how this process should unfold. I have been involved in consulting activities around the world, for more than 50 years and have been based in Barbados since 1993.

The International Council of Management Consulting Institutes (ICMCI) estimates that in developed, mature markets, 1 person per 1000 population is a “consultant”. In developing countries and “immature markets”, the ratio is estimated to be 1 in every 2000. So, in Barbados, there are many people offering “consulting” services. Because of my extensive involvement in the industry and the profession, I know that many of these person are simply calling themselves “consultants” while looking for a job. It sounds nicer than “unemployed”. Others are experts or specialist in a technical area that’s in demand. That can range from IT to medicine, to the “financial advisors”; that populate the landscape.

I am not making these observations to disparage anyone. I happen to know that it is not uncommon for politicians and some corporate executives to circumvent hiring restrictions and provide income for friends and family members. The record will also show that some of these funds have found their way into the pockets of those authorizing the contracts. Today, I spoke with a person who had first-hand experience of a “consultant” being brought into a government department on a six-month contract that was extended to eighteen months. The contract ended because it was clear that no effective work was done and the problem had gotten increasingly worse.

The scandals that have been attributed to nefarious management consulting practices have made headlines all over the world. We have notorious ones right here in this region. In the wake, legislation has been enacted to appease the victims and give the appearance of minimizing risk. The influence of management consultant is so pervasive that we are often unaware that it touches us unless something goes wrong.

I am raising this now because this is clearly a time when management consulting services are needed. Not the “do a study and write a report” type but one that requires committed professionals who are experienced at “walking” the client through the changes. Management consulting is a trillion dollar a year industry. Consulting services represent a substantial foreign exchange drain on our economies because 92.5% of fees are paid to non-regional consultants.

There are now ISO standards that define best practice, essential processes and necessary competencies for management consultancy. In Barbados and the Caribbean, there are growing number of management consultants who have obtained certification to these globally-recognized standards and practices. It would be shameful waste to allow cronyism and secrecy to thwart this opportunity to adopt a more effective, transparent approach to improvement. It is also an opportunity to create a vibrant service export that can earn foreign exchange.

God bless.



A quest for good

goodnessI begin this article with a prayer that has become my daily prayer:

“Lord, may everything we do begin with your inspiration, continue with your help, and reach perfection under your guidance”.

The Lenten season has arrived. This 40-day period is a time to reflect on the ways we have been and are being tested in our lives. A time to step outside the everyday hustle and bustle and examine things that really matter. A time to recognize ways we can and should be better human beings, not in temporal terms but those things that bring genuine joy.

There is certainly enough strife in the world that we can easily fall prey to judging the faults of other and prescribing how they should change. This approach however, is an exercise in suppressing your own joy. If, at the time you are having these judgmental feelings, you happened to look in a mirror, the reflection would be dour and unappealing.

In the words of Pope Francis, “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.”

I am struck by the fact that the term “hater” has become so prevalent in our society. It is derived from the spontaneous outpourings of derogatory comments and opinions aimed at the efforts of others. Hating serves no useful purpose but many are choosing this mode of expressing themselves in the social media and other traditional media. “Bullying” is another term that has gained prominence. This is actually an ancient practice that has escalated to such an extent that in schools, for example, specific ground rules are now in place to discourage this behaviour.

While these are worrisome trends and behaviours, the fact that many in society are working to change it, is sign of hope. The question is whether or not we are fanning or dousing these flames of hope.

While Lent is Christian in its origin, everyone I have ever met seems to have a built-in recognition that from time to time, it is important to take stock and renew ourselves. While we are often “incident” driven, our interpretations of these episodes can have far-reaching effects on ourselves and on those we meet.

How often do we consciously ask ourselves if these interpretations cause us to be force for good? What criteria do we use?  Here are some questions you may find useful:

  • Think of a time when you know you made a mistake.(the more recent the better)
  • Why do you consider it a mistake?
  • Who did affect and how?
  • What have you learned?
  • What changes did/will you make to obtain improvement?

I would like to end with some words from Pope Francis’ book: “The Joy of the Gospel”:

“Goodness always tends to spread. Every authentic experience of truth and goodness seeks by its very nature to grow within us, and any person who has experienced a profound liberation becomes more sensitive to the needs of others. As it expands, goodness takes root and develops. If we wish to live a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good.”

Let’s see what we can change to make ourselves and the world a better place.

God bless.

Some thoughts about performance

performanceFree association is a technique that I frequently use when teaching about communications. In an exercise, I ask members of a diverse group to write down, without censorship, everything that comes to mind when they see or hear a particular word. Today, that word is Continue reading