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Junior officers need training, too


Fri, Oct 22, 2010

Editor: While it is heartening to see the government sponsoring a recent workshop on Change Management, one wonders why only the “Senior Officers”. For that matter, I question the genuineness and objectives. This appears to have all the marks of routineness to me.{{more}}

For one, the current administration has again and again started so many brilliant “ideas” and soon after a few months actions seem to fade into indifference and inactivity. The Wellness Revolution is just one example. We have nicely sounding words that have yet to be translated in to policies and plans that culminate in full acceptance and incorporation in local households behaviours.

There are few, if any, incentives for producers of healthy and local foods, particularly vegetables. Further prices of healthy foods in general are very high. Imagine, 8 ounces of bottled water is more expensive than a soda of similar size with 8 spoons full of sugar within.

Let’s get back to the subject of change. The present administration has demonstrated the change it is talking about is all short term. Annually we have no idea what is the focus of the administration. Likewise ministries and departments have no idea what their focuses are. Every department is operating like routinely. No semblance of an objective to be achieved. I have visited several departments and I see vision and mission statements posted prominently. Lo and behold, the junior and senior employees doing their own thing, totally in contradiction of the aforementioned edicts. On occasions I could not tell who is senior because both officers were endulging in the same unproductive behaviour.

My experience has shown me manager after manager has managed the same way as the one before. The culture was one of nepotism and self-interest. I have seen managers requiring junior staff to work “beyond the call of duty” while they do not even want to stay past 4:15 pm on a good day. The change that needs to come to the public service has to begin with the administration. Measurable goals and objectives must be set each year and must be achieved together.

Let me say here that the change also means that senior officers need to understand that they NEED junior officers. Junior officers are not as expendable as some believe, because replacing a junior officer simply begets another junior officer. Change is a team achievement. Change is non-personal. Change has no owner. Change is a process that when started never stops. So all those senior officers who have sat on their staff, hands, laurels and salaries; running government departments as their own personal mauby shops in cohort with other senior ministry officials, they need to realise someday their turn is coming. The change that they will have to manage is their transfer, termination or retirement. It may not be tomorrow, but it’s going to be sooner than you think.

Change has to be taught throughout the service; at all levels from the captain to the cook and bottle-washer. Otherwise, it will be perceived differently and will produce differential results, and the objectives will not be achieved – something like what is happening now.