The leadership model imperative
Whether the operators are aware of it or not, every business has a model. Business here is not limited to profit making enterprises but entities that render a service with intended beneficiaries, whether they pay for such services or not and where the survival of such entities depends on the rendering of such services. It is better there is awareness of a model rather than thrusting blindly; for awareness enhances intentionality and conscious effort towards putting the model into use and maximizing results.
People or organizations may be doing the same things, but what may bring a two-pronged job satisfaction is effective deployment of a sound model. A model alone is no magic. If the necessary systems are not well aligned, it is doomed from birth.
There are four main building blocks. The first is what I may paraphrase as client or citizen value proposition. Basically this entails answering the questions: What pressing needs do the client/citizen have? What are the existing gaps in providing these needs? What can be done to ensure the client/citizen enjoys full satisfaction in the provision of these needs? With the way various governments have run the business of government leaving in their wake mass dissatisfaction on the part of the citizenry, each successful government has a huge potential for a fresh citizen value proposition. Take the matter of electricity for instance and the huge opportunity that exists in creating a citizen-value proposition. And yet, gradually it is appearing more to be a missed opportunity.
The second building block is the profit formula or in the case of a not-for-profit entity what may be called the cost formula. The balance to ensure here is how value can be created for the entity as well as the client or citizen. For a profit making entity the task is to ensure that there is enough profit while there is satisfactory service manifest in a huge clientele. Many businesses fail in this regard, service is compromised for profit or profit for service. A not-for-profit considering a cost formula would ensure value for money. Many NGOs have the temptation of spending money just because it is available and budgeted for, without minding if they would do the same thing if the cost were to be borne by themselves or by an entity desiring to declare dividend.
The third element in considering a model is key resources. What to consider here is whether we do have the needed human resources, equipment, technology, and channels to deliver the necessary client or citizen value proposition. It is amazing that when Nigerians live and work abroad, they become part of the driving force of those economies. I was delighted when an American priest friend of mine remarked that most of the Nigerians he encountered in the US were solid professionals. Nigerian policemen on missions outside the shores of this country present an image of efficiency, not to talk of our soldiers. Within Nigeria there are tremendous human and material resources, sometimes with the latest technology. If equipment can be bought, then it can be available in Nigeria. The issue is not that there aren’t enough key resources therefore. Complementing this is the fourth element: key processes. This involves mostly the recurrent tasks such as routine activities, planning sessions, budget processes, standard trainings and updates, routine production activities etc. Key processes include also the policies and regulations that guide the personnel and operations in an entity.
Nigeria is not in want of processes. During the Obasanjo years there was an addition called due process, which aimed to put a check on the corrupt, and arbitrary manner contracts were awarded. It actually did save a lot of money for the country, although the major complaint was that it added to the bureaucracy and tended more to slow things down. Several institutions monitoring government processes were also established. Government at some point may have become efficient. But efficiency could not translate to effectiveness. A well-oiled entity would ensure that processes do not emasculate intended activities and results. Nowadays, in several states where such policies have been enacted, they have become another arm of the octopus called corruption and may have contributed in making projects executed by government more expensive and shoddy. It goes a long way to show that the culture or the ethic in an environment is critical to the effective implementation of any model.
The truth is that as a country Nigeria budgets and spends huge sums of money on key resources, but if the processes do not become right, we will still be dancing around a particular spot. As Jonathan is desperate to succeed as a president with a transformation agenda, how the business of government is conducted has to become a top priority to him. He should work towards changing the perception of the institutions that ensure checks and balances as scape-goating agents to agencies that promote a sustainable culture of transparency and accountability. This would mean granting more powers to operate independently.
Fr. Evaristus Bassey is the Executive Director of Caritas Nigeria at the Catholic Secretariat.