The Grenville Phillips Column – Who is to Blame?
We arrived at a Government department before 11:00 am and the door was locked. About 9 persons were inside and it was rumoured that the staff were going to lunch after those inside had been processed. The last person to be processed came out at 11:09 am. Then some of the staff came out with cell phones to their ears, and walked through the line of customers waiting outside of the locked door. They did not share any information with us, their customers.
At 11:22 am, someone stuck a sign on the door that stated “We are temporarily closed at this time. Re-opening time: 12:30 pm. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.” A guard noted that they were short staffed, and it was possible that at 12:30 pm, it would be announced that they were closed for the rest of the day.
We who reside in Barbados are not surprised at this true account. We are accustomed to the: long lines, delays, late responses, misplaced files, downed computer systems, critical person is at lunch or is not at work, non-payment by credit card, deadline of 3:00 pm for receiving payments, unwritten regulations known only to the regulator, inconsistent regulations, not-at-this-branch responses, staff shortages, broken equipment, supply shortages, potholes, water shortages, the same excuses, uncaring attitudes, and so on.
Our public services do not appear to be customer-focused. But they think that they are. They think that being polite is being customer focused. It is not. It is simply being polite. Being customer focused is trying to delight the customer. Most customers of government services simply want to access affordable quality services conveniently and quickly. Politely apologising why this cannot be done does not deliver the service to the customer.
Who is responsible for our poorly managed public services? Not the poorly managed employees who are simply performing as directed. Not their managers who are simply implementing a management system that is not working. The ones responsible for setting the management standard are our elected politicians.
Both political administrations accuse the other of poor management when they are not in power. Therefore, both political administrations understand what all customers of Government services understand in this regard. Namely, that our public services are poorly managed. However, is it fair to blame our politicians? I think not.
Both political administrations have tried their best to manage Government services over the past 50 years. Over the past 17 years, I have encouraged both administrations to improve the management of public services. I have referred both political administrations to the customer-focused international quality management standard ISO 9001.
Barbados has been a corresponding member of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) since our independence, and a full member since 1999. Yet both political administrations just cannot seem to bring themselves to implement this international customer-focused management system for our benefit.
This is the first election since our independence where Barbadians can finally decide on the quality of Government services they wish. We pay for our Government services. We elect politicians to set management standards and ensure that they work properly for us. It seems that our politicians have defined themselves as the main customers to which public workers should focus on satisfying. We have allowed them over 50 years to get it right, and they simply were not up to the task.
If you are satisfied with the present management of our Government services, then you should vote for either the BLP or DLP, because the result will be the same – for you. However, if you want a customer-focused public service where you are the customer, then your only choice is to vote for the Solutions Barbados candidate in your constituency. If you want better managed public services, and you still vote for the BLP or the DLP, then you finally have someone to blame – yourself.