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De Ole Dawg – Part 5: 2018 -Montserrat’s culture vs strategy challenge

Are we locked into a governance culture of “business as usual,” hostility to change and reacting to the crisis of the day?

BRADES, Montserrat, Mar 15, 2018 – Last time,[1] we noted that by 2012 DfID wrote in a business case that the Montserrat Development Corporation “ha[d] not performed to date as expected,” speaking of “this failure.”  DfID then requested over EC$ 5 millions to try to turn the MDC around, proposing:

“. . . to reconstruct MDC with improved governance arrangements, staffing, technical assistance and resources. It will have a direct project management function as well as a facilitation role. It is a semi-autonomous agency, reporting to a Board and in turn to the GoM. It will employ strong commercial skills and technical support   within   a   framework   of   strong   governance   and   accountability.   It   is   the   key   part   of   the institutional framework for economic development and without it the island lacks the leadership and project management capacity required to put the foundations in place for strategic and catalytic public investments.”

Unfortunately, by 2014, there were whistleblowers, audits, investigations and questions over procurement as well as management of money.  In short, further “failure.”

Then, by 2015, there was a scandal in the UK tabloid press.  A 2016, DfID-sponsored Business Environment Reform Facility consultancy study[2] summed up: “the  MDC  was  terminated following  poor performance  and concerns over management of money, as evidenced by the findings and recommendations of a Task Force review of the MDC in March 2015.”  And, to this day, Montserrat suffers the consequences of seven years of repeated “failure[s]” in the MDC, lingering questions over the handling of money, inadequate management of environmental concerns [think: Gun Hill and Piper’s Pond and the lashing we deservedly got from the UK over environmental issues], also the loss of confidence by DfID. 

That loss of confidence also translates into a general loss of “risk appetite” by DfID, with much broader consequences. For example when the Hospital refurbishing project’s risk rating moved from “medium” [read: AMBER – warning!] in January 2014 to “high” [read: RED – stop!] in November 2014, DfID’s approach would have been to shut the project down.

Multiply by delays with construction/ completion of the ZJB, MCRS and Agriculture buildings, as well as the questionable shattering of the Programme Management Office (PMO) – all, as we also noted on last time – and a pattern emerges.

Pattern? Yes, the way things get done and don’t get done. For one, the hostility we often have as we see and react to change initiatives and change agents.  Likewise, our clinging to “business as usual” even when it has repeatedly “fail[ed].” so, also, the telling way we may speak of ourselves: “ah so me STOP.”

In short, we are looking at culture.  Organisation culture. Governance culture.

That may tempt us to despair, as cultures generally take generations to change. The temptation then is, to simply shrug shoulders and say, that’s going to take twenty to forty years to change. And for the factions in DfID, FCO and the wider UK Government who are clearly a lot less than enthusiastic about the risks of trying to foster change initiatives here (never mind policy statements on aid priorities favouring OT’s like Montserrat) the culture challenge is an easy excuse for simply waiting.

But, there is a serious, credible alternative. Critical mass for strategic, transformational change based on a specially established change programme. That is, pulling together a cluster of sufficient size, quality, support and sponsorship to start and sustain a wave of change. Involving:

CRITICAL MASS FOR TRANSFORMATIONAL STRATEGIC CHANGE

1: Identifying, encouraging, developing and supporting good change ideas, their originators and champions.

2: Providing sponsorship and incubators that get change initiatives to the point where they can break through to undeniable success. (That’s what the PMO was supposed to be, bringing to bear world class training, certification and organisation as well as management through the Axelos system, starting with PRINCE2.)

3: Providing Godfather support at top level, with marshals on call to deal with hitmen sent out to destructively undermine change and discredit change agents. (Responsible critics actually help the change process.)

4: Organising an agreed programme of strategic change initiatives with a timeline and designated expediters responsible to break through roadblocks.

5: Similarly, upgrading transparency, accountability and financial systems to provide confidence in the quality of governance.

6: To foster this, there should be joint oversight by a commission of GoM and UKG representatives.

Given urgency, a two-track approach is advisable. First, a quick, temporary initiative that gets things rolling without delay, but including a bridge to create a more permanent structure. Then, after that is in place, transitioning to the long-term, 10 – 20 year programme.

Where, the PMO is the obvious framework for doing all of this; it is clear that DfID will not support anything like the “fail[ed]” MDC going forward.  Trying to go back there after what happened in 2012 – 14 will only lead to needless deadlock.

So, let us come together now to move forward. We have already lost over twenty years, we cannot afford to lose another generation. 

[1]               See TMR, March 2, 2017, p. 3:  https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-4-2018-montserrats-project-governance-challenge/

[2]           See: http://www.businessenvironmentreform.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/BERF-Montserrat-BE-Capacity-Building_FINAL_31Jan2017.pdf

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Are we locked into a governance culture of “business as usual,” hostility to change and reacting to the crisis of the day?

BRADES, Montserrat, Mar 15, 2018 – Last time,[1] we noted that by 2012 DfID wrote in a business case that the Montserrat Development Corporation “ha[d] not performed to date as expected,” speaking of “this failure.”  DfID then requested over EC$ 5 millions to try to turn the MDC around, proposing:

“. . . to reconstruct MDC with improved governance arrangements, staffing, technical assistance and resources. It will have a direct project management function as well as a facilitation role. It is a semi-autonomous agency, reporting to a Board and in turn to the GoM. It will employ strong commercial skills and technical support   within   a   framework   of   strong   governance   and   accountability.   It   is   the   key   part   of   the institutional framework for economic development and without it the island lacks the leadership and project management capacity required to put the foundations in place for strategic and catalytic public investments.”

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Unfortunately, by 2014, there were whistleblowers, audits, investigations and questions over procurement as well as management of money.  In short, further “failure.”

Then, by 2015, there was a scandal in the UK tabloid press.  A 2016, DfID-sponsored Business Environment Reform Facility consultancy study[2] summed up: “the  MDC  was  terminated following  poor performance  and concerns over management of money, as evidenced by the findings and recommendations of a Task Force review of the MDC in March 2015.”  And, to this day, Montserrat suffers the consequences of seven years of repeated “failure[s]” in the MDC, lingering questions over the handling of money, inadequate management of environmental concerns [think: Gun Hill and Piper’s Pond and the lashing we deservedly got from the UK over environmental issues], also the loss of confidence by DfID. 

That loss of confidence also translates into a general loss of “risk appetite” by DfID, with much broader consequences. For example when the Hospital refurbishing project’s risk rating moved from “medium” [read: AMBER – warning!] in January 2014 to “high” [read: RED – stop!] in November 2014, DfID’s approach would have been to shut the project down.

Multiply by delays with construction/ completion of the ZJB, MCRS and Agriculture buildings, as well as the questionable shattering of the Programme Management Office (PMO) – all, as we also noted on last time – and a pattern emerges.

Pattern? Yes, the way things get done and don’t get done. For one, the hostility we often have as we see and react to change initiatives and change agents.  Likewise, our clinging to “business as usual” even when it has repeatedly “fail[ed].” so, also, the telling way we may speak of ourselves: “ah so me STOP.”

In short, we are looking at culture.  Organisation culture. Governance culture.

That may tempt us to despair, as cultures generally take generations to change. The temptation then is, to simply shrug shoulders and say, that’s going to take twenty to forty years to change. And for the factions in DfID, FCO and the wider UK Government who are clearly a lot less than enthusiastic about the risks of trying to foster change initiatives here (never mind policy statements on aid priorities favouring OT’s like Montserrat) the culture challenge is an easy excuse for simply waiting.

But, there is a serious, credible alternative. Critical mass for strategic, transformational change based on a specially established change programme. That is, pulling together a cluster of sufficient size, quality, support and sponsorship to start and sustain a wave of change. Involving:

CRITICAL MASS FOR TRANSFORMATIONAL STRATEGIC CHANGE

1: Identifying, encouraging, developing and supporting good change ideas, their originators and champions.

2: Providing sponsorship and incubators that get change initiatives to the point where they can break through to undeniable success. (That’s what the PMO was supposed to be, bringing to bear world class training, certification and organisation as well as management through the Axelos system, starting with PRINCE2.)

3: Providing Godfather support at top level, with marshals on call to deal with hitmen sent out to destructively undermine change and discredit change agents. (Responsible critics actually help the change process.)

4: Organising an agreed programme of strategic change initiatives with a timeline and designated expediters responsible to break through roadblocks.

5: Similarly, upgrading transparency, accountability and financial systems to provide confidence in the quality of governance.

6: To foster this, there should be joint oversight by a commission of GoM and UKG representatives.

Given urgency, a two-track approach is advisable. First, a quick, temporary initiative that gets things rolling without delay, but including a bridge to create a more permanent structure. Then, after that is in place, transitioning to the long-term, 10 – 20 year programme.

Where, the PMO is the obvious framework for doing all of this; it is clear that DfID will not support anything like the “fail[ed]” MDC going forward.  Trying to go back there after what happened in 2012 – 14 will only lead to needless deadlock.

So, let us come together now to move forward. We have already lost over twenty years, we cannot afford to lose another generation. 

[1]               See TMR, March 2, 2017, p. 3:  https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-4-2018-montserrats-project-governance-challenge/

[2]           See: http://www.businessenvironmentreform.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/BERF-Montserrat-BE-Capacity-Building_FINAL_31Jan2017.pdf