Research has concluded that there are three reasons why organizations fail. These are strategic incompetence, arrogance, and ideology. Incompetence means not having the skills or ability to get the task done; arrogance means not listening to alternative views and ideology means being distant from reality, that is not being relevant.
In this paper, I am going to confine my thesis to incompetence which appears to be plaguing institutions in Trinidad and Tobago. It is not that there is a dearth of qualified people, but these individuals are usually overlooked by the leadership who prefers loyalty.
When the peasants in the Magnificent Seven felt helpless before the bandits who raided their homes and stole their crops and animals, they hired professional fighters to protect them. Yul Brynner’s character was the CEO for the task, and he saw to it that experienced men are recruited, that is, the best in the market.
Similarly, when the Modi government wanted to introduce an identity card for the citizens of India it turned to Nandan Nilekani of Infosys and he in turn hired the best all-India team to get the task done. Today India’s Adhaar Card is a talking point for leaders all over the world who wish to implement a similar identity card.
Do we usually source the best people to get a task done? I doubt very much. Filial attachment and emotion usually override our rational minds. It is not that there are not competent individuals for hire. The truth is we want to have puppets through whom we can rule by proxy, that is, we can call the shots. This culture is not only present in family businesses but even in social and cultural organizations and appointments from aldermen, senators and CoP to cabinet ministers and judges.
Meritocracy is a world we don’t want to know. We prefer words like nepotism, ethnicity, and family. Because of this attitude, several incompetent leaders are positioned like puppets to rule on behalf of their masters. Several outgoing local government representatives came to the office not because of their love for their burgesses but because they are puppets dancing to the whims and fancies of senior officials of the political parties.
Yul Brynner’s character did not hire his brother or his poppa or dada to ride with him. Had he done that they would have all been killed. Brynner hired the best and the task was accomplished. There were setbacks but they resolved to get the task done come what may. When Nandan Nilekani accepted the offer of the Indian Prime Minister of India to develop a biometric and identity card for 1.4 billion Indians, he searched out the best men.
The challenge of a leader is to create a social eco-system that would attract competent and committed individuals to get the task done. Franchise sports such as the Indian Premier League and the Caribbean Premier League are successful because they contract the best talents from across the cricketing world. Bollywood and Hollywood continue to be open to talent not only within India and the sub-continent but the entire globe. Transnational Corporations and universities are no less different.
Our local conglomerates are not different and hence their growing success. They are never afraid to hire the best minds to lead the marketing department or as financial consultants. They understand that at the end of the day their companies must return a profit. But the same cannot be said for state enterprises, the public service and cabinet of the country. These critical positions are reserved for party loyalists whose sole agenda is to dispense goodies to the party loyalists and never about balancing the budget and generating a profit.