MANAGEMENT IN THE CARIBBEAN
By Francis Wade Thursday, July 28, 2011It’s no secret that the Caribbean region lags developed countries in terms of productivity and time management. Each
island has its own time (e.g. Trini time,) deadlines aren’t meant for
rushed completion and miscues are to expected rather than treated as
have come to expect that we are simply lacking something in this area,
and are amazed by statistics that tell us that some 65% of Americans
don’t take all their vacation days, preferring instead to work.
Contrast that with our upcoming plans to take off Carnival Monday and
Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, a day off to pick up our costume, another day
off to pick up the costume that wasn’t ready the first time plus days
to recover from various fetes. It’s easy to conclude that greater
productivity would have to come at the expense of "Fe-Weh culture."
This turns out to be a mistake.
who migrate to the US and all of a sudden realize new levels of
accomplishment don’t do so because they have simply adopted a new
culture, as if by magic. Instead, those who are able to upgrade their
personal productivity do so because they are instantly surrounded by
better role models.
the workplaces of the UK, US and Canada it becomes apparent to a new
immigrant that the old standard they used to follow when they were back
home, is far below the average that they must now demonstrate in order
to keep a decent job. In the absence of formal training, the best way
to adapt is to copy those who are demonstrating success.
fact is, this tactic isn’t very different from the one that we
Caribbean people use here at home. We take a glance around the
workplace at other employees, and once we are satisfied that we are not
the least productive, we relax, and take a laugh at those who can
barely make it to work on time each day, and always find emergencies to
make them leave early.
look at them and mentally make them wrong: they are "wutless," stupid,
lazy, etc. We talk as if their performance is a function of their
character, personality and culture.
books like "Talent is Overrated" by Geoff Colvin and others share
modern research that demonstrates that success has more to with
consistent practice than anything God-given. Time management and
personal productivity are no exception.
Indians who migrate and suddenly becomes productive are able to see and
mimic the habits of others who are more effective than anyone back
home. This mimicry leads to higher performance, especially when there
are many role-models to follow, and clear consequences for not
measuring up. This isn’t just a matter of giving up one’s vacation
time, which some would argue correctly is counter-productive
success comes down to practicing these new habits, and how well one
executes time management essentials. These are generally not taught in
classrooms anywhere, and must be learned by osmosis from others. The
essentials are applied to new technologies like email, smartphones and
information overload. Furthermore, continuous upgrades are a must,
given the rate at which technology is expanding.
Caribbean employees also need to change our benchmarks: instead of
measuring themselves against the productivity of others, we need to
learn something about world-class standards and look to emulate them.
is what our cricketers, athletes and soccer players do, and it’s the
reason they stand out. The same can’t be said for our employees, who
become satisfied at a young age at being just good enough. According to
"Talent is Overrated," this unwillingness to set high standards and
practice new habits until they are mastered is the reason why
experienced lawyers, actuaries and teachers are no better than those
who are fairly new. A good comparison is the learned ability to drive:
we improve rapidly in the beginning, but once we get our license, we
stop getting any better, and ultimately our skills deteriorate.
management and personal productivity are universal skills that all
working adults possess to some degree, and those that stop developing
them are fall behind quickly. We shake our heads at CEO’s who don’t
know how to use email, and have their secretaries print them out so
that they can read them individually.
joke is on us, however, if we relax into thinking that our personal
productivity levels are fine where they are, and that there’s no need
for an international comparison that would lead to new hard-to-learn
habits. This thinking keeps our entire region well behind the rest of
Francis Wade is a management consultant based in Kingston, Jamaica. He blogs at http://www.2time-sys.com/
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