We must be in the land of Oz – for there is precisely where the sugar industry is being placed.
The restructuring of Guysuco’s management hierarchy, however fuzzily reported in the press, goes beyond the realms of naïveté. It is a highly imaginative effort that does not reflect any understanding of the reality of best practices in organisational development.
If reports so far are correct, then the proposals raise a number of organisational issues, including the following:
The transfer of Guysuco’s Head Office from Demerara to Berbice, is reported to save the industry $100 million per year. The obvious omission is what this move will cost.
The most critical cost is in terms of the human resources involved. There needs to be an examination of the categories of skills that are (economically) transferable to Berbice, and of those (mostly unionised) support staff who will be made redundant. So one has to deal with the cost of redundancy – presumably after discussions with the union/s involved.
Then logically there should be the cost of replacing in Berbice some, if not all, of the middle/junior technical and administrative skills made redundant.
So far as the management levels are concerned there is the small matter of domestic accommodation and related social facilities to be provided; in addition of course to the required office accommodation and related appointments.
How incidentally will local senior staff be compensated for the dislocation of their current conditions of service, as well as possible family dislocations. Not to mention the disruption of the livelihood of those suppliers of goods and services and products to the Ogle Head Office.
Note has to be taken of human costs, as distinct from the human resources costs.
Then there is the cost benefit analysis to be done of communication between a Berbice headquarters and the Demerara Estates.
It is difficult to conceive of two Regional Directors (a position hardly new in Guysuco) having the combined capacity each to replace those of four General Managers, particularly when it can hardly be affirmed with conviction (at least to many of their colleagues) that the two nominees are the best fits for such wide-ranging responsibilities. It would be useful to see the relevant job description, and how the position has been evaluated vis-à-vis other Executive Directors, in the first instance.
More important, however, would be the reporting structure, and how accountability will be apportioned, and to whom.
The notion of corporate centralism is ill conceived. Not only does it fly in the face of any current management principle in practice, but as a decision-making vehicle it is counterproductive. It is a curious system in which operational decisions will flow from the directorate level, thus raising the question of who reviews those decisions which will boomerang from time to time.
However mundane it may seem there is the important question of the processing of grievances with the unions in the industry. As it appears from the media representation, the ‘General Manager,’ formally a part of the negotiation procedure, will be replaced by a ‘Director.’ Presumably the unions have been advised of this new arrangement in particular, and of course, of the whole restructuring process.
At the same time, it is reported that ‘financial’ and ‘industrial relations’ matters will be referred to the Head Office. Does this mean that the Regional Directors are by-passed in the processing of these matters? Does one conjure up another layer of authority that supersedes the Regional Directors in these two operational areas, or are the latter regarded as part of the Head Office? Again as regards industrial relations the unions need to be consulted on the process.
There is clear reference as to the lack of confidence in the management of Guysuco as it currently obtains. It is difficult to disagree with that perspective. There is also mention of differences in perspectives, presumably on the reasons for the apparent malfunctioning of Guysuco’s management team. There is merit in having a different perspective.
With the focus on management, the emphasis on leadership as a priority appears to have been overlooked. That is one reason why the reported removal of the ‘top brass,’ with the exception of the Chief Executive, makes at least curious reading.
Equally curious is the assertion that former ‘General Managers’ will be offered ‘alternative positions.’ In the absence of a comprehensive board it seems legitimate to ask who will design the ‘alternative positions’; and further what would be the effect on the current compensation packages of the incumbents of those ‘alternative positions,’ if it turns out that not all are necessarily placed at the same level.
If one should step back awhile and examine carefully an exercise, the objective of which is to upgrade performance, but the actual result of which is the diminution of the status of most of the targeted performers, one would appreciate the contradiction – miniaturizing authority (and consequentially capacity) in order to upgrade productivity and effectiveness. For example one needs to compare the status of the former Human Resources Director vis-à-vis his new position as Regional Director.
The proposed management reconstruction has fundamentally to do with competencies and confidence. It is unclear at this stage what criteria were used to evaluate the competencies involved to the extent that the incumbents have been diminished hierarchically.
Normally one would expect that there would have been frank and fair discussions between the perceived authorities and the affected parties first, then take into account the fallout on comparable and other levels of management who must wonder if the clear signal of mis-confidence, of which they learn from the press, applies to them also. This under-estimation, not only of the need for morale and self-confidence, but also for trust in the organisation, may well be reflective of the competencies of the decision-makers.
On this note one wishes to refer to the highly acclaimed book by Stephen MR Covey titled The Speed of Trust, from which a former Chairman of Singapore Airlines, Koh Boon Hwee made the following extrapolation:
“Lack of trust within an organization saps its energy, fosters a climate of suspicion and second-guessing, completely devastates teamwork and replaces it with internal politics. The end result is low morale and the consequent low standards of performance.” It is hoped that these words of caution would be heeded. Finally, as a committed supporter of the sugar industry, I reject my cynical colleague’s observation that what we now have are the same evaporators and poor juice quality.
E. B. John