Enlightened Leadership is needed!

Amcham and Cipriani Labour College recently demonstrated what enlightened leadership can look like when they hosted a conversation about the closure of the Petrotrin refinery. The numbers presented at that session painted a grim picture and a persuasive argument for the closure of the Petrotrin refinery. That information is not new – we knew that the Pointe a Pierre Refinery was a disaster since Texaco left but successive governments chose to operate a failed model and keep up the lie that TnT was a key energy player while they presided over this make-believe scenario that a small country of 1.3 million people was big in the petroleum dance. We did have a “moment of glory” in the natural gas sector. From the presentation of the Chairman of the Board, it is clear to me that their decision making has gone beyond the closure of the refinery. I am sure that the Prime Minister is waiting for the right timing to announce the new arrangements.

Closing the Petrotrin Refinery is not simply a matter of dividing up two billion dollars by 2,800 and “calling that George”. This decision will haunt us for a long time and deepen the groove of “learnt helplessness” further into our collective psyche.

I marvel at the absence of any sociocultural analyses of the potential impact of this closure. I expected that the closure of Caroni would be used as a case study to not repeat any mistakes. So I expected some analysis of its impact on fence-line communities; to be directed to a report showing how the land use has impacted the communities; to be advised how the absence of Caroni has impacted small business, maxi drivers, schools, sports fields etc. Such reports would have made me think that we are learning from past experiences and ensuring that we do not repeat the same mistakes of the past.

Instead the population is left waiting for the next round of announcements and workers don’t even have a worked example of what their severance package would look like. More importantly, 3,500 families go to bed every night thinking about their next move but not being able to plan anything because they simply do not know how or where to begin.

My deep concern is the impact of the closure of Petrotrin the on our human capital. This is a human development issue which if not addressed positively, will spell the continuation of our poor work habits and the lack of a shared vision of our future self. No matter how this dice is rolled, we’re in for hard times and the government will not have the money to sprinkle on the rough seas.

UWI professor Dr. Roger Hosein said: “We are all to blame, as after 3.7 billion barrels of oil and gas equivalent between 2007 and 2018, we are basically back to 2007 GDP”. I disagree with Dr. Hosein and place the blame squarely at the feet of our politicians, both PNM and UNC derivatives. They have both facilitated unsustainable governance structures; pretended that corruption did not occur under their watch and kicked the problems down the road. The chickens have now come home to roost and it falls to the current Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley to provide the inspired leadership that is needed to help us change our behaviours.

The late Andrew Carnegie said: “Take away my people, but leave my factories and soon grass will grow on the factory floors … Take away my factories, but leave my people and soon we will have a new and better factory.” Well, The Man From Mason Hall now has a monumental task on his hands. His success and our success or failure is inextricably bound. For him to begin to solve this problem he must be accountable to the entire nation for the decisions which have been made about Petrotrin. For him to make the right decision he must demonstrate an ability to be collaborative and transparent. Mr. Prime Minister … may you be haunted by the notions of accountability, collaboration and transparency as we cure this “Dutch Disease” once and for all. That’s the job you applied for, so just do it!

 

 

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Petrotrin – A Sociocultural Fiasco …

glass half fullI’m a “glass half full” kind of person, which is why I see the Petrotrin closure as an opportunity for inspired leadership on one hand, and the transformation of our people on the other. Leadership and transformation both require a willingness to change the way we see things. The behaviourists talk about changing our mental models, but before we change those mental models we have to engage in a deep conversation about how and why we need to change. And this is where my “glass half full” notion becomes fragile and even smashes to smithereens. All I see before me is confrontation … one-upmanship … winners [those who think they are] and  losers [many who know they are]. This is too important a decision for fragile egos to prevail. It requires inspirational leadership and communication. Businesses go “belly-up” every day but what makes a difference is the capacity of the people involved to see the opportunity in the crisis, and their willingness to roll around in the mud and come out with clear action plans which will be honoured by gentlemen.

The closure of Petrotrin goes way beyond the disappearance of the flare which has brightened the skyline for more than 75 years. The closure will see the darkening of more than 35 fence line communities which thrived because of the business generated by employees at the Refinery. Gasparillo, Marabella, Plaisance Park, Claxton Bay will change because the refinery no long exists. The delivery of medical services to 20,000 persons annually will also change. The positive outcomes derived from the company’s support for sport and culture will change if not disappear. These are not hard economic arguments but sociocultural considerations.  Indeed; the loss of activity in the area will cause loss of business to the area – from fruit and snack vendors to stores and gas stations – all will be affected. These business owners might go from contributing to the economy, to being a drain on it. The loss of healthcare might financially finish off some families, who also might end up having to rely on government handouts.

From a Leadership viewpoint, we will see the extent to which this Rowley led administration can use this as an opportunity to change governance structures at state enterprises. We will see if there is the capacity to transform the public service. We will see if a model emerges which can make WASA into a productive enterprise. This situation has been played out before – the loss of the sugar cane industry which is thriving in other parts of the world (not just for sugar, but alcohol as fuel and other products).  If none of these happen then it will be fair to conclude that another opportunity for transformation has been squandered and perhaps the leadership capacity just does not exist.

So, the jury will be out for some time with regard to leadership but with regard to communications, the murkiness in the environment confirms to me that it is a textbook example of how “not” to handle communication of a major decision. In today’s mediated communications world, leaders have a responsibility to shape their narrative by telling their story. The story of the closure of the refinery has not been told and if anything has raised a level of mistrust which will take a long time to change.

What we are seeing is an “old power” approach in which the Prime Minister and a select few hoard resources like a dam holding back water, flooding some areas to destruction, while causing drought elsewhere. What is actually needed is a new power approach which is “open, participatory and distributed”, the way rain and rivers distribute water in a forest, so everything grows and thrives. Countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Norway are successfully doing this, so this is not a pie-in-the-sky idea.

The big question remains: Is the T&T leadership grown-up enough to do this, and are the T&T citizens responsible enough to handle the resources?

Mr. PM … Be a Builder not a Destroyer!

In the lead-up to the 2015 general elections, the then Leader of the Opposition “went to bed” with the Trade Union Movement and they birthed an agreement. Post 2015, the now Prime Minister has crept away from his partners and abandoned the product of that union. Today, he is in essence saying: “If you want the child, then put down your money.”

Trinidad & Tobago has abandoned Coffee, Cocoa, Sugar, Citrus, Coconut and now Oil Refining. The late Walton James, former Managing Director of Trintoc et al must be turning in their graves, because when they approached the late Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams to purchase Texaco, this was not the outcome they expected. They may have dreamed of a T&T where we are operating a fully integrated energy sector, spanning exploration, production and marketing. The several refinery upgrades have all been in an attempt to strengthen the refining sector but the politics keeps getting in the way, because we systematically destroy what each previous government administration does, then populate the space with square pegs. The Union is not blameless because they have taken the position of, “We too, deserve to live ‘high off the hog.’” The twin problem of puerile politics and lack of productivity is finally on our doorsteps. We can see it as an opportunity to fix both, but that requires leadership with a macro or is it “maco” vision.

Instead, Prime Minister Rowley has continued the negative messaging that we cannot build and grow, we can only destroy. Except for the Pt. Lisas Estate, the slash and burn philosophy continues. This murky Petrotrin decision smacks of either lack of clarity of the intended outcome, ineffective communications or the need to reward favoured supporters. Here was an opportunity to hammer out an arrangement with the Trade Union for the successful operation of the Refinery. There is no shortage of “young” retirees with the knowledge to change the culture of Petrotrin, but we continue to judge capacity on the basis of political leanings. If we are able to collaborate with the most ferocious trade union to take the journey toward culture change, we can change the entire country. If high productivity and innovation became the core values at Petrotrin under a collaboration with the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union leadership, all other unions would follow and indeed, the entire society.

This lack of productivity and wastage is not confined to Petrotrin and the State sector but is just as prevalent in the private sector which continues to survive and not thrive. What is needed is a leader who can inspire us to strive towards a higher ideal, instead what we continue to be told is that we have failed, while what is needed is the inspiration for us to rise from failure and strive for a higher standard.

We learned the plantation model well and it is time to unlearn it. We are reviving the cocoa industry, but it is still on the basis of exporting the raw product, why couldn’t we invest in chocolate manufacturing on a global scale so that the sector is really stimulated. Doesn’t anyone in TT dream of this?

We abandoned Caroni, but just a 90-minute flight away, the sugar estates in Guadeloupe continue to thrive and their several rum distilleries conduct daily tours teaching the world how to assess a good quality rum. Can we not envision this for ourselves?

We abandoned coffee and there is an unprecedented revival in the coffee industry.  For each example I have used we made the wrong decision.

Once again, we have taken the easy way out. Shut it down, sell it off and send the message that our citizens should continue to be hewers of wood and drawers of water. Maybe there can be a make-up of the busted relationship between the Prime Minister and the Labour Movement. Such a make-up could birth a new age of productivity and national pride in Trinidad and Tobago. The excitement of such a possibility  would leave me feeling that my cohort inspired our nation to be doers as well as dreamers!

 

TTT: A Critique

Ayrid Chandler

ttt.png

Having been tagged in a couple posts, I’m taking a break from vacation to join the dialogue on the newly released logo for TTT.

Disclaimer: The thoughts written below are purely my opinion as a graphic designer, based on a 4 year B.F.A. in Graphic Design education and a following 6 years of graphic design experience. 

http://www.looptt.com/content/new-positive-ttt-launched

So firstly, why the logo change?

I’m going to speculate that they maybe no longer owned the rights to the original design, or they wanted to part from the past and start a new chapter of TTT, look and all. I am also going to speculate that someone wanted the logo to be all caps since it is written TTT but the old logo was in lowercase. (Pure speculation). Lots of corporate clients have told me that lowercase means childish and is not taken seriously. *kanye shrug* I’m assuming that they wanted to…

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Demise of Refining – The Legacy of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley

I left the oil Industry in 1989 because I was impatient with the wait for the VSEP money which was rumoured to be on the way.  Since then, citizens of Trinidad and Tobago knew that Trintoc/Petrotrin needed dramatic restructuring, but our politicians continued to use the company as a reward centre for party faithfuls while organizational decay took root.

Petrotrin’s arrow to the heart occurred under the watch of the PNM with the failed gas to liquids deal. The principle of collective responsibility requires that the current Prime Minister and Minister of Finance take full responsibility and admit that they were part of that decision making.  They were part of the government of the day. Maybe this bold move by Prime Minister Rowley is such an admission and an attempt to redeem himself and the PNM. But this decision in his 35th month in office is problematic.  Does he have the time to recover from the fall out? 1,700 families will wake up with a cheque in hand, but little else.  Several other families of contractors, small businesses and suppliers will soon after realize the dagger to their hearts.  The “Wetman” and John Public will be asking … so how am I getting gas for my TIDA? The legacy voters of the PNM will be waiting to be told what the next move will be.  The Prime Minister is relying on the PNM faithful to help him ride this tumultuous wave.

Over the past 20 years, we have seen alternative administrations dismantle the decisions of their predecessors to the detriment of the country.  You and I, our children and our grandchildren will all have had to pay the price for the arrogance and lack of collaboration of these people. Not one Prime Minister over the past 20 years has demonstrated the ability to act in the national interest by doing whatever was necessary to collaborate on these huge decisions.  Prime Minister Rowley could have used this opportunity to “Collaborate With the Enemy” (the title of a book by Adam Kahane – http://a.co/d/4uFtibC ) with a vision of Trinidad and Tobago in 50+ years.  This issue is bigger than crime and money laundering because of its economic, social and political impact.  My memory of it will be how my generation failed after a 75-year experiment with the refining industry.

The founder of the PNM, the late Dr. Eric Williams sold me the concept of taking charge of the commanding heights of the economy.  His successor is now systematically dismantling every vestige of those commanding heights.

For more than two years, I have been writing about the need for accountability, transparency and collaboration and how it can potentially impact us positively.  This is another lost opportunity for true collaboration in order to change the conversation. Instead what prevails is the “winner take all” strategy and dominance of the patriarchy.

So far, your legacy, Mr. Prime Minister, is to dismantle the vision of our first Prime Minister.

I suppose, when you return to Mason Hall and the 3 golf courses, you will feel proud that it was not “From Mason Hall to White Hall” but From Mason Hall to Mason Hall!

Angostura turns their back on women instead of leading the industry

Dr. Rolph Balgobin resigned as Chairman; the alleged victim of sexual harassment was fired; Terrence Bharath was installed as Chairman at Angostura Holdings Limited.Terrence Bharath, Chairman Angostura

That is how history will record the sordid events related to sexual harassment at Angostura Limited during the two year period 2016/18. Meanwhile, as one woman lives with the painful memory of resisting sexual advances by her boss, the women on the factory floor at Angostura Holdings Limited maintain a quiet composure.

On July 02, 2018 I wrote to to the new chairman and suggested that he should engage a transparent, independent and thorough investigation of the charges of sexual harassment in order to provide closure for the more that 200 female workers employed at Angostura. I further suggested that such an investigation would demonstrate his commitment to ensuring that Angostura Holdings Limited retains a sound reputation amongst 50% of its customers and to a process of procedural fairness at all levels of the organization.

The goodly chairman responded to me indicating that since neither persons were “with” the company, Angostura no longer has any legal authority to pursue the matter and dismissed my concerns with the terse statement:

“In any event, this matter has engaged the attention of the Company, its Attorneys and Board, for a sufficiently long period and the matter is now considered closed”.

As one of the country’s leading companies, it would be unfortunate for Angostura to dismiss the issue of sexual harassment without ensuring the implementation of a sexual harassment policy. As an indirect shareholder, I need to be advised about when the policy was implemented and whether there was sensitivity/awareness training accompanying its implementation. The underlying issue is: can Angostura provide the assurance that there is a clear process for any employee to bring a claim of sexual harassment to the management and that it would be dealt with openly and transparently?

Once this issue remains unresolved it casts a shadow on the safety of the work environment especially for the 200+ women employed at Angostura Holdings Limited. I am acutely aware that when the rights of one woman are trampled, the collective rights of women are in jeopardy. Angostura must demonstrate leadership on this issue and do the right thing. Sexual harassment in the workplace impacts the safe working conditions and cannot be dismissed or back-burnered.

Ltr to DDemming 17July2018 SIGNEDBharath July 25

The Captain vs the Major General

Is it no surprise that Minister Dillon has been removed?  The Prime Minister has chosen to sacrifice one of the persons who brought home his political victory in preference for an opposition player.  PM Rowley is either a masterful collaborator or the rocks he studies have gone to his head. Here are some excerpts from a Gary Griffith Press Release carried on TV6 on June 17, 2016 :

  1. The recent confirmation that the Armoured Personal Carriers have been scrapped by Minister Dillon, again emphasizes that he continues to play politics with National Security, with his sole function being to scrap, disband and dismantle everything that was of value in National Security, just because it was established by the previous Administration, regardless if it was instrumental in reducing crime or based on the direct request by the Protective Services.
  2. This illogical decision goes in line with his previous unfounded comment that our country is not at risk to terrorist activities, and had to be immediately contradicted by the Prime Minister, and rightfully so.
  3. Minister Dillon has not established one policy, but instead his sole actions have been to only shut down, dismantle or cancel every asset pleaded for by the Protective Services.
  4. This latest chapter of Minister Dillon’s agenda “ of shut down and dismantle”, rips into the heart of showing blatant disregard and disrespect for our Protective Services, as it was they who strongly recommended that APCs be acquired, as they are being asked to go into volatile areas, where semi-automatic weapons with high caliber rounds can rip into any regular vehicle and easily kill our Police Officers and soldiers in a second, but Minister Dillon has the audacity to say that these vehicles would not be appropriate, so he is right and every other country that has been using this to protect their troops and our own Army are all wrong.

These are harsh criticisms and a bitter pill for Retired Major General Edmund Dillon to swallow especially since it is being administered by a mere captain.

 

Within the first week of his appointment as Commissioner of Police, I am concerned; primarily because of the kind of power he now has, and there is very little in his past which assures me that the management side of the task is really being considered.  The new CoP has already signalled that he has “78 policies” ready for implementation. That’s commendable but one must remember Peter Drucker who said: “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.  Why is that statement important? You can have policies till it oozes out with your sweat, but unless the new CoP is able to engage the hearts and minds of the people he is leading, nothing will change.  His leadership style so far has not been seen as collaborative.  His army training is based on compliance and I have experienced the arrogance of his power plays.  Unless he is an absolutely “transformed” Gary, the “cockroaches” both within the TTPS and on the streets will eat his strategies for breakfast. Dr. Rowley courted the highest levels of the military and the police to be on his election slate.  He chose Brig. Gen. Ancil Antoine, Retired Major General Edmund Dillon and retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Glenda Jennings-Smith and he already had former police/lawyer and experienced MP, Fitzgerald Hinds.  Their collective experience with law enforcement and the military is more than 100 years. Despite this fire power, crime continues unabated. The fact that these four experienced persons made no headway is instructive.  Either they don’t know how to collaborate, or they don’t know how to manage, or both, or something else.  But for our country’s sake the Captain must outperform the Major General.