I woke this morning with thoughts about team management, prompted by some comments about how the PM had dealt with a new clutch of poor judgments and decisions by some Cabinet ministers. A noted former journalist described his actions as ‘decisive’ and I disagreed.
I guess if one takes decisiveness as quick decision making that might pass; but not if you take it to mean things done in a conclusive manner.
In summary, my view on lack of decisiveness was a simple tallying of what had happened to Cabinet ministers found to be at least wanting in judgement. Bar one, they were first reassigned to, or had their responsibilities reassigned within, the Office of the Prime Minister as ministers without portfolio. Many wags were quick to call this the ‘naughty corner’ or like being ‘put into detention and told to write lines’. As columnist, Daniel Thwaites, put it today-Of The Intertwined And The Closely Affiliated:
‘assigned to that holding pen for the aged, the infirm, those who have been allegedly involved in some project or the other, and those charged but not convicted. It’s a place formerly known as the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).‘
For those who cannot recall:
Karl Samuda (now just back as Education Minister), Andrew Wheatley, Daryl Vaz and now J.C. Hutchinson have met this fate since 2016; the latter two in the past few weeks, having publicly been criticized for “poor judgment” by the PM.
One of my concerns is simply that with collective responsibility in government, these people have been retained in Cabinet and as such are still part of the decision-making process. Shuffling people to an area of unspecified responsibilities or reassigning their Cabinet responsibilities isn’t decisive. It could even be described as deceptive, and as action goes is much less meaningful. We don’t see enough of the inner workings to know whether such moves are in fact sine cure positions.
To my mind, there’s a incongruity in chastising a team member for poor judgment and retaining their judgment in your decision-making process.
Many styles of team management exist and it’s not clear that politicians have any particular one in mind when they assume the highest office, especially of they haven’t been leaders of large teams. As this is the Caribbean, it’s likely that they see themselves as cricket team captains, where the expectations are that all things on the field of play are yours to determine, maybe in conjunction with a coach/manager, but you handle the details of what people do and where they play. It’s very ‘hands on’ or delegation on a short leash. As in cricket, more than many other team sports, you’re stuck with the team selected-no substituting. You hope the selectors got the picks right, and you do with them the best you can. You may wish, in the conditions, that you had a different line-up, but too bad. Football, or many other sports, allow you at least ‘a bench’ with other good players reader to call on for a range of reasons.
Well, cricket matches last at most 5 days; governments last for a much longer time. Honestly, it’s hard to see or justify why some of these ministers were not summarily dismissed from Cabinet, except for the precarious position that numbers play, more so in a Parliament where the government had a razor-thin margin at the outset. I suspect that the thinking in that situation still prevails, even though the margin is a little easier. Clearly, the idea of ‘bad apples’ spoiling the barrel seems to be of little concern. Then again, what’s to spoil?
Another thought rolling through my mind was dissatisfaction with the ‘Westminster’ model of government that Jamaica inherited and has left essentially unchanged. The concerns were several:
We don’t elect PMs; we elect an MP who happens to lead a party and if his/her party wins the majority of seats, he/she is (usually) nominated to form a government. So, in practice, our elected leader is first the choice of a party alone and then selected by default having been voted in by only his/her constituents. It’s always seemed ludicrous to me to have national leaders chosen by such a cockamamie process.
Cabinets are too large. In small countries, the immediate problem is that the portfolios have to be shared amongst a small number of capable people, who are not elected for their ability to manage anything. Inevitably, that leaves a PM having often to ‘scrape the barrel’ to find good people and is loathe to lose any, especially if they have become trusted confidants.
For the moment, my concerns may fizzle, because as more are noticing, elections are due, and with each passing day, must be coming sooner. So, the apple cart wont be toppled over in a hurry. Will all of these ‘holding patterns’ get shaken up after, if the government maintains its hold? Your guess is as good as mine, but I think it could be arrividerci for more than a few.