ISO System key to better service

The Central Bank Governor has been asked to resign.

From published reports, it appears that the Board members disagreed with the Governor’s plans to improve the management of the Bank. If this is the only reason, and if this will be the new criterion for dismissing those responsible for managing public services, then the National Insurance Scheme should prepare themselves for applications for unemployment benefits from most chief executive officers of statutory corporations, and heads of government departments, in the coming weeks.

Perhaps the most important Board activities are to set attainable performance standards for the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to meet, and then monitoring the CEO’s performance with effective accountability measures. To reduce the risk of a CEO misleading the Board, one of the first responsibilities of any Board of public services is to specify a management system within which the Government service will be developed and delivered, and the performance standards attained.

Given the frequent complaints about poor government services, it seems that our CEOs and department managers have not established an effective management system.  If this is true, then the Boards are not performing their most basic function.

There is a basic international standard for managing an abortionist.  The Quality Management System’s reference is ISO 9001 and it is available to the Government of Barbados.  Those Boards which have failed to direct their Chief Executive Officers to implement the ISO 9001 Quality Management System have done the Statutory Corporation’s long-suffering employees, and frustrated customers, a grave disservice.

When management of specific government services was transferred from Permanent Secretaries to Boards, the principal assumption was that placing public services under private sector influenced Board management would result in the improved management of the government services.  However, those public services that remained within government departments, and were managed by Permanent Secretaries, appear to offer no worse a quality of service.

Therefore, the experiment with Boards has failed to significantly improve the management of public services in Barbados, and those Permanent Secretaries who were relieved of their responsibilities can feel vindicated.

The principal reason for Boards’ relative ineffectiveness appears to be that Board members were selected by the measure of their loyalty to the political party in power –
a proven recipe for failure.

So what should we do right now.  First, all Boards that have not directed their CEOs to implement the ISO 9001 quality management system have demonstrated an intolerable level of incompetence.  Therefore, they should be dissolved immediately, and the management authority should be reverted to the relevant Permanent Secretaries.

Second, all Permanent Secretaries should direct all Statutory Corporation CEO’s and department managers to implement the ISO 9001 Quality Management System with dispatch.  Third, CEOs and managers who delay the implementation of the ISO 9001 Quality Management System are harming public sector employees and frustrating the public, and should be directed to seek their fortune elsewhere.

Barbados public employees can thrive within a properly managed work environment, but they are being held back.  Barbados has wasted at least 20 years unnecessarily keeping public sector employees down, while other countries have improved.  An example in a paper titled ISO 9000 and the public sector by Dr. Lawrence Eicher, ISO Secretary-General, should suffice.

In 1997, the Customs Department in El Salvador was very poorly managed, with “problems relating to sanitary conditions, delays in customs proceedings, unduly long merchandise dispatch times, abuses of confidence, accumulation of merchandise in holds and hundreds of tonnes of abandoned goods.”

“In response, the top management of the Ministry of Finance launched a rigorous clean-up plan in June 1997, which included ISO 9000 implementation.  As a result, the Customs service has been transformed into the most modern in the region with much faster enquiry response times, dramatically improved efficiency, practically no complaints and increased customer satisfaction.

The change for the better has been such that Salvadoran Customs is visited by delegations from Latin American countries to analyze the impact of ISO 9000. The programme was so successful that it was followed up with others in the Directorate General of Internal Taxes and the Internal Tax Court of Appeals.”

“Perhaps the most spectacular feature of the Salvadoran project for deep cultural change in an organization, is that it was implemented without dismissing a single employee, many of whom had worked in the Ministry of Finance for more than 20 years and were over 50 years of age.”

So, rather than planning to send home another few thousand public employees, try keeping the employees, changing the management system, and dismissing the managers who attempt to frustrate the process.

(Grenville Phillips II is the founder of Solutions Barbados and can be reached at

8 Responses to ISO System key to better service

  1. Santini More
    Santini More March 1, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    Grenville you are so right, the impact to any any organisation of implementing an effective ISO 9000 Quality Management System (QMS) can be phenomenal. It forces a review of every aspect of an organisations operations and aligns it with objectives and key performance metrics. However the drive and energy for change can only come from top management and if they are not committed to the implementation of the QMS then nothing will change.

  2. Bajan First March 1, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    How can you send home anyone in the public sector without having the unions calling out the workers at the ports of entry with the support of which ever party is in opposition. Progress in this country has been hampered by unions which see they function as fighting for the employee no matter what. Hey their very existence depends on keeping the workers happy

  3. Tony Waterman March 1, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    Pray tell me!!!! What good is an ISO 9000 0r 9001 Implimentation, if the Power(s) that be, in this Case Finance Minister Sinckler, is going to become a Dictator and run Roughshod over his Subordinates??
    These Standards are meant to be followed rigirously, or they would not be worth the paper they are written on.

    The Former Gov.of the Central Bank brought this on Himself, by becoming ALOOF from his subordinates, The Media, and the People, i have NO pity for him, i guess he did not rememer the old Sayings “No man is an Island” and “What goes around, comes around”

    Serve him right.

  4. Hal Austin March 2, 2017 at 4:47 am

    Grow up. ISO is just a basic international standard. You repeat this nonsense as if it is a Bible for good governance.
    What Barbados needs is good financial regulation, which was Dr Worrell’s big failing.
    It was not his economic competence, but regulation. And, I say again, regulation is not law, it is a hybrid of law and policy, with public policy the dominant feature.
    Is this all Solutions Barbados has to offer?

    • Grenville March 4, 2017 at 10:14 pm

      Dear Hal:

      Question 1: What is the common complaint about public services?
      Answer 1: They are mismanaged.

      Q2: Why are they mismanaged?
      A2: Because there is no management standard.

      Q3: Is there an international management standard that can be used?
      A3: Yes – the ISO 9001 Quality Management Standard.

      Q4: Since Barbados’ public service is badly mismanaged, should Barbados adopt the ISO 9001 system so that they can be relieved of sucking the proverbial salt.
      A (Grenville): Of course. We need public services to improve.
      A (Hal): No.

  5. Hal Austin March 2, 2017 at 4:49 am

    Oh, by the way, ISO is meant to harmonise global standards. Nothing more, nothing less.

  6. Grenville March 4, 2017 at 10:17 pm

    Dear Hal:

    The ISO 9001 system is meant to improve customer satisfaction by improving the management of how goods and services are developed, delivered and maintained.

    Best regards,

  7. Hal Austin March 5, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    Therefore, the harmonisation of customer service.


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