Toward greater efficiency within the public service

If we want greater efficiency and better customer responsiveness in the Cayman Islands public service, three steps must be taken, as follows: (1) identify your most important staff members; (2) pay them accordingly; and (3) support them fully.

Identification – The most important staff members (VIPs) are not those who hold the highest positions or have the most exalted titles. The VIPs in the public service are those who interact directly on a daily basis with the public they are meant to serve. Without making an exhaustive list, these VIPs would include the persons at the counter at motor vehicle licensing, immigration, customs; you get the idea. They would also include the nurses, doctors and dentists at the health care institutions. The people who “manage” these VIPs, but who do not deal directly with the public, are not the most important members of the public service; they must play a supporting role. Of course, this is not the way most people think of a top-down organisation such as the public service, or for that matter, any top-down organization.

Pay – The VIPs are not paid accordingly. In a top-down organisation like the public service, the people at the top of the pyramid receive the highest pay and benefits; often, the discrepancy is outrageous. There should be a flattening of the pay scales so that not only are VIPs compensated accordingly but, because higher pay usually attracts more talent, the public can be served more effectively; perhaps even those who currently do nothing but push paper can be attracted to work on the front lines and become VIPs.

Support – Every person who is not a VIP must be made, by restructuring the organisation, to support the VIPs. The actions to be taken for such support to work are the following: Listen to your VIPs; they are the people on the front line interacting with the public every single working day; ask your VIPs what they need in order to allow them to serve the public more effectively; remove as many obstructions as possible which prevent or hinder the VIPs from doing their job more effectively; stop doing annual performance reviews by people who do not understand or care what VIPs do on a daily basis or are fulfilling an agenda, which does not support what VIPs do or need; in an effective organisation, the performance of staff members is evaluated every single day and deficiencies, if any, are addressed by the manager asking how he or she can help the staff member to perform better the function of serving the public; stop every activity of the organisation that, and penalize every person in the organisation who, hinders or obstructs VIPs from doing their job effectively; and reinforce the concept at every opportunity that the rest of the organization, though it may be top-down, is there to support the VIPs in serving the public.

Paul Simon