Book review: To reform or not to reform government agencies

Whatsapp News

The book takes the reader through how one of the most important institutions was transformed and made to be effective and efficient

By Chuks Oluigbo

The book takes the reader through how one of the most important institutions was transformed and made to be effective and efficient

is made up of different sub-
units or components. It is the aggregate of how the institutions function independently and when integrated with others that determines the quality of governance and governments. determines the environment in which businesses operate and how development takes place. It is government policies and institutions that determine the development trajectory of society and, ultimately, the quality of life of the people. This explains why if fake drugs the market, it is because the agency charged with that regulatory mandate is inefficient. Same applies to substandard goods and regulation of standards, collapse of buildings and regulation of building control, among others. When financial institutions fumble, the explanation is that the regulator buckled.

Regulatory effectiveness and efficiency affect society in more ways than one can imagine. Unfortunately, it has not been given adequate attention. Flashes of effective institution, especially those doing regulatory work to protect all of us, should be encouraged, supported and celebrated.

Reform is fundamentally a leadership issue. Some have argued that to reform can take forever, but there is a consensus that it is a worthwhile venture. After all, if all government institutions are performing as envisaged in their respective mandates, then the entire institution of government will be considered effective and its impact on businesses and quality of living will be evident.

This message is the central thrust of what may emerge as the Nigerian book of the year for 2021, Strategic Turnaround: Story of a Agency. The 300-page book, authored by Dakuku Peterside, a former DG/CEO of the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA), takes the reader through how one of the most important institutions was transformed and made to be effective and efficient. It details events and turnaround initiatives embarked upon in the agency in the four years of Dakuku’s management that transformed NIMASA from a laggard institution to a respected and admired government agency.

Aside from the story of bold changes, the 13-chapter book highlights challenges to watch out for when embarking on the reform of any government institution. It navigates through changes in culture, priorities, human resources, reputational positioning, commitment by leadership and stakeholder engagement.

In the book set for release in January 2021, Peterside shares lessons from experience on how to turn around government agencies to deliver optimal outcome for the benefit of the people. Using narratives, he explains how any leader can use different management and leadership tools to chart new path for public sector agencies and achieve excellence in delivery of services that meet public expectations.

The book shares a lot of stories that inspired Peterside to apply unusual management principles derived from indigenous knowledge to transform what was once a disparaged, mediocre and failed institution to a thriving one that commands local and international respect.

As Maxwell Ubah, Sloan Fellow, London Business School and CEO, Strategy House Limited, observes in a preview of the book, “Peterside shows that leading large-scale transformational changes in a public sector organisation operating in a complex industry like the maritime sector is possible.”

Indeed, Ubah identifies five leadership lessons from the book, thus: Listen first, then lead; Put people first; Focus on the critical few; Model the way, and Make results non-negotiable. One cannot but agree.

Strategic Turnaround combines two writing styles to get the reader to grasp deep management principles without pushing them to master technical jargons. The book employs the narrative style to get the readers to see themselves in NIMASA and take them to the inner workings of the author’s mind as he makes critical decisions. It also uses the expository writing style to explain difficult technical issues so the layman can have a good grasp of the issues. It is clear from the style of the book that the audience the author is addressing is anyone who is interested in knowing how changes can be instituted in government without boring them with high level theoretical issues.

It was quite exciting reading the section that captures areas where the author believed his team could not accomplish set targets and so proffers solutions to barriers militating against reform of government or public sector institutions drawing from his experience.

All considered, Strategic Turnaround is an amazing read. It is a fresh perspective to the debate on whether to pursue the reform of government agencies or simply advocate constant renewal. What is not in contest, however, is that government institutions are failing and can hardly deliver on their respective mandates. Professionals and non-professionals alike – indeed, anyone interested in seeing well-functioning public sector institutions – will definitely be interested in reading the book. (BusinessDay)