I am very pleased to occupy the position of Visitor of this University as it allows me to be identified with an institution which has not only cemented its place on the landscape of the nation, but:
- Is producing work-ready graduates.
- Is the first and only university in the English-speaking Caribbean to have a world-renowned School of Architecture.
- Is the university with the largest and oldest School of Pharmacy in the region.
- Is the only university known anecdotally to be ‘The Home of World Class Athletes’. This makes Jamaica, arguably, the country per capita that produces the best runners in the world.
The University of Technology Jamaica has grown not only in years, but has shown genuine maturity – in quality, the range of offerings, and impact on our country, the region and beyond.
Your 60th anniversary theme, “Pioneering Past; Bright Future” aptly summarises and describes your history. It was the late Professor Ralston ‘Rex’ Nettleford often reminded us of the different types of anniversary celebrations. Some anniversaries, he said, reflect survival, in doing the same thing year after year. However, there are other anniversaries like yours, which are celebrations of change, innovation, progress, and overall development.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Lady Allen joins me in extending congratulations on achieving sixty years of progress.
You have earned our congratulations.
I have chosen to explore with you this afternoon some of the factors, including technological innovation and traditional values, which ‘promote excellence’ and ‘enhance development’. In the spirit of these anniversary celebrations, I also want to reflect briefly on your theme, “Pioneering Past; Bright Future”, or as one interpretation describes it, “Looking Back:
1. PIONEERING PAST
Pioneers are visionaries. A pioneer invents, develops, charts a path and is a forerunner. Usually the first or earliest in any field of enquiry, enterprise, or process. Pioneering is a lonely business because too often, others may not share the vision or have faith in the success of the venture.
Pioneering begins and is internalized at a personal level before it is transferred to the organizational or company level. Without going into a litany of names, it is noteworthy that in Jamaica, there are companies in the media, manufacturing, agriculture, government and other areas that are now household names, that were pioneers in their time.
Pioneering leaders are not afraid to do what has never been done. They encourage growth for the organization and for the people around them. They stay current with best practices and opportunities to stretch beyond the status quo.
Developing and getting support for the strategic vision of an organization in a way, is a kind of pioneering. For example, the Vision Statement of The Office of The Governor-General promises “A culture of excellence through people performance and partnerships”. It is where we want to go, and it is the responsibility of the Management and Staff to encourage ‘buy-in’ of this vision by all members of staff.
At a National level, we regard the architects of our political independence as pioneers who had a vision for this country. Their desire for national advancement; their devotion, loyalty, and patriotism embodied the aspirations of the entire nation. They were nation-builders who charted a path for generations to follow.
Jamaica has traditionally had models of individual and institutional excellence. However, there has always been an issue about whether the motives, focus, and objectives of the leaders and people were consistent with the national goals of earlier times. The ingredients necessary for the promotion and achievement of excellence were alive in the work of (those) enlightened minds.
In the days of Colonialism, the framers of our education policy were heavily influenced by the reality of social stratification and the desire to protect the existing social state of affairs. So much, that a century elapsed between the establishment of a tertiary-level institution, and the beginnings of a university in Jamaica.
Established in 1836, the Mico Teachers’ College was the sole tertiary institution for the next 112 years until 1948 when classes began at the University College of the West Indies at Mona. Ten years later in 1958. and 122 years after Mico began operation, the Jamaica Institute of
Technology was opened — from which UTech evolved.
Interestingly, the UCWI, as a College of the University of London, started with 34 medical students and became a full-fledged University in 1962, fourteen years after its inception as a college.
The 4th Governor-General of Jamaica, the late Sir Howard Cooke, frequently pointed out that when he attended Mico in 1935, there was only one scholarship available to Jamaicans to attend university overseas. This meant that the families of wealth and privilege could have their sons and daughters professionally qualified abroad, but access for Jamaicans of limited means was severely restricted.
I present all of this background information so you can understand that before national political independence in 1962, educational leadership substantially resided in our Teachers’ Colleges. They were the pioneers of tertiary education. At that time, the orientation of education was along, what we might call, the classical lines of mastering a range of subjects largely supported by British texts, treatment, and interpretation. It is to the credit of some enlightened faculty members and Principals, that the latent talents of our Jamaican students for questioning, for creativity, and for reading texts other than those prescribed, were able to emerge in displays of independent thought and analysis.
It is fair to say that by the time UTECH began operations, the policymakers were looking beyond the patterns of the past, to see our possibilities, including reaping the benefits of what we have come to describe now as innovative technologies.
We acknowledge that even then, there was a residual predisposition to accept a dual- track approach to development. The academic stream was regarded as having pride of place in the realm of tertiary education. At the same time, it was recognized that the so-called technical and practical dimensions of education and training had to be addressed, if we were to deal with economic development in all its facets.
However, early in the life of UTech and Independent Jamaica, it became clear that the future lay not in strengths, skills, and subservience, but in the development and adaptation of technologies and approaches which would generate economic growth and social transformation.
It was no longer practical to create a hierarchy of knowledge which placed traditional academic subjects ahead of the technical and technological. Nor was the field broadly labelled Business, to be limited to a very narrow range of activities as distinct from having application to, and relevance in virtually every profession.
UTech’s pioneering history to “provide training and research in the teaching and practice of arts, science, commerce and technology” is well documented and need not detain us here. Suffice it to say, that in spite of successive name changes during the past 60 years, you have never lost sight of your mandate. You continue to serve with pride and excellence.
II. PROMOTING EXCELLENCE
I now invite you to consider with me some of the ways that we can promote excellence which is a way of “BE-ing”. Excellence is about personal growth, and doing your collective best with your talents, gifts and abilities. It is to surpass, transcend and excel. It is a constantly-changing dynamic in our individual and national journey.
How does one imbibe and live the concept of excellence?
The Learning Forum International in discussing “The 8 Keys of Excellence” identifies them as follows:
- INTEGRITY – Match behavior with values
Demonstrate your positive personal values in all you do and say. Be sincere and real.
- FAILURE LEADS TO SUCCESS – Learn from mistakes
View failures as feedback that provides you with the information you need to learn, grow, and succeed.
- SPEAK WITH GOOD PURPOSE – Speak honestly and
Think before you speak. Make sure your intention is positive and your words are sincere.
- THIS IS IT! – Make the most of every moment
Focus your attention on the present moment. Keep a positive attitude.
- COMMITMENT – Make your dreams happen
Take positive action. Follow your vision without wavering.
- OWNERSHIP – Take responsibility for actions
Be responsible for your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions.
“Own” the choices you make and the results that follow.
- FLEXIBILITY – Be willing to do things differently
Recognize what’s not working and be willing to change what you’re doing to achieve your goal.
- BALANCE – Live your best life
Be mindful of self and others while focusing on what’s meaningful and important in your life. Inner happiness and fulfillment come when your mind, body, and emotions are nurtured by the choices you make.
Leaders in the field of education, and those who have had the benefit of higher education have an obligation to promote excellence to influence the consistent application of certain core values in their lives, engagements, and professional practice. There is the need to respect individual choice, encourage creativity, support innovation, and to develop and use technologies which improve the quality of the human experience. However, unless behaviours are underpinned by core values which inure to the creation of sustainable relationships, connected communities, and nations, all with a shared vision, we will continue to reap the whirlwind of dysfunctionality, disharmony and division.
Any system, whether governmental, religious, economical, technological or other, must serve the interests and support the values of its people or the people will ultimately serve that system. The system will become more valuable than the people itself.
Sustainable Development & Excellence
There is a very real concern in many parts of the world, and certainly here in our country and our region, for the irreversible achievement of equitable and sustainable development. We keep hearing calls for re-tooling our industries and business practices to improve efficiencies and profitability. I do believe that the marriage of the purpose-driven use of technology with the internalization of the core values which have withstood the test of time, offer the best prospects for sustainable development.
Our National Development Plan, Vision 2030, is predicated on ‘planning for a secure and prosperous future.’ In striving for sustainable development, we must put people at the centre of that development. It is not only the nurturing of intellect and skill which must concern us, but the embedding of values which are anchored in social and interpersonal relationships.
Development is not just about leaders doing what they consider to be good for our people, but empowering our people to do good for themselves, and to be useful members of their society. The infusion of those values must also be reinforced throughout life.
We have an obligation to instill in our populace those qualities which enable us not only to co-exist, but to be mutually supportive in an environment of peace and neighbourly respect, with the freedom to engage in creative thought and expression. It is against this background that I have emphasised the importance of the core values of excellence and the value of education as a basis for sustainable development and civilization.
We are now at the midpoint of the National Development Plan, having completed eleven years since its publication in 2007. This is our Vision of where we want to be, how we are going to get there, and what we want to accomplish as set out in the goals, outcomes, strategies and indicators. I am sure the planners are evaluating the current status and how well we are meeting the targets.
I am particularly interested in Goal 1 which seeks to have Jamaicans
“empowered to achieve their fullest potential.” This Goal dovetails well with that of the I Believe Initiative (IBI), an arm of The Governor-
General’s Programme for Excellence, which focuses on Family, Youth, Education and Volunteerism. One of the basic tenets of the IBI is that people should use their God-given talents to accomplish what they want, and help to build a prosperous nation. As its name implies, the Programme focuses heavily on ‘excellence’ in whatever is attempted or carried out.
Vision 2030 speaks to the task of ensuring the availability of “high-quality, tertiary education.” The Millennials are the ones whom this University will have to educate. They are the ones who know enough about the twentieth century, but are seized by the spirit, style and expectations of the twenty-first.
The challenge for UTech will be to provide these young people with worldclass education and training. They have to be exposed to significant new efficiencies in the ways we communicate, provide services, the way we plan and execute. This is the age of innovation in all its forms, and the age when we find a range of new technologies coming into play, and affecting many aspects of our lives.
UTech’s motto is “Magna per atem gesta (Latin) – Excellence Through Knowledge.” The theme of its 2010-2011 Annual Report boldly proclaimed, “Preparing our People for Global Competitiveness.” The University has therefore shown that it recognizes its responsibility for national development and sustainability.
In promoting excellence, personally and nationally, and in evaluating the present situation, there are some critical questions that must be asked by each individual, institution, and organization:
- ‘What have I done to advance the Vision?’
- What must I do URGENTLY and NOW if the bright future we
‘envision’ is to be a reality?
- What are the gaps?
- What is the impact of these gaps on the nation?
- What needs to be done? By whom? By when?
- What are the anticipated outcomes?
When we can honestly and accurately answer some or all of these questions, we will be well on our way to achieving our Vision. Each person has an individual and collective responsibility to promote this excellence that will impact development.
Politicians, the captains of industry, clergy and church members, educators, professionals at all levels, the man in the street — all must work in their own space and areas of competence to achieve excellence that will enhance and impact development. ‘It only takes a spark to get a fire going!” Who will be that spark?
III. ENHANCING DEVELOPMENT THROUGH TECHNOLOGY
The Digital Age of Information Communication Technology (ICT) promises long-term gains in efficiency and productivity. Recognising the importance of this trend, the National Development Plan identified ICT both as an enabler and as an industry in itself, along with other areas such as Tourism, Agriculture and Financial Services.
I quote from the document:
“Science, technology and innovation play a fundamental role in the creation of wealth and improvement of quality of life. . . Vision 2030
Jamaica will deepen the application of science and technology to benefit all aspects of national development and unleash the full creative potential of our people. We will implement strategies to build our capacity for undertaking research and development, and for applying science and technology to practical and productive uses.”
The ICT sector, supported by institutions such as the University of Technology, has made a major contribution to achieving our national goals by seeking to integrate science, technology and innovation (STI) in the broader developmental agenda and public policy goals.
Through its various Colleges and Schools, graduate and undergraduate progammes, UTech is indeed proving to be the premier polytechnic
institution of choice in the Caribbean.
You are helping to provide an educated work force, facilities for research and development, entrepreneurship, incubation of new ideas, e-learning and other components that will reinforce the linkages between education, enterprise and industry. This kind of activity is important to providing the capacity for technological learning and innovation that is critical to ensuring sustainable development.
Every new discovery is a form of technology, and since the beginning of time, humanity has used technology to improve life. At one point, being able to create fire from pieces of flint was cutting-edge technology! We have come a long way in a relatively short time, thanks to the innovative ways we have used technology over generations.
The advent of ‘smart phones’ in the late 2000’s was a significant milestone in modern technological advancement. It placed computing power in the palm of our hands and changed the face of mobile computing. Today, 11 years after the first iPhone was released, over 2.3 billion people now own a smart phone which provides most of the functions and features of a standard tablet or laptop.
The social media giant Facebook connected us in ways never before possible. Twitter, Instagram and Snap Chat have carved out their own place in this new connected, electronic social space. This newfound accessibility and portability of technology, is not only limited to social use, but is leveraged in interlinking modern societies. It is also used for the widespread sharing of economic, cultural, religious and political information across countries and organizations, which facilitates
Today, companies like GM, Ford, Google and Uber race to bring not only driverless/autonomous vehicles to market but vehicles that are connected and communicate with each other. This vision is being made even more accessible in what is being called the “smart cities of the future”. The IOT or the “Internet of Things” allows everything from wearable technologies, devices like light bulbs, appliances such as refrigerators and city infrastructure to be connected to, and share information over the internet.
Through technology, massive amounts of data are collected, that can be mined for numerous insights and benefits. These analytics allow us to pinpoint specific weak points that can be turned into strengths. It can identify new business opportunities, create new learning platforms, and help people discover new facts about themselves so they can achieve more than ever before. It allows us to do more with less.
Imagine what a cutting-edge farm looked like in the early 1800’s. There was no mechanization. Everything was done by horse or by hand. That limited the yield an area could produce. Those yields, however, were still greater than what previous generations, could achieve if they did not even have equipment to work with horsepower. Every time there is a technological improvement, we are able to do more, in any industry, with fewer resources being consumed.
The experts tell us we are almost at the end of the Third Industrial Revolution which is characterized by the internet, communication technologies, and the digitalization of everything. We are now on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution where unprecedented technological changes will transform the way we live, work and relate to each other. Like the revolutions that preceded it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world.
Misuse of Technology
However, the success of technology has brought with it the much-dreaded impact of unintended consequences, and challenges caused by misuse. I have come face to face with this dilemma in my community outreach programmes. At several of the annual I Believe Initiative County Youth Consultative Conferences, we have addressed the issue of how the fallout from the ICT industry and the BPO enterprises spawned the scamming enterprise, which has dented our national reputation and destroyed lives, both here and abroad.
Technology makes us vulnerable. We have become so dependent on technology in areas such as online shopping, banking, record-keeping, school registration, and data storage that if our information were to be stolen, as with the case of identity theft, we could be decimated in seconds. Or, if our social media access could get in the wrong hands, we could be defamed within minutes.
The mishandling of stored data that we so willingly share with
organizations, facilitates devious activities such as lottery scamming, when personal information falls into the wrong hands. Over 4.2 billion data records were stolen in 2016. Cybercrime has now become prevalent. This includes identity theft, online scamming, hacking, cyber-bullying, distribution of child pornography, allowing for industrial espionage, spreading hate and inciting terrorism, just to name a few.
The Cybercrimes Act that was recently passed in Parliament is intended to provide criminal sanctions for the misuse of computer systems or data, the abuse of electronic means of completing transactions, and facilitate the investigation and prosecution of cybercrimes.
Cameras and CCTV’s in public locations make it possible to track a person’s every movement in real life and online. In some cases, hackers can remotely access the camera with just a laptop! In spite of the advantages of Jamaica Eye, one can understand the cautious acceptance of this type of crime-fighting surveillance system.
But, there are physical mechanisms to protect against the misuse of technology, such as firewalls, data encryption and other network security features. However, with physical measures being employed, there is an oversight in the consideration of a moral approach, that is taking a closer look at the most important component in the use of technology – the user.
It therefore becomes increasingly important, now more than ever with emerging technologies, to not only ask the question “What can we achieve?” but also:
- “Should this be done”?
- “Will the technology support our core values or undermine them?”
- “How do we ensure the invention or improvement is done in a responsible manner?”
We see some of these questions now being asked, for example with social media, as there have been some negative impacts on society, especially in the area of privacy.
As recently as 2016 the EU ratified the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to meet the challenges of data privacy for its citizens, in response to technology that had outpaced existing regulations. Even more recently in the news there were reports of how the Facebook platform and Facebook information were inappropriately used in an effort to influence the US presidential elections. It is becoming more evident that our core values must be addressed in the development of new technologies.
We have examined the pros and cons of technological advancement and have seen its usefulness in either building or destroying an organization or country. The user of this tool is the determining factor of a positive or negative outcome. As I mentioned earlier, the technological advancements that have impacted our lives have been recent and rapid.
There are now four broad categories of technology users. The first two categories are the older users – the Traditionalist, who says, ‘Write me,’ and the Boomer who says, ‘Call me.’ They have established values and beliefs through life experiences. These users are generally viewed to be at a disadvantage as they have to unlearn and learn in order to keep up with technological innovation.
The other categories of users are younger, less experienced, with a developing value system that is easier influenced. These users are the
Generation X who say, ’Email me’, and the ‘Millennials who say, ‘Text me’. They usually have no difficulty staying abreast with technological advancements and are gradually becoming the majority as time progresses. They are the ones who will become the Social Media Interns, the Cloud Specialists, Data Architects or the Digital Marketers. The successful bridging of the divide in the use of technology by these categories of users will improve the success of any country or organization.
The lightning speed at which data and information can be shared is dazzling. The sources and transmitters of events, ideas, facts, verified and unverified statements, are legion. Earlier this year both IBM and Google unveiled, respectively, their 50 and 72 qubit quantum processors.
These technological innovations have both advantages and disadvantages which demand of the intelligent citizen, skills which are not universally acquired and applied. We also are challenged to lift the level of productivity in our workforce at different levels in both public and private sector enterprises. Thus we are faced with the need to exploit and utilize information technology to redefine learning.
Against that background, leaders will look to their universities and to other tertiary institutions for support from consultants and advisers who can assist in their policy development and operations.
They will also look to graduates who can make useful contributions based on their skill sets which should include emotional intelligence, creativity, and critical thinking, Governments will want recommendations on innovative solutions to pressing infrastructure challenges and new possibilities for tackling societal issues such as education and employment.
This means that tertiary training will have to see some change. It is therefore imperative that universities respond in a meaningful way to changing social and economic circumstances, changes in concepts of knowledge, styles and technologies of learning. The need for this kind of adaptability and flexibility is reinforced by the globalization of knowledge.
I am pleased that UTech is seized of this critical need and is making the appropriate responses to meet these challenges. Through donations and UTech’s investment in Information Communication Technology infrastructure, staff and students have modern technology, equipment and facilities to enhance their learning, development and efficiency.
- VALUES AND DEVELOPMENT
Personal Values & Development
As technology evolves, so too should the value system and approach to its application. In many areas of life, the value system now plays an important role in the use or misuse of technology. The development of values precedes a college education and is inculcated through the teachings garnered from family, school and society.
Regrettably, in some classrooms, technology is being abused to foster cheating. According to reports, over the past four years, several countries closed their digital borders during examinations. In July 2014, under the pretext of the need for ‘urgent maintenance work on the networks,”
Uzbekistan stopped all Internet traffic and SMS messaging between 8:30
a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on the days of university entrance examinations. With 461,000 students sitting the exams and only 56,000 spaces, the culture of cheating was high.
In May 2016, The Guardian newspaper reported that the Iraqi Government cut off fixed line and mobile broad-band services for three hours to discourage children from smuggling mobile phones into state tests for secondary and high school students.
In July 2016, Ethiopia blocked social media in the days before exams to prevent students from being distracted. It later blocked the Internet entirely during the exam period after University exams were leaked online, and since then, each year there is no access during the hours of examinations.
Algeria first blocked access to social media during exam time in June 2017. In June this year, the Algerian Government ordered the telecoms companies to shut down the Internet for several hours on the days of exams to prevent high school students from cheating. Dubai has also reduced digital communication during exam periods.
So, digital shutdown has ripple effects and can cost countries millions of dollars. There is lost tax revenue, lack of mobile transactions, no access to international markets, reduced economic activity, negative effect on investor confidence, and difficulty in contacting emergency services.
Another negative to this new technology is the ease of “cut and paste” which has enabled plagiarism on a wide scale. Some websites even allow students to hire an online essay writer. There are no physical measures that can safeguard against this misuse of technology, and therefore a development of values in the early stages, with focus on the application of technology, is necessary, to form a technologically responsible society.
Values & Attitudes
The prudent use of technology now more than ever, needs to be addressed in the home and school through the development of values. Integrity is of paramount importance, since the use of technology is usually a solitary activity without much supervision.
At the Jamaica Defence Force Caribbean and Junior Command Staff
College (CJCSC), there is an activity called the Commandants’ Challenge where one is required to complete one hundred miles throughout the duration of a five-month course.
The participants are instructed to record the completion of each lap of two miles in a book at the finish line. This activity is done without supervision and at the leisure of the participants. There have not been any reports of cheating in the history of the Challenge, which demonstrates the level of integrity of which persons are capable.
Principles do not change. However, they have to be controlled by values and how freedoms are utilized. In addition to academic achievement and excellence, Universities will need to intentionally integrate values in the courses they teach to ensure that their graduates can successfully participate in the development of the country. The practice of positive guiding principles will drive actions that will mitigate negative behavior.
Having right values is an important component of development. We remember the Values and Attitudes campaign of 1993 and 2003. Former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, who launched the Programme, is still convinced that it is the answer to many of our social problems, and has recently called for its reintroduction.
As a country we seem to be living in a declined moral state where there are lost values and good traditions. Cultivated behaviour has been overtaken by crudeness. Questionable lyrics of some songs which border on the obscene, and played in public transportation is defended and described by teenage students, who will soon join the workforce, as “our culture.” How did this happen?
We have seemingly rolled over and played dead. As a people, we have not been attentive to the core values and attitudes exhibited by our children, the neighbour’s children, and the children on the bus. We have ignored the behaviour in our individual and collective spaces.
Business Values & Development
The values that we speak of are not only relevant in our personal lives and how we interact with each other. Successful enterprises across the world have identified the benefits of values-based operations. Some of you may be familiar with the principles and methods espoused by Stephen Covey in his book The Speed of Trust. He says that:” The ability to establish, extend, and restore trust with all stakeholders – customers, business partners, investors and co-workers – is the key leadership competency of the new, global economy.”
That approach based on shared trust is constructed on the pillars of four elements or cores:
- Integrity and Intent –which are character-based qualities of the individual, and,
- Capabilities and Results – which are linked to competency. Within those elements are embedded Congruency or Consistency, when there is no gap between what one intends to do and what one does. There is also Humility reflected in dealing with others, when one is more concerned about what is more right than about being right… and about recognizing the contribution rather than being recognized for it.
In relation to Capabilities, Element or Core, there is reliance on the pursuit of excellence, which happens to be one of my favourite themes, both in performing the duties of State, and in promoting and assisting the social programmes with which my Office is associated.
In the Covey “doctrine” Capabilities are “the talents, skills, knowledge, capacities and abilities that enable us to perform with excellence. The Results are the deliverables. It is well understood that if you do not deliver what you have agreed to, or are expected to deliver, Trust disappears. Past and present results will have to be capped by the expected outcomes. If a standard of excellence is not maintained, Trust is weakened and the future expectations become very clouded.
While the focus in Covey’s approach is primarily on business and on members of corporations, the pillars and principles also apply to individual and interpersonal transactions and relationships.
Indeed, as a member of an organization, you may be assisted by the culture and behaviours of the group. But a sole operator will have greater need to apply the recommended principles to his or her practice. It will all depend on him or her to maintain the standard of excellence that engenders trust.
Commenting on the necessity and the power of application, one writer said, “Upon this, far more than upon genius or talent, does success depend. Without application the most brilliant talents avail little, while with rightly directed effort, persons of very ordinary natural abilities have accomplished wonders. And genius, at whose
achievements we marvel, is almost invariably united with untiring, concentrated effort.” (Ellen G White, Education, p. 233)
The education of the next generation must evaluate the impact of new technologies on our lives through the focusing lens of our core values, to ensure improvements and new inventions support our ethos. Values matter! Ladies and Gentlemen, Excellence matters! There is no substitute for the establishment and maintenance of standards in the transactions we have with each other, whether they be interpersonal, social, commercial, political or national.
V. BRIGHT FUTURE
As we look toward this ‘bright future”, there are a few suggestions I would like to share.
One. Our operating systems need to be the most robust that they can be. I refer at this stage not to the software technology but to the organization of how we do our work. The systems must be set up in
such a way that they operate smoothly, with each individual being absolutely clear about his or her role while being aware of the other components of the system, and how his/her contribution impacts the eventual end-product or service.
Two. Individual responsibility on the part of each member of the organization must reflect the quality and consistency of performance without which corporate excellence cannot be achieved. All members of the organization must understand that they will be held accountable for their failures, even if the successes are not always recognized. Routine evaluation exercises which take place at long intervals are often not enough to promote and ensure excellence at every step of the way.
We have heard many times that ‘failure is not an option”. However, there are instances, both personal and corporate, when we can learn from failure.
In fact, many organizations encourage, “Failing fast” when it is discovered that a planned product/service won’t achieve the expected goal. Fail fast, learn from that failure on the road to success. Failing at one goal may even mean success or new discoveries in another area. Examples include
Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin in 1928, the development of the X-ray, The Hawthorne or Observer Effect, and the drug Viagra.
Three. Managers must manage. Too often, managers lack either the skill or the courage to demand and obtain excellence from those who report to them. We need to foster and preserve a culture of adherence to required standards, and not be blindsided by personal likes or dislikes. The imperative here is for adherence to required standards while maintaining the integrity of our collective raised social consciousness or awareness.
It is in their interests and that of their staff, clients, customers – and their pursuit of success – to optimize the inputs of all their staff. But firm and respectful, justified correction of errors is a requirement of effective management.
Four. Time management is an often underestimated element in the
pursuit of excellence and efficiency. I refer now to the opportunities provided by available technologies to take much of the drudgery out of record keeping, communication and access to data.
I recall the practical illustrations given by our current Chief Justice in relation to the functioning of the Judiciary. The fact is that we can optimize our time for completing our tasks and arriving at the end product of our processes by letting the technology work for us where it can. We are then better able to concentrate on the thinking and planning, generating best practice, and the person-to-person processes in customer service – all of which contribute to gaining a competitive advantage.
Excellence cannot be assumed or achieved by what the Attendance Book reveals. It is certainly better to assess how effectively time on task is used rather than the quantity of time on task recorded.
Five. Follow through and review, also known as Quality Assurance
(or QA), are important contributors to providing fail-safe protection. Whether the situation involves nuclear reactors, power generation, a manufacturing plant, or the service sector, there must be contingency preparations to forestall Murphy’s Law.
The Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote “The best laid schemes of mice and men can often go awry.” No matter how carefully a project is
planned, something may or will go wrong.
Excellence in management requires contingency plans, flexibility, quick responses to the adverse situations or disasters, and in the aftermath, a readiness of management to exercise leadership to ensure business continuity. That leadership must apply a sense of perspective, minimize the risk of permanent demotivation or damage, and focus on learning from the experience. That reference to learning from experience is really lifelong learning which is an invaluable component of effective functioning in a developing society.
Our National Development Plan envisages the educated Jamaican as being someone who “loves to learn and is “a lifelong learner, continuously developing wisdom and knowledge.”
Lifelong learning is essential for the survival and profitability of business and industry. A dynamic partnership should exist between the provision of lifelong learning, businesses, universities and schools, because of the increased potential to interact easily and enhance educational opportunities through technology.
In discussing the aim and importance of true learning and education, one writer said:
“Our ideas of education take too narrow and too low a range. There is need of a broader scope, a higher aim. True education means more than the pursuit of a certain course of study. It means more than a preparation for the life that now is. It has to do with the whole being, and with the whole period of existence possible to man. It is the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers and it prepares the student for the joy of service in this world …” (Ellen G White. Education, p. 14)
Six. The nature of learning must be such that from the earliest years, a disposition toward, and an appetite for learning throughout life is created. The ability to expand the mind and commit to lifelong learning is critical to success. Utilize these three categories of learning:
- Maintenance Learning – Maintain and hone your existing knowledge.
- Growth Learning –Add knowledge and skills that you did not have before.
- Shock Learning. Shock yourself out of your comfort zone by looking for the unexpected and embracing change.
These three aspects of continuous education will enhance your development and ensure success.
Seven. Formal education must be experienced in an environment which engages, excites, illumines, and allows for self-discovery. The creation of this environment is the responsibility of the home, the government, and the private sector, all of whom must be seized of the importance of aspiring to excellence throughout every stage of the process.
The American Educator and Historian Charles Kendall Adams said “No student ever attains very eminent success by simply doing what is required of him: it is the amount and excellence of what is over and above the required, that determines the greatness of ultimate distinction.”
We have seen signs of the shaking of the moral foundations which belonged to an earlier time. The combination of easy access to information, the challenge to institutional authority, and the growing acceptance of a postmodern philosophy, when combined, call to mind the book title of the late Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart. We may indeed begin to think that “the centre cannot hold.”
But it must. Civilization has been through perilous times before, and the human spirit has overcome them. The philosophers speak of a perfection of civilization as we will come to know it. The religious among us will say,
“God is working His purpose out”. And indeed the poem from which
Achebe takes his title speaks of a Second Coming in the Christian tradition.
“…now I know…That twenty centuries of stony sleep Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle.”
However, in the meantime, for us gathered here in a setting of persons whose average life expectancy continues to rise, our preoccupation will be the quality of life- personal, community and national, for the foreseeable future and for the generations to which we are connected. For us, our obligation must center on the promotion and preservation of quality and excellence. The centre will, and must be made to hold.
I have seen enough of life in this country and elsewhere, and compared then with now, and there with here. As I intimated publicly nine years ago, and will say again today, I have confidence in our people and faith in our collective future.
The individual, “ME” has the potential to become “WE”. Individually and collectively, we must play a part in stemming the moral decay if we will be assured of a bright future. Pioneering begins NOW with ME and WE.
Our country has a history of achieving and promoting excellence. There are times when we have had to dig deep into the best of our traditions and draw upon them to lift ourselves to higher ground, so to speak. I believe that this is such a time. The conditions seem favorable, although across the world there is a degree of unevenness and fragility in the progress being made. But we always do better believing it is better to light a candle instead of fearing the dark.
So I leave you with the words of a religious leader who said:
“To me, it really seems visible today that ethics is not something exterior to the economy, which, as a technical matter, could function on its own; rather, ethics is an interior principle of the economy itself, which cannot function if it does not take account of the human values of solidarity and reciprocal responsibility.”
UTech has sought to build and promote a foundation of good ethics and technological excellence. As you move forward, I urge you to identify even more substantial ways in which this educational institution can promote an even higher standard of excellence to enhance responsible development of our country and our people.
I believe that we have the human and policy infrastructure to accelerate development.
I believe our capacity for excellence provides us with hope for the future. I believe that if we anchor our strategies on a foundation of personal responsibility and principled management, there is every reason to achieve success.
I believe that there is no challenge in the foreseeable future which cannot be successfully met by what is good, noble, visionary and strong in our people who proudly call ourselves Jamaicans.
I thank you.