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Transforming Public Service Ministries into Bright Spots

July 21 2014 - by Dr. Audrey Gittens-Gilkes

Until recently, the phrase “bright spots” may have meant some physical, exciting place of entertainment. A place where individuals visit as a means of relaxation, or simply to “blow off steam”.   It is my desire that after reading this issue, and after careful reflection, readers will make a commitment to either create or expand their bright spots in the interest of the public service.

A bright spot is defined by the free dictionary as “a pleasant or successful event or period of time when most other things are unpleasant or not successful.” In other words, a bright spot is that place of work, whether at the departmental or at the ministerial level, which was transformed into an entity of success after a period of challenges. 

Bright spots do not evolve independently.  They require commitment and a deep seated passion that only persons dedicated to a cause can give.  Lao Tzu reminds us that “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”  In other words, each step of the journey signifies the completion of one task, one objective, one goal, and a demonstration that challenges or “ wicked problems” in the public service can be transformed into strengths. This requires some measure of appreciative inquiry; assessing those factors in individuals and in the system that are good and which can be modified for positive outcomes. 

The key lies in asking the right questions. What are those things that are working well and how can we make them better? Appreciative inquiry emphasises strengths rather than weaknesses, it is a reflection of positive values and a search for truth.  Elements which reflect productivity, adherence to institutional policies and the use of initiative are among the positive values necessary to transform the organization into a bright spot.

I urge us all to re-examine our various places of work and identify the bright spots. Ask, what are the things in the department that are working well and how can the challenges be turned into bright spots?   Try to replicate the good, one procedure at a time, and one day at a time.  Take a note of those institutions whether private or public which wear the label of productivity and satisfied customers, what are they doing that can be copied?  It is perfectly normal, legal and ethical in circumstances like these, to pay attention to the neighbour’s business.

Source:  Dr. Audrey  Gittens-Gilkes, Permanent Secretary, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Cohort 3 Participant in CLP’s Leadership Development Programme