“Nature knows no pause in progress and development, and attaches her curse on all inaction”— Goethe
“Changing, adapting and conforming to situational requirements on this earth has been as old as man himself since nature provides on this earth, a suitable environment for man, but seldom are the detailed natural forms of this environment exactly suitable for his needs.”—T Y Lin
M Azizur Rehman
Policy Planners of Bangladesh are yet to adopt IT-impacted digital or now modern management properly and fully. Most of the ills of Bangladesh can be attributed directly or indirectly to this single cause. Bangladesh is following largely traditional and industrial management—with corruption, efficiency of which is too low. This write-up suggests here that Bangladesh ‘management outfits’ can be restructured by employing Digital Management, adopting IT-impacted modern management, and catching up with globalization speed for development in view of the Digital Bangladesh campaign.
How Management is linked to Basic Genetic Urges
Four genetic urges correlated to basic needs of man: hunger, sexual-urge, fear and management—are unchanging with time. But the standards and forms of these basic needs are continually changing with capability of his civilization.
In the above, lies the philosophy of our changing ways and means and their perpetual development as human life develops perpetually. Management has been as old as man himself but the management methods have been changing continually with time.
Management is one of the four basic genetic urges- other three being, hunger, sex and fear. They are linked to four basic ‘objects’ of gratifications (goods and services or products): Management with thinking /planning /producing, hunger with food, sex with sexual gratification and offspring, fear with security/protection/wars.
Easily most of us are likely to agree to the simple philosophy of slow incremental changes—but not to drastic (like digital revolution) or revolutionary changes, which at times is required to perpetuate the species and states.
According to Alvin Tofflers, there are three human race revolutions— Agricultural (say ten thousand years ago), Industrial (say 300 years ago) and Information /Digital (say 60 years ago) revolutions. These revolutions over time has been transforming, decimating the human organizations and institutions created by the earlier ones.
Genesis and Basic Philosophy of Management and Competitiveness
Most simplified definition of Management is to produce goods and services for happy and longer social survival most efficiently. Management is as old as man is but it took more than a century to enter universities as a respectable unique field of study. Now almost all other older multiple/single disciplines/knowledge contributes to management. Earlier management was practiced intuitively. At the end of 1800s, Wharton donated one hundred thousand Dollars to create Wharton business school. In pre- 1940s some British university offered BBA in 1930s and Chicago offered MBA degree in 1940. Earlier Peter Drucker had predicted proliferation of the MBA syllabi as the profitability in the syllabi could measure managerial performance. Later, the Syllabi have been recommended for non-profit organizations including governments.
After Thatcher’s privatization, British Civil Service became weak as smarter talents joined the private sector. Although, in the free market economy, size of governments are supposed to shrink yet the government, as the most important social organization of present time has to be efficient to regulate both the public and private sector activities. The British civil service, since 1999, has been undergoing radical restructuring to convert traditional /industrial form of government into corporate or accountable or enterprising government. Some of the radical changes are: Civil service has to deliver satisfactory services to the citizens as they were not only ‘customers’ but also ‘share holders’, according to Blair (and Algor), of the service; To retain expertise, officers were sent to private sector on deputation and visa versa; lateral recruitment from assistant to top secretary were started from private sector. Compensation was tied to performance; quantification of jobs was done to benchmark the performance. Talents from universities were attracted by slogan like “we will give marketable degree like MBA in public service”; officers were called managers; plans were called business plans. One can see the needs for Management Consultants to reform our Government.
Bangladesh is generally following, both in public and private sector, intuitive and traditional (industrial brand) management and, according to some writers, tended towards a failed state. IT has been transforming traditional/ industrial management into modern management, which hardly has been adopted by Bangladesh policy makers. They tend to buy only boxes and wires. The aim of this paper is to advise the senior (including would be) national policy makers to adopt IT impacted modern management immediately and properly— we are already late. Past experience show that the planners produce too much of hype for adopting only boxes as tool most confusingly and without proper aims and objectives and performance measurement. The result is dismal.
Agriculture revolution or era provided leisure to brain to produce machine/industrial revolution with concomitant muscle atrophy, obesity, diabetes, trade unions and industrial political unrest—and wars. ‘Mechanical advantage’ of machines and ‘use of natural energy through engines and motors’, mass-produced cheap products, inventory management of which, population growth and environmental control became unmanageable by unaided brain. Came the digital machine (computer) and relieved the brain—IT or digital era or information revolution started.
Digital chip or a microprocessor can be called an active ‘brain replica’. One chip produced by real brain can design and produce subsequent/next chips of million times more power. This ‘digital replication’ over and above the ‘mechanical advantage’ of Indus Revo-1, composed of electro-mechanical devices engines and motors, has started second Indus Revo-II, composed of electro-mechanical devices, driven by microchips with horrendous ‘revolutionary power’ with allied technologies like ‘nano-technology’ and ‘genetic engineering’ having unbelievable revolutionary change possibilities etc.
Since the world (and humans) started, it is undergoing slow-speed incremental and high-speed revolutionary changes. Like ‘equal and opposite action’ law, a revolution has both ‘constructive’ and ‘destructive’ changes. The society, which can predict and adopt/ absorb are able to gain from constructive changes. The others are trampled over. We can compress history and see telescopically innumerable examples. Low project implementation efficiency of our ADP and Dhaka City Systems Overload Management show our lower management efficiency.
In strategic level, impacts of IT on management are stupendous /revolutionary. How? They are mainly four digital attributes of computer which are impacting management with concomitant socio-political revolutionary changes.
Four Digital Attributes which transformed Industrial Management into Digital or Modern Management
1. Colossal computing power to boost the brain (and body) to activate the management /competitive efficiency to very high limits. This attribute provide high speed to management activities, which affects national competitive and surviving (exporting) powers.
2. Colossal Accuracy to provide fail-safe management activities, which rekindles TQM as management paradigm.
3. Data /info sharing/ networking to negate distance /space to revolutionize human /social /business /military activities. Imagine the power of WiMAX, a real time two way wireless video communications already introduced in the country without motivating the users. Distance will no longer be impediment for management activities. This with first and second attributes rekindles the JIT (just in time) management paradigm.
4. Virtual Reality and Simulation to selectively hoodwink costly ‘hard reality’ gaining mountain like advantage, digital expert systems, digital marriages, digital heart, brain washing, star war, e-driving, e-surgical operations and boosting e-learning/training. Cheaper ‘virtuals’ are replacing very costly realities. These are many examples. Cinema is ‘virtual’ for theater. Virtual professors can provide e-lecture for e-learning to reduce colossal cost of real education. Many real transactions can be consummated including marriages from distant places. Help of third, first and second attributes will be required.
When rules and principles of industrial management (American / BBA/MBA related) meant for both profit and non-profit organizations evolved over the last century is reinforced by the above four digital attributes the management becomes digital and modern—paperless and distance-free management.
Suggestions for adoption of Digital Management by Bangladesh
Bangladesh has no genuine and integrated modern management infrastructure at Government level. Public– private sector cooperation is required but only private sector cannot do the adoption. Policy making responsibility should be undertaken by government, however, while formulating policy, private sector and public should be consulted. The BCC Act 90 is the only legal frame work to handle the digitalization in the country. After passing the Act, without executing, it has been buried alive, and all sorts of illegal ad hoc-isms are being pursued for the last 18 years. The BCC Act should be executed properly before scraping and replacing by an alternative legal framework like a comparatively inflexible directorate. Keeping BCC as top policy formulation council body reporting to the cabinet like the BEPZA, more ‘functional units’ can be created with various types of autonomy, public–private-partnership and sizes under the BCC. The BCC Act has the powerful provision to do so without further immediate legislation.
There is no proper HR planning for IT and allied sectors. Some top talents are needed to manage the IT sector but the government has no mechanism like other countries to retain the minimum number of top talents. Very high differential of HR compensations between foreign countries and Bangladesh can be solved by the PPP. The BCC Act has the provision to form a private company to employ talents at the market rate on the line of Singapore National Computer Board (NCB).
Senior government/civil officers have not been properly trained on computer applications like, for example, Malaysia and India did. They appear to have strong mindset against the proper adoptions IT. Like Malaysian INTAN, our BAPTC counterpart should establish an autonomous computer application training school in conjunction with JNU to share common resources. In phases, senior officers should be trained substantially in computer application. In digital Bangladesh, paper may not be used and private sector cannot alone implement the Digital Bangladesh.
Priorities and budget allocations are not conducive for quick growth/implementation. Past records are not encouraging. Without proper legal frame work, Bangladesh is more than 18 IT-years behind India. Money was not a problem— policy /management were. Management consultancy must be properly adopted systematically. (Please see p-50 of June 09, p-33 and p-51 of September 09 and p-52 & p-53 of November09 of The Computer Jagat). The bureaucrats did not execute the BCC Act 90 until now. BCC was designed as professional body but the bureaucrats did not allow the professional to grow. After mismanaging and misusing the BCC for about 18 years loosing colossal amount, now they want to convert into a Directorate (not even a ministry) of more than 4000 strength. Like India and Malaysia, we have not trained our top bureaucrats in IT application and planning to run a directorate or a ministry. Powerful national level BCC will be better choice for another 5 years before converting/ restructuring into a digital ministry like India, Malaysia and Korea did.
Digital Bangladesh is a grand slogan, motivational hype for generating positive public opinion. But aims, objectives, policies and specific projects and some permanent management infrastructure or administrative bodies are needed to implement the Digital Bangladesh. The BCC should be activated by budget and human resource quickly under the PM Office as legal framework for IT and it should form various national level relevant subject committees to formulate various national policies to get going without any loss of time.
Writer : Former Chairman of the BCC
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