Time Management in National Development

“Money, I can only gain or lose. But time I can only lose. So, I must spend it carefully.”

John Adair, a well-known figure in the management training field maintained that time is a scarce resource, irreplaceable and irreversible. Few things are more important to us than learning how to save time and how to spend it wisely. This is especially true in the world of work and development. However, in the Gambia, one major feature of our attitude is coming to meetings, ceremonies and workplaces late. We call it ‘Gambian Time’. This is a phenomenon that actually goes beyond the borders of the Gambia as it is also prevalent among almost all African communities even in the diaspora. Thus in other parts of Africa, the attitude of coming late or starting events late is attributed to what is called, ‘African Time’ or ‘Blackman Time”. In the diaspora such as the United States, African Americans are equally affected by this phenomenon which they call ‘CPT’ or ‘Colour People’s Time’. It appears therefore that coming late to meetings or starting ceremonies late is peculiar to Africans? Is this true? What is responsible? How did it all begin? How much does it cost us in terms of money, and other resources in our overall national development? What is clear however is that the attitude of coming late or starting late is an expensive culture which everyone seems to dislike, yet almost everyone continues to commit?

A cursory observation of this phenomenon indicates interesting insights. We go to work late, but we close on time at best or leave even before closing time at worst. Because we start our events and ceremonies late, we end up closing late thereby affecting other activities lined up already, and in some cases we rush to conclude hence the quality of the end product and service are compromised. Even when we come to work late, we do not wish to stay on beyond official closing time. Ironically, the worst offenders are often those who seem to be working hardest and longest. They may appear very busy but they are not very effective because they do not manage their time well. Instead of prioritizing work and spending time on those that are important, majority spend time on works that are less important and less urgent or on someone else’s work and become ‘emergency control freaks’ in the end.

It has been argued that time management is worse in the public sector but better in the private sector. How true is this, and what factors are responsible? Given the above, will it be fair to claim that time management is a cultural factor in which some cultures are better at it and others are not? Or rather is it an issue for a particular institutional environment in which one institution ensures time is respected, while another applies limited or no enforcement of rules and regulations? What is clear is that while Gambians who work in public offices such as in the government, NGOs or private sector may go to work late, yet those same Gambians who work in the armed and security services are noted for being sticklers for time. This begs the question therefore, does ‘Gambian Time’ exist, or is it merely a culture of irresponsibility that has holds sway over some, if not most people in one society?

But what is time management. According to the online dictionary, Wikipedia, “Time management is the act or process of exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase efficiency or productivity. Time management may be aided by a range of skills, tools, and techniques used to manage time when accomplishing specific tasks, projects and goals. This set encompasses a wide scope of activities, and these include planning, allocating, setting goals, delegation, analysis of time spent, monitoring, organizing, scheduling, and prioritizing. Initially, time management referred to just business or work activities, but eventually the term broadened to include personal activities as well. A time management system is a designed combination of processes, tools, techniques, and methods. Usually time management is a necessity in any project development as it determines the project completion time and scope.”

From the foregoing could bad time management therefore be a cause or an effect of bad planning and management, hence low development? Management and development experts have concluded that there are only up to six resources that any person can manage. Some may manage all of the six at the same time while others manage less in whatever position they hold in their lives. These six resources are:

  1. Human beings
  2. Financial resources
  3. Time
  4. Information
  5. Equipment (capital assets)
  6. Materials (movable items/consumables)

Among all of the six items above, time has been found to be the most crucial in that one can gain or lose any of the following resources, but time is the only resource one cannot fabricate and once lost, it is gone forever. There are only 60 minutes in one hour, and 24 hours in one day and seven days in one week and 52 weeks in a year, and this is what each and every human being has regardless of status, gender or origin. In order to shed more light on the significance of time, find below some classic quotes about time:

  1. “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”
  2. “Time is the best teacher.”
  3.  “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.”
  4. “Time is money”
  5. Your greatest resource is your time.”
  6. “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”
  7. “Ordinary people think merely of spending time. Great people think of using it.”
  8.  “Time wasted is existence, used is life.”
  9. “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.”
  10. “An inch of gold cannot buy an inch of time.”

The celebrated personal development author Steven Covey noted in his ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ that Habit 3, ‘Put first things first’, is the essence of good time management. According to the Pareto Principle, also called the 80:20 Rule, of all the results that we produce in the day, 80 per cent of those results are generated with 20 per cent of our efforts. The remaining 80 per cent of our efforts only generate 20 per cent of our results. Thus when we consider the subject critically, time management therefore could be said to lie at the heart of development for an individual, an institution or organization and a nation based on the way one plans, organizes, leads, controls and coordinates resources and activities. The art of management, planning, implementation and evaluation are time-related activities for which a wrong time does not only translate into waste of resources, but also leads to substandard results and failure. We do not have to only stick to time, but to use time efficiently. In order words, using all the time or being busy is not the same as being effective. The issue is, ‘what are you busy about?’

As a society therefore, has time got to do with our level development, i.e. how we manage and use time? What is the quality of time management, hence efficiency and productivity in the public and private sectors or in the NGOs as well as in the wider civil society? What are the factors responsible for such bad time management culture? How effective and competent are our professionals, leaders, managers and workers in the public and private sectors and the NGO community if we are all prone to bad time management? At 46 years old, the Gambia ranks 151, i.e. low human development in world rankings. Maternal and infant mortality rates are high, while over 50% of our population lives on less than two US dollars per day – have these indicators anything to do with the way and manner we manage time.
In this second edition of the TANGO Policy Dialogues on Wednesday 26 2011, we wish to enquire into the nature of time management in order to understand how it relates to national development. Does better time management or the lack of it serves as a resource or retards development? It has been noticed that even though many institutions do have time register, yet these are not enforced to ensure that individuals report to work on time. At the same time in many organizations, board, general staff and senior management meetings do not start and end on time, some of which can run for a whole day thereby denying managers ‘time’ to go back to their desks to respond to the daily needs of customers and the nation. It is even worse with official ceremonies and workshops in which events do not start and end on the time as stated in the invitation letters. The Policy Dialogues on Time Management in National Development is particularly timely now as the Government of the Gambia has launched an ambitious program of reforming the civil service in order to make it effective and efficient machinery that delivers quality goods and services to the people. How does the Government perceive time management in the civil service vis-à-vis creating an effective, efficient and professional public service? What is the correlation between time management and effective programme and project implementation? How do we concentrate on results, not just being busy? How can managers and heads of institutions effectively delegate so that they can have time for more important tasks? How can we create personal responsibility for the use of time in our workplaces?

In the light of the above, we have invited the following speakers to dwell on the issue of time management in the Gambia, not only in terms of how it has affected us, but also how do we ensure better time management as well as how better time management can benefit a person, an institution and a nation.

  1. Moderator: Ms. Ralph De Almeida, University of the Gambia
  2. Keynote Speaker: Dr. Sasu Ndure, MDI – What is time management? Is time management cultural? Or is it personal and/or a skill and culture to be learnt and nurtured?
  3. Secretary General –What is the significance of time management in the civil service reform and how will better time management be achieved in the civil service?
  4. Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Massanneh Kinteh – What is the significance of time management in ensuring professionalism and high morale in the military? How has the military maintained high time management discipline? What lessons are there for the Civil Service to learn from?
  5. Managing Director Mr Pa Macoumba Trust Bank Gambia Ltd– Time is Money. Is this statement true and if so how? Discuss how time management has been achieved and its impacts on efficiency and competitiveness in the banking industry.
Tango launches Policy Dialogues

On Tuesday 23 August 2011, TANGO will launch its maiden Policy Dialogues forum at its head office in Kanifing. The Policy Dialogues are quarterly interactive discussion forums aimed at bringing together experts from policy institutions, development organizations, the academia, civil society and the private sector. The focus of the discussions is public policy as the foundation for national governance and development. Policy-making is often seen as consisting of a series of steps involving identification, formulation, implementation and evaluation. Policy-making has been defined as: ‘the process by which governments translate political vision into programmes and actions to deliver outcomes-desired changes in the real world.’ A policy is an action and tool of a government body that has the legislative, political and financial authority to address the concrete needs of the people. Public policy is the first attempt by a public authority to address national issues. While policy-making is a preserve of the government and particularly of the executive and bureaucracy, the realities of modern politics enable interest groups to play a significant role in the process. Since policy-making is a highly information intensive process, those with information and knowledge can play an important role. And therefore CSOs can have a role to play in public policy-making. The shift in policy-making being a restrictive specialist/policy maker’ activity to much broader constellations of actors focusing on the processes of negotiation and contestation and on networks, alliances and coalitions through which policy is formulated brings participation crucial to the process. Policy making as an interactive process argues for an ‘actor perspective’ emphasizing the need to take account of the opinions of individuals, agencies and social groups that have a stake in how a system evolves. This approach promotes an interaction and sharing of ideas between those who make policy and those who are influenced most directly by the outcomes. Policies are translated into law, institutions, decisions and action; hence the quality of policy reflects the quality of governance and development. However in order to obtain quality policy, i.e. from design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, it is necessary that various stakeholders participates in its processes.

The Policy Dialogues therefore seek to promote engagement and participation between the stakeholders on the basis that while public policy emanates from the government, yet a public policy is a public property aimed at addressing public concerns that require popular participation. Consequently the more actors engage in public policy making and tracking, the more qualitative will be the policy. Increasingly it is becoming evident that the end result of governance and development is about behaviour change, i.e. to bring about transformations in the lives of the people. Roads, buildings and health services are not ends in themselves; rather they are means to effect positive changes in the lives of citizens. This is all the more reason why public policy requires public engagement, and monitoring and evaluation so that policy making and development service will be evidenced-based and owned by the people. The budget is a tool for the operationalization of the government policies on economic, social and political development. The budget tells what is top priority for the government indicated by the amount of allocation that goes to a particular sector. Aside from that, to ensure that budgets lead to changes, it is necessary that spending, as well as revenue are monitored to ensure judicious use of resources, performance of individuals and institutions in charge of the budget and the sector, and creation of systems of data collection to inform project design, implementation and evaluation.

Over the years, NGOs have been making contributions to the policy environment of the Gambia at various levels and sectors. The Policy Dialogues are therefore part of the up-streeam contributions and aimed a further improving NGO contribution to the development of the Gambia. In this maiden edition, we are focusing on national development outputs and outcomes, i.e., the inputs and activities invested and what they produce (goods and services), and what changes in the lives of citizens (outcomes and impacts) have been realized from these inputs and outputs. The discussions will therefore look at the issue of national development from various perspectives with a view to assessing the situation and propose new ideas and initiatives necessary for the transformation of lives for the better given the fact that development is a continuous process.

Maiden Edition

The theme of the first TANGO Policy Dialogues is, Rethinking National Development – From Outputs to Outcomes’. The aim of the discussion is to engage in an analytical overview of the Gambia’s development processes and roadmap from independence to date in order to highlight the successes registered and the challenges encountered so as to chart a way forward. The discussion will focus on the key areas of climate change and the private sector and how they impact on the economy. This will raise the question as to how well the economy has created the necessary enabling environment to reflect the fact that the private sector is considered the main engine of growth and responsible for the generation of national wealth and employment. Furthermore, the discussion is also expected to assess the level of preparedness of the Gambia as far as the effects of climate change are concerned.

The Policy Dialogues therefore provide a unique opportunity for policy and decision makers, researchers, and students, development workers and journalists and indeed the general populace in accessing relevant and up-to-date data on key development issues about the Gambia and the world. It seeks to promote knowledge creation and dissemination and offers the Government and NGOs the opportunity to also engage meaningfully in the quest for results-based national development. TANGO wishes to utilize the Policy Dialogues to enhance the participation of NGOs in influencing public policy as we conduct evidence-based advocacy and monitoring.

The presenters and discussion points:

  1. Keynote Speaker, Mr. Benjamin A. Roberts, Director GIEPA

Topic: ‘Overview of national development – Challenges, Prospects and Lessons’

In this paper we want to take a surgical analysis of the Gambia’s development process over the past 45 years of independence within the context of regional and global political and economic circumstances. We are convinced that development has to be approached from an impassioned and objective point of view in order to place the society on a realistic path to development and transformation.

  1. Hon. Mamburay Njie, Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs

Topic: ‘Beyond PRSP: What lessons to learn for the prospects and challenges in the attainment of PAGE’.

For the past 10 years, the Gambia has embarked on a series of PRSPs aimed at reducing poverty. This has been aligned with the MDGs to address basic social needs. Now that we are about to launch a new cycle, PAGE, we envisage that the paper will take an analytical look at the gains registered and challenges encountered in the implementation of the PRSP and still on the road to the MDGs, and what prospects does PAGE offer the Gambia to further improve the lives of the people.

  1. Mr. Momodou B Sarr, Executive Director, National Environment Agency

Topic: ‘Climate Change: What policy, institutional and technical requirements are necessary for adaptability as the way forward for the Gambia’.

The Gambia is already confronted with the effects of climate change. While the global response to this phenomenon is yet to be consistent, developing countries especially are being urged to consider adaptability given their lack of capacity and resources to prevent the effects, but rather to seek ways and means of mitigating the damages caused by climate change. Needless to say the effects of climate change affect the poor more than anyone else. Thus we envisage that the paper will look at the circumstances of the Gambia vis-à-vis climate change and national development priorities as set out in the erstwhile PRSP and the new PAGE.

  1. Mr. Bai Matarr Drammeh, President, Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Topic: ‘The private sector and national development – Are they compatible?

The private sector has been considered as the engine of growth as the Gambia pursues an open free market system. However the Gambia continues to face challenges in creating a viable productive sector in order to raise exports, as well as generate a robust local investment and economic growth so as to create jobs and incomes and ultimately address national development objectives as enshrined in Vision 2020. From an analytical point of view, how well is the private sector, which is profit-oriented playing its role? Is the environment conducive enough and what is needed to create and further improve that environment?