Whilst manifesto pledges and polices are important, the way in which we organise ourselves and our work is how we get things done. There are lots of theories of management. I have found the ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’’ to be a useful tool. Here are my adapted version of these principles:
1. Always be proactiveMost of the challenges and opportunities Jersey faces are predictable. Taking action early is always better than putting difficult decisions off. I believe in thinking ahead, good planning and focus on long-term issues. In years of economic growth money needs to be put aside for leaner times. That’s how the stabilisation fund was built up, which I was jointly responsible for. If we had not had that, we would not have been able to protect the vulnerable from the worst excesses of the downturn.
2. Have a vision & the end goal in mind
Every person, organisation and government needs a plan to know what their long-term goals are. ‘Beginning with the end in mind’ is a very useful way of focusing our work. Ministers need a united approach that is achievable and will deliver a better future for all people of Jersey. For example we needed to help more people into home ownership as squeezed incomes and tighter lending criteria meant first-time buyers could not afford a deposit, let alone get a mortgage. We fixed our sights on introducing a scheme to get young families into home ownership and despite opposition never lost sight of that goal. We achieved the dream of home ownership for families and individuals who would never have been able to reach it without our help.
Nobody can do everything all at once. Ministers are often under intense pressure and time is our most valuable commodity. Being organised and prioritising objectives on a daily, weekly, quarterly and annual basis is how I work. I have lists of things to achieve every day. I set objectives for myself and my team annually and update them three times a year to coincide with the States sessions. That’s how we get things done.
4. Think win:win
Political life can be dominated by a lot of negativity. Policy choices are portrayed as binary or ‘they win and they lose’. The best solutions are when everybody wins and those are the situations I try to seek out. Savings need to be made, but asking front line staff to find solutions is often best. As a result of the savings programme I led, many States employees have now been empowered to make decisions. They are delivering better services at a lower cost. There are examples, including the Hospital Canteen, which used to lose thousands of pounds a year. It was at risk of being closed, which would have saved money but would not have been the best solution. The staff who run the canteen were empowered. As a result they have designed a new, simpler and healthier menu, which has saved waste, they have also provided free wifi and a loyalty card system. They now have more customers and the canteen is making a profit.
5. Listen first, then decide
It is essential that ministers constantly find ways to listen to the views of everyone, not only the loudest voices. Whilst people with strong strong views do need to be listened to and their views respected, there is a silent majority whose opinions also need to be sought. The impression is given that ministers don’t listen, but listening is vital. None of us know all the answers to all the issues and challenges we face. We also need to understand the concerns of people. That’s why, despite six very tough years of economic crisis, I’ve held over 200 public interest groups, third sector and other 1:1 meetings, to hear the concerns of a wide group of islanders. Sometimes decisions are difficult, but decisions should only be taken after listening and that’s what I try to do.
In Jersey, in recent times, we have had ‘personality politics’, with individuals promoting their own agendas. I believe in team-politics. Some decisions are too important to be left to one person. A planning decision can be worth £millions. In smaller communities, party politics can end up being more divisive. Things are always best delivered as a team. Ministers are the team leaders for their own departments and minsters are also members of a team – the Council of Ministers. I have worked for and along-side almost all of my ministerial colleagues: Andrew Green for Housing; Heath to provide additional funding; Education to deliver extra support for Highlands, trackers apprenticeships and Prince’s Trust; Transport and Technical Services for Liquid Waste; Social Security for Long Term Care and jobs; Economic Development where I took the Innovation Fund to the States; External Relations to support our removal from the French blacklist and with the Chief Minister on financial services. It is only working as an effective team that you can deliver for people. This is quite apart from my relationship with my Assistant Minister Eddie Noel with whom I have worked productively and positively for six years.
7. Learning never stops
We should never stop improving our knowledge. Ministers need to put aside time to improve overall knowledge by reading, researching, gaining new information from experts and travelling to places where we can learn from others and improve ourselves. As Treasury Minister and Assistant Chief Minister I am often called to speak at conferences and represent Jersey. I spend a great deal of my own time reading and researching topics that mean I can do the very best in promoting Jersey’s interests.