Team failure? – Dr Farrukh Saleem


Asad Umar blamed the PML-N. Asad Umar lasted eight months. Hafeez Shaikh blamed Asad Umar. Hafeez Shaikh lasted 23 months. Now Shaukat Tareen is blaming Hafeez Shaikh. In January, PM Imran Khan announced on Twitter: “More good news on the economic front.” In February, PM Imran Khan said, “Pakistan’s economic indicators have improved….” In March, PM Imran Khan sacked Hafeez Shaikh.

Teamwork is the “ability to work together toward a common vision.” Governments don’t work without teamwork. Someone intelligent once said, “it’s not the team with the best players that wins, it’s the players with the best team.” When teamwork happens within a government, things change for good for the people.

One thing is absolutely clear: the PTI government does not have a ‘team’. Here’s the record: In 32 months, the PTI is now experimenting with its third minister of finance, fifth FBR chairman, fourth BOI chairman, fourth secretary of commerce, sixth IG Punjab, ninth secretary of higher education, third secretary of finance, fifth secretary of interior, fourteenth assistant commissioner of Bhakar, sixth commissioner of Lahore and seventh commissioner of Gujranwala. Two conclusions. First, there is no ‘common vision’ within the PTI government. Second, things are not changing for good.

A government’s performance is wholly dependent on teamwork. Once there’s a team in place, the team has to be managed from the top. Once there’s a team in place, the team has to be made ‘effective’. Teams often fail because members are unwilling to cooperate with each other. Teams within a government often fail because one team fails to cooperate with other teams. On March 31, ‘Team ECC’ allowed import of sugar from India. On April 1, ‘Team Federal Cabinet’ rejected ‘Team ECC’s’ decision.

The other two crucial elements in teamwork are: communication and team trust. Most importantly, a team can only be effective once there are clear goals from the top. Pakistanis are passing through an inflationary spiral that Pakistanis have never experienced before. Debt is increasing at an increasing rate. China is not happy; neither is America. The IMF is back; so is America’s leverage over us. We are importing wheat, sugar and cotton (remember, we are an ‘agricultural country’). On top of all that, Pakistani politicians right now are not in competition with each other but are bent upon eliminating each other. More than ever before, Pakistan needs teamwork.

Governments exist to improve public project delivery. Every project has a project life cycle. Every project life cycle has four sequential phases beginning with ‘team creation’ followed by ‘planning’ moving on to ‘execution’ and finally ‘results’. This is how projects happen. After the passage of 32 months – more than 50 percent of the PTI’s tenure is over – the PTI is still stuck in Phase I, trying awfully hard to put a team together. Forget about the planning phase. Forget about the execution phase. Forget about the results.

To be certain, “alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much.” The PTI urgently needs to undertake a mid-term course correction. The PTI needs to understand the ‘project management life cycle’ in which ‘team creation’ is only the first phase. The PTI now needs to rush through – make the team ‘effective’, make the team ‘plan’ and make the team ‘execute’. Alas, results will not show up before the end of the PTI’s current five-year term.