By Prof. Vincent Bagire
I am writing this piece from a hotel room in Arua on the night of Saturday August 11th 2018. Outside the hotel is a hot debate among the contestants for the Arua Municipality Parliamentary by-election. The seat fell vacant with the tragic murder of the Member of Parliament Honorable Ibrahim Abiriga. A member of the audience raised a pertinent question that once members are elected to Parliament they hardly give feedback to voters on key issues affecting the community or even on their manifestos.
I thought that was a pertinent management issue that is not only to MPs but many of us in Christian leadership. In 2004, Leadership Issue 428, I wrote about feedback and feed forward. I mentioned that feedback is information that comes to us after operations. It will show deviations and or actual performance. Management control is usually seen as a feedback system. By measuring performance management identifies deviations and is able to undertake corrective action.
The concept of feed-forward argues against the use of past information when it is at times too late to put things right. The control processes are common in many organizational operations but weak on leadership aspects. We have argued in this country about holding leaders accountable but there are no systems to do so. In organizations, managers can set up systems which will tell them that problems will occur in order for them to plan for the corrective action well in advance. It is not anywhere possible in public leadership. In the debate, one candidate lied that why MPs are not accountable to the people there is no system of checks and balances when elected he would push for what he called an Elders parliament commission which would check against decisions of MPs like the unpopular extension of terms from five to seven years. I thought about this and wondered whether in our pastoral councils it is the Holy Spirit we trust to keep sanity of leaders.
There is possibly no mechanism of identifying such deviant resolutions in Parliament and controls for feed-foreword to take corrective action in time. Would it be, I imagine recalling an MP? Difficult indeed! So we to contend with a paltry five years even when the MP is not giving us right feedback on his manifesto.
Future directed control is based on currently available information, comparing with the desired results and making forecasts. For structured organizations, managers realize that unless some action is undertaken, operations may not be as planned. For community leadership this is not possible. The simple drawing below illustrates what Iam writing about: Feedback occurs at the point when desired outputs have been realized or not achieved. That information then feeds into the input unit. On the other hand feed forward system check what input we are making and how the process is progressing.
Corrections are therefore undertaken before the desired output is a failure. To work effectively it is important for input and output elements to be clearly specified. The model should be kept updated to monitor that input items continue to represent realities.
Continuous assessment of the variations is important. This is not yet possible in our Parliamentary democracy. Finally then, the action of voters is to end the poll and wait for five years, or even seven years as the MPs will desire, to take stock of the MP’s performance. Despite the lack of similar systems in the church, let us Christian leaders do things much differently.
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