The Professional Development Institute
Harvard University Global System™
Harvard® Planner Group
"When in doubt, tell the truth."
Overhauling The UNESCO
Funded by The Department of External Affairs and International Trade of Canada, this report is
based on interviews with senior executives of UNESCO and the Canadian Commission to UNESCO. I
wish to thank these decision-makers for their expertise and insights, and the Government of
Canada for its assistance. I am also grateful to Mark Kohout (now with Ogilvy & Mather, Prague)
for his valuable suggestions and never-failing support. However, the views and opinions contained
herein are mine and should not be construed as a position or policy of UNESCO, The Canadian
Commission to UNESCO, the University of Quebec, the Government of Canada or its Public Service
A. BackgroundThrough Mr. Jacques Demers, Canada's Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, I have been asked by the Government of Canada to propose innovative ways to improve the management practices and operations of UNESCO. The assignment began with a brief meeting with Mr. Louis Patenaude, Secretary General of the Canadian Commission and with a review of literature about UNESCO's mission, policies, services, products, budgetary proposals (29C/5) and worldwide operations...
In May 1997, I met senior executives of UNESCO including the Director General, Mr. Federico Mayor. In June, I studied further the culture and the people of UNESCO and prepared the first draft of this report. I returned to Paris in July to discuss information technology issues with the Chief Information Officer2 and to finalize the report.
B. The IssuesThe focus of the Paris meetings was on the following substantive and process issues bound to greatly impact the future of UNESCO:
1. Principle-Based Leadership, Work Ethics & Entrepreneurial IntegrityThroughout the world, a limited number of schools and universities have addressed the issue of governance, moral conduct, principle-based leadership and professionalism in their curricula. Yet, unscrupulous leaders, decision-makers and professionals have adversely affected the lives of their constituents, impoverishing countless communities and bankrupting a host of nations, frequently with the complicity of powerful foreign allies3. Furthermore, the notion that business is a noble pursuit is alien to a large number of citizens in too many parts of the world. In traveling throughout Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe, I have repeatedly been shocked to discover that the only models of Western Hemisphere businesspeople known to millions of primary school children are Dallas' J.R. Ewing and similar mischievous characters who thrive on prejudice, intolerance, exclusion and other forms of irresponsible behavior. These images of eternal warriors who star on secrecy and surprise run far deeper than those of leaders whose accomplishment are founded on openness and trust4.
When we consider the damage inflicted to society by irresponsible professionals and decision-makers in small and large companies (Bre-X, Sumitomo's Hamanaka, Barings' Leeson, Kidder Peabody's Jett, Adidas' Tapie, Albanian pyramidal scam promoters, negligent advertisers), the public service (Cambodia's Pol Pot, Zaire's Mobutu, Algerian clientelists, agents of narco-traffickers, Taliban misogynists) and the voluntary sector (Oxfam and Red Cross scandals), one cannot help but deplore the absence of a gestaltist approach to bringing ethical leadership to the forefront of educational institutions universally. Today, the opportunities for mischief are even greater with the proliferation of nuclear materials, terrorism and drugs, cyber- and white collar crime.
In the Educational Mission of UNESCO, the subject of Principle-based Leadership and Entrepreneurial Integrity is addressed in philosophical and general terms but not translated into practical interventions to change behavior, even though the need for trustworthy leaders, professionals and entrepreneurs is a global concern. Ethics are certainly debated and discussed in research papers, speeches and conferences5 and Mr. Mayor is a sincere champion who spares no efforts to plead for the cause. Various international commissions6 have brought new insights and suggested a series of ethical norms based on shared global values that transcend religious beliefs and cultural diversity.
These important initiatives in addressing values and attitudes are necessary but not sufficient to implement lasting changes in behavior. This assignment capitalizes on the findings and recommendations of these commissions and aims to add value by addressing work ethics, behavior and related implementation issues. It recommends that UNESCO works to universalize skills training in principle-based leadership as a key lever for lasting economic growth7 and pre-requisite for extirpating irresponsible behavior including prejudice, intolerance, ethnocentrism and oppression. This approach also works toward eliminating two growing calamities that know no borders: corruption and fraud.
Without a rigorous action plan for implementing interventions to change behavior and attitudes, efforts will be in vain as we have witnessed in Canada and the U.S. for years in the case of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity programs for women, blacks and minorities. The strategy for behavior modification must integrate interventions to impart new knowledge and know-how. It must then be supported by appropriate coaching, formative evaluation mechanisms and an intrinsic merit framework8. The ultimate goal is to go beyond behavior and belief and to integrate professional work ethics into a way of life.
Our universities have developed case studies on entrepreneurs and organizations such as Bertelsmanns' Reinhard Mohn and Walter Gersgrasser, Jacques Benquesus9, Alphonse Desjardins10, Mohammad Yunus11, Power's Desmarais, L.L. Bean and Steve Mariotti12 whose inspiring behavior is governed by high ethical standards and a low need for extrinsic rewards (public approbation). These governance stories, which are now discussed in business colleges, should be accessible to primary and secondary school educators.
Since the ethical reflex is not, alas, a prerequisite for survival in a Darwinian context, developing an ethical mindset must take place before a competing mindset takes over. Building a strong character with absolute integrity takes a long time and is best achieved during the formative years at home and in the classroom. Otherwise, even idealists remain fragile as demonstrated by an extensive study of MBA students13. Many succumb to the array of temptations that are ubiquitous in adult power circles.
Early life exposure to ethical leadership dilemmas is more paramount than ever for teenagers to develop a pattern of responses to the variety of situations they are bound to face later as adults14. Being ethical can be either by choice or by necessity. The first, motivation by choice, results from learning and guided interaction with the environment we face in early childhood and adolescence. Adults deprived of that interaction frequently act by necessity: compliance to authority (law enforcement), avoidance of penalty, image and group pressure. But these instruments of influence and control are merely substitutes for self-motivation. Enforcement tends to be costly and frequently inadequate as a means of dissuasion.
While the OECD, WTO, OAS and other international organizations should continue to work downstream on deterrents and anti-corruption measures, UNESCO should intervene upstream in a preventive role by helping Member States integrate ethical leadership and entrepreneurship into their educational curriculum and economic development agendas. The ultimate goal is to train future generations about the vital role of ethics, openness and trust in business, government, the military and the voluntary sector.
The first step in addressing the global need for Ethical Leadership and Entrepreneurial Integrity is to help UNESCO staff truly appreciate the problematique, formulate implementation strategies with various stakeholders and produce detailed guidelines and educational materials modeling exemplary decision-makers with a clear track record in principle-based leadership. Canada's experience and valuable case studies offer an abundant source of talent, knowledge and real-life expertise with important multinational and multicultural dimensions.
The second step is to propagate the program to field offices and commissions and to work with each Member State to bring the know-how to educators, aspiring leaders, entrepreneurs and military officers before January 1999. Note that the participation of the military is vital in many countries. "In virtually every new democracy - in the former Soviet Union, in Central and Eastern Europe, in South America, and in Asia - the military is a major force. In many cases it is the most cohesive institution in the country, occupying a large percentage of the educated elite and controlling important resources. In short, it is an institution that can help democracy or subvert it."15
The third step is to monitor performance and establish a continuous improvement program with a tri-annual sunset clause.
With respect to funding this initiative, UNESCO should seek complete financial support from national and international foundations, private enterprises and the voluntary sector. The unaffordable price of policing already points to the need for prevention; the demand for resources to enforce compliance with laws and standards has grown immensely to exceed the means of most Members States.
The universal appeal of the cause makes it a perfect case for third-party financing. The precedents established by McGill, Oxford, Harvard and other leading universities in financing principle-based ventures offer a rich tapestry of innovative and ethical revenue-generation models that should inspire the money managers of UNESCO. When we add the considerable economic rewards that can be reaped from a business world operating with an ethical conscience, UNESCO has a compelling case for calling on the business community. In order to make the case even stronger, we should borrow from the experience of Total Quality (ISO 9,000) strategists to convey to decision makers in business and governments that "ethics does not cost, it pays". If well managed, the project will help trustworthy corporations who are facing ethical challenges all over the world.
2. The Transition to a High-performing OrganizationIdeas about alternative futures for UNESCO and the strategic choices for getting there abound. This flow of ideas is valuable. What is overlooked is a common framework or a systematic methodology for funneling these ideas to build a valid portfolio of objectives. Even when they are very valid, the objectives tend to be watered down in the face of transition problems, political expediency or resource constraints. The focus should be on formulating the best implementation strategy to achieve lasting goals, rather than opting for the easy route toward a second-rate objective. Currently, considerable work seems to be performed based on what the DG would appreciate rather than on the professional judgment of managers and performers, even though the DG would be the first to object to such a form of allegiance.
UNESCO needs to do better, not necessarily more, with less. In this context, downsizing should not be a means but rather a logical outcome of applying the best practices in management, technology and work processes. It is indeed counter-productive in the long run to translate downsizing policies into across-the-board staff reductions. Even when they produce short-term gains, such arbitrary cuts ultimately destroy the spirit of survivors and have a devastating impact on effectiveness.
The re-engineering process to build a better and leaner UNESCO cannot succeed without a new management paradigm adapted from organizations with long-standing track records in high performance, transparency and community service. With present and future beneficiaries always kept in mind, such high-performing organizations focus on managing competing interests concurrently without compromising on the following rigorous benchmarks or equilibrium indicators (7E's):
Wherever feasible based on the above seven benchmarks, UNESCO should consider alternative delivery methods where higher performance can be achieved without compromising on values and quality. The UNESCO can draw on the experience of governments which have experimented with a variety of alternative delivery options including devolution to other levels of government, outsourcing, privatization, special operating agencies, community enterprises and public-owned/privately-operated franchises.
In this context, UNESCO must privilege teaming up with other UN establishments to exploit common capabilities (e.g. the UN Staff Training College), share administrative and back-office costs and achieve unparalleled synergy. Within the World Bank for example, a responsibility chart is required in the Education value chain to avoid dysfunctional role conflicts and to improve policy formulation upstream along the chain and delivery downstream. These arrangements should be sufficiently flexible to permit constant upgrading.
At UNESCO, downsizing is severely handicapped by the current priority-setting practices, micro-management approaches, a poorly-trained work force and the duplicate decision structure (bi-cephalous matrix) at the top. We are therefore confident that a thorough re-engineering based on the framework described herein would permit UNESCO to perform much better with a smaller workforce. Through consolidation of functions and streamlining of activities, reduction should also be sought out in both middle- and senior-management ranks without a substantial increase in the current span of control. Further precisions on the magnitude of the downsizing would require additional consultations with UNESCO executives.
With a limited amount of coaching and clear delegation of authority, the decision-makers the author met at UNESCO would be capable of playing an instrumental role in the re-engineering process. However, the reform project team should be led by an impartial de bono executive with a long-standing interest in public service and proven experience in nurturing healthy organizations, managing change and orchestrating large-scale corporate turnarounds. The names of management practitioners like Earl Joudrie, Frank Schrontz, Maurice Strong and Peter Uberrolt readily come to mind.
UNESCO can perform much better with a smaller workforce. Through consolidation of functions and streamlining of activities, reduction should also be sought out in management without a substantial increase in the current span of control. The reform team should be led by an impartial executive.
UNESCO needs to further concentrate on core mission goals. These goals are the key levers for significant gains; they are the few objectives where UNESCO can truly make a difference in building a better future. It should privilege outsourcing and partnerships with international organizations and UN establishments to share costs and achieve synergy.
The remaining sections of this report illustrate the important changes required to bring UNESCO to the level of a high-performing organization.
2.1. Need for a Valid Priority-Setting ProcessBefore addressing the priority-setting process of UNESCO, let us review the state of the art on the subject:
Furthermore, what is considered a priority can be either mission-related or an unavoidable obligation. Working on career goals adds value to our personal mission while doing our personal income tax return does not, yet the latter is part of our collective obligations to society. In the business world, unavoidable obligations designate work that neither generate revenue nor improve productivity but which must be done for safety, security, compliance, humanitarian endeavors or for the enterprise to pay its due to its community. At the far end of the unavoidable obligation spectrum are demands imposed by some senior executives on their organizations to respond to outside pressure, cultivate personal image or advance pet objectives. These futile demands are colloquially called stay-out-of-jail obligations. Performers should be alerted to these cases in the hopes of finding a graceful exit or expediting the task by doing the minimum to stay out of trouble"16.
The current hybrid system for priority setting at UNESCO is dysfunctional. It does not distinguish between unavoidable obligations and mission-related priorities. By not differentiating between urgency and importance, the system is also prone to data reduction losses and to costly biases in policy- and decision-making. These impediments result in substantial time wasting and flawed decisions, which must be frequently reconsidered. Moreover, they are a growing source of needless controversy between the Director General, the staff, the Executive Board and Member States.
A simpler priority-setting system reflecting the state-of-the-art is overdue. All decision-tree-based systems currently used by leading corporations like ABB, Boeing, GE and Kawasaki distinguish between mission-related and unavoidable obligations at the apex - regardless of urgency.
As an illustration, the renovation of UNESCO buildings must be done at least for safety reasons. It should be classified, managed and evaluated as an unavoidable obligation with its budget totally separated from the program budget. In the corporate world, management discretion to reallocate funds between unavoidable obligations and mission-related goals is rarely permitted without the permission of the Board of Directors which retains full veto at the apex of the priority-setting agenda.
Within mission-related goals, three classes of generic priorities should be sufficient to speed-up decision-making: vital, important and nice-to-do.
The first priority class is reserved for the vital few; it designates mission-critical objectives that bring the highest value to Member States and that are essential for UNESCO to excel in its raison d'etre. By the same token, the failure to accomplish these objectives could permanently handicap UNESCO. The vital few are the kernel of value17 that clearly distinguish UNESCO from others. The second category groups high-leverage activities and objectives considered important but not vital for fulfilling UNESCO's mission. These objectives would yield high value in the short- and medium-term but comparatively less than the vital few in the long term. Both the vital few and the important objectives are considered "must" work. The third category concerns nice-to-do work or discretionary work that has the potential to add an undetermined value to the mission of UNESCO. Nice-to-do work should: a) be treated as fill-in work during slack periods, or, b) be given the necessary resources to review its contribution to mission in order to either move it higher on the priority scale or discard it altogether.
So far, we have covered the importance or weight of each goal regardless of its urgency. As an illustration, getting a Ph.D. can considered vital, important or nice-to-have for an individual's career. Even when it is vital, the time frame for obtaining a doctorate can vary from one person to another. Likewise, UNESCO management must establish a time line for each goal, regardless of its priority. Note that a time line implies more than one deadline. Every project can have multiple deadlines: a ceremonial, a functional, a fiscal and a total operational deadline. Just differentiating between these deadlines can result in saving millions of dollars as demonstrated by a number of PDI's clients.
UNESCO should discard its dysfunctional priority-setting system that is a source of growing controversy and flawed decisions. It should adopt a decision-tree based system differentiating between unavoidable obligations and mission-related goals at the apex and breaking the latter further into three generic categories: the vital, the important and the nice-to-do.
The single-deadline practice of UNESCO should be reviewed to permit better management and further savings with flexible schedules. Target dates for each deliverable should take into account local ceremonial, functional and fiscal requirements. Judging from the experience of clients like Hydro-Québec, Nortel and Environment Canada, differentiating between these deadlines can result in saving millions of dollars.
2.2. Need for Re-engineering the Current Training ProgramIn a fast-changing world, competency is a moving target. The needs for training, coaching and mentoring grow accordingly - particularly during a re-engineering exercise. UNESCO's training program has improved over the years, but not sufficiently to meet current and emerging demands. The need for better project management, time management and strategic thinking weigh heavily on the priority scale. Most executives interviewed cited missed deadlines, endless meetings, fragmented work processes, inadequate deliverables and the absence of planning tools, as well as the desire for a common framework for formulating strategy and managing daily work. In nearly every meeting, they stressed the high demand for a better professional development program with preference given to short seminars that focus on practices directly applicable to the issues and challenges facing UNESCO. Consequently, UNESCO should establish a continuous learning organization built on the following guiding principles.
UNESCO should establish a continuous learning organization. UNESCO employees should take responsibility for their own future. Management and HR specialists should team up to assist employees in developing their full potential and making informed decisions about their career choices - inside and outside UNESCO. They should help each employee produce a balanced portfolio of professional development activities including training, coaching, counseling and career assignment tasks.
With respect to management, UNESCO must follow the lead of GE, the Bank of Montreal and Credit Agricole in establishing a mandatory Executive Development Program and outsourcing the delivery to keep a firm grasp on quality and cost. UNESCO should consider virtual campuses linked to the UN Staff College, CCMD and other leading training establishments. World-class mentors from leading universities, governments, UN agencies and business establishments should be sought to counsel UNESCO executives on either a retainer or voluntary basis.
Regarding the training curriculum, UNESCO should upgrade its seminars to reflect the state of the art in strategic thinking, project management, authentic leadership, principle-based negotiation, time management, partnering and strategic alliances. As an illustration, the current project management program requires a complete overhaul. It should phase-out PERT/CPM techniques which date back to the fifties and incorporate proven tools for validating objectives, analyzing stakeholders' dynamics, formulating project strategy, anticipating and mitigating risks, negotiating clear mandates, building teams and partnerships, assigning responsibility and accountability, estimating and scheduling with multiple inelastic deadlines and managing tight multi-currency budgets. Estimating, scheduling, resource allocation, budgeting and progress control must integrate modern stochastic processes, innovative heuristics and other instruments recently adopted by leading corporations and high-performing public- and third-sector organizations.
The implementation of these recommendations and practices should result in higher performance, help minimize brain drain, facilitate mobility and alleviate the succession problems now emerging due to the worldwide demand for highly skilled professionals and to the aging workforce. Inaction in this area will translate into lost opportunities and stall the transition of UNESCO to a high-performing organization.
2.3. Need for Effective Planning and Decision-Making InstrumentsAttracting, mobilizing and retaining strong team builders to lead projects are vital for UNESCO to leverage its global champion role in education, science, communication and culture. But skilled resources cannot perform adequately without a minimum set of working instruments. To this end, UNESCO is virtually flying blind because it lacks the practical tools considered essential by multinational corporations to track and improve the performance of their decision makers and professionals.
UNESCO staff and managers require affordable work-simplification instruments such as strategy guides, change definition grids, responsibility charts, project definition charters, project estimating and scheduling instruments, activity-based interpreters, time logs and proven time management organizers specifically designed for international organizations.
The application of these instruments would speed up the re-engineering process and provide a proven approach to strategy formulation, risk management, scheduling and allocation of scarce resources under tight deadlines. We estimate the immediate productivity gains in this area alone at approximately US$4.5 million per annum for an investment of less than $500,000.
2.4. Need for a Flexible and Ultra-light StructureWhen decisions are still based on traditional command rather than knowledge and information, re-organizations from centralization to decentralization or from functional to a program-based structure merely replace one set of hierarchical silos with another.
All organization structures are bad. No one likes to have a boss. We therefore structure by necessity. Since, in designing an organization, form follows function, the important question is to find the minimum structure that is necessary to get the job done and to ensure that decisions are knowledge based. The answer is frequently an ultra-light structure driven by robust logic and trans-disciplinary work requirements rather than authority or job descriptions. Under this quasi-flat structure, innovators are nurtured through extensive networks, front-line team leaders are empowered and all employees are given the opportunity to participate directly in charting the future (objective setting, planning, organizing, implementing).
Responsibility and accountability should be clear and reflected in a responsibility chart. A strict limit should be imposed on the number of hierarchical levels and on heavyweight structures (such as matrix) where an individual may report to multiple bosses. Innovators and high-performing teams should be given high visibility, be encouraged to excel and be highly rewarded. Achievers tend to value non-monetary rewards for their accomplishments; these should be privileged. The trans-sector approach proposed in October 1995 to manage projects with resources from different sectors is a good step toward an ultra-light structure.
UNESCO resources span a wide range from knowledge-intensive to transaction-intensive and repetitive work groups. Managing such a diverse workforce is a challenge. The environment conducive to performance in one setting can be counter-productive in another. Detailed rules, norms, standards and direct order giving can be dysfunctional for knowledge workers who value flexibility and autonomy. However, they are vital for those employees who process large volumes of transactions and strive for the "doable" everyday. Controlling independent minds, particularly by managers who are not professionally trained in advanced management, leadership and team-building skills, rarely stimulates innovation and talent. In controversial situations, the perception of getting a fair hearing count in both cases but weighs heavily on the behavior and attitude of knowledge workers.
On its journey toward the ultra-light organization, UNESCO should immediately eliminate the parallel duplicate structure recently built on the top of the functional and program hierarchy. Borrowing from the experience of leading foundations, businesses and Ivy League universities, an experienced Chief Operating Officer should be appointed to lead the HQ and field operations and permit the Director General to focus on charting the future, building allies, securing sponsorships and grass-root constituencies.
Furthermore, UNESCO should consider restructuring work based on the differentiation/integration paradigm. This concept differentiates to maximize effectiveness before consolidating based on economy, efficiency and esprit de corps. Teams with distinct goals should function as autonomous operating units or ad hoc task forces in the field while drawing heavily from the same back-office resources within the United Nations family. Even the reward structure should be differentiated based on the best practices elsewhere. The purpose is to get higher productivity and clear managerial accountability for progress and results.
Activities that can be planned and managed in a businesslike manner should be structured as an autonomous operating agency. In this context, a World Alphabetization and Literacy Agency consolidating UNESCO and UNICEF units should be created to focus strictly on this narrow but challenging mandate and to free-up UNESCO to address other urgent educational priorities such as Ethical Leadership and Entrepreneurial Integrity. With a lower profile and a respectable distance from the political machinery of the UN, the new Agency should be structured as a self-financed global cooperative offering fiscal and other incentives (e.g. R&D tax credits where appropriate) to partners. It should mobilize financial resources from global philanthropists like the Bertelsmann, Hitachi and Intel Foundations. Currently subsidizing public libraries in North America for nearly one hundred million dollars, Microsoft should also be interested to contribute. With the impending retirement of baby-boomers, thousands of professionals among them would gladly volunteer at least five hours18 a week through the Internet to combat illiteracy.
2.5. Need for Leveraging the Expertise of the Office of Public InformationCommunicating value is a difficult but vital task in most UN establishments - particularly in the knowledge-intensive fields of education, science, communication and culture. This cannot be achieved by the Director General and the Office of Public Information alone. Nor can it be accomplished by relying on traditional press releases and dinner speeches that have a marginal and ephemeral impact in the era of networking, relationship building and surprise events.
Armed with a deep appreciation of the value of UNESCO to the world community, every employee and partner must be prepared and eager to go the extra mile to advance the cause, deliver the message and achieve the goals of this noble institution through networking. In this context, the Office of Public Information is already trying to operate at a strategic level and to steer the Executive away from operating in a reactive mode. It should receive management support in its efforts to leverage its expertise by propagating the best know-how throughout the organization, delegating responsibility while retaining accountability, and playing a supporting role to the workforce at large.
UNESCO Publications require a major overhaul. Consideration should be given to grouping OPI and Publications staff. The consolidation should embody a greater emphasis on outsourcing and be preceded by a review of the viability and editorial strategy of each publication.
Currently, flagship magazines are not targeted. Without a clear focus and a specific audience, readers tend to waste substantial time looking for pertinent information and ultimately lose interest in the publication. As an example, a recent issue of the UNESCO Courier features an odd mélange of children's comic strips, popular stories, geopolitical statements and scholarly papers.
UNESCO is paying a high premium for producing major publications (29 C/5) and flagship magazines either in-house or primarily in its host country. Opening the bidding process for international competition guarantees better value for money. Furthermore, UNESCO should privilege electronic publishing on the Internet, limit the production on paper of expensive specialized magazines and subject all publications to a sunset audit.
The Office of Public Information should broaden its communication strategy and leverage its expertise by coaching UNESCO executives and professionals to:
2.6. Need for Executive Commitment to InformaticsDesigning a telecommunication and information infrastructure is not a standalone process. It can neither lead nor follow corporate strategy.
The strategic thinking and complete re-engineering exercise must permit UNESCO to build a distributed information technology network to improve strategic policy formulation and staff productivity, reduce paperwork, benchmark performance and speed up communication to permit personnel to interact within the organization and with external partners, clients, suppliers, Member States and their respective constituencies.
However, bringing about this revolution is easier said than done. Informatics is clearly the Achilles heels of UNESCO and will remain so as long as the strategic role of Information Technology (IT) is not understood by senior management and the above issues of priority setting and micro-management practices are not addressed.
In addition to having to face top executives who underestimate the value of IT services, the current Chief Information Officer is burdened with outdated systems and a workforce with an alarming skills deficit. UNESCO's informatics did not migrate from standalone systems to interactive architectures promptly and were caught off-guard by the arrival of disruptive technologies19. These technologies include business process re-engineering (BPR), object-oriented computing, relational data base management systems (RDBMS), work-group software, software agents and quasi-open systems architectures (Middleware) which permit products from different vendors to interconnect. These technologies are called disruptive because they require a complete re-engineering rather than simply an improvement of existing systems.
A relative newcomer to UNESCO and the UN family, the existing Chief Information Officer has a sound vision about the role of IT. He has developed a number of promising avenues ranging from outsourcing to partnering with the OECD and the UN. He possesses the technical know-how and clearly understands the risks associated with each alternative. With a minimum of coaching in strategic negotiation skills, he can rapidly acquire the business acumen to formulate and execute a smooth transition strategy. The need for strategic negotiation skills exists in program areas and can be easily accommodated with a short training workshop followed-up by ad hoc one-on-one coaching sessions, if necessary.
But above all, the Chief Information Officer needs the immediate commitment of the Director General and senior management to take the time to learn about the emerging direction of IT in leading organizations and the critical strategic leverage it can bring to UNESCO.
UNESCO should embrace IT as a virtually unavoidable and irreplaceable tool for excelling in policy formulation (modeling, strategic intelligence, bench-marking), project management, operational productivity and community development. IT is a cost-effective way of dealing with UNESCO's scope and allowing UNESCO workforce and partners to securely operate throughout the world in real time as a virtual community.
The first step is to invite a panel of leading authorities such as Joel Birnbaum, Dr. Michael Cowpland, Dave Croot, Andy MacDonald, Dr. James Martin (no relationship to the author) and Dr. John Sviokla to discuss with UNESCO executives the state of the art of IT20 and its potential for positioning UNESCO in a complex and changing world.
Armed with experience, perspective, context and the new IT knowledge, UNESCO executives should embark on the second step: actively participating in an IT re-engineering and continuous improvement strategy.
The third step is for the Chief Information Officer to seek a partner such as the OECD, the UNDP or the World Bank to work together on a common IT network, mitigate the risks and form a synergistic alliance on technical intelligence gathering, technology applications and information sharing.
With respect to the migration to open systems, the partners can chose a strict adherence to emerging standards, opt for a pragmatic approach that tolerates a mix of open and proprietary systems or negotiate a turn-key deal with a leading vendor (EDS or IBM) who can provide all users (both IT neophytes and experts) globally with affordable, reliable, secure and prompt access to information and multimedia services.
Regardless of the route chosen to build the new framework, the change must be part of a continuous business improvement process driven by users of each partner organization. The CIO should orchestrate the project on the UNESCO side. In any case, UNESCO requires new system integrators. These professionals must be talented in networking, relational databases (RDMS), intelligent systems and rapid application development. They must also be skilled in harnessing the power of the new technologies to enable affordable and user-friendly automation of complete business processes.
2.7. Emphasis on Grass-Root Constituency & Virtual CommunitiesIn addition to National Commissions that will continue to further UNESCO's mission, more emphasis should be placed on direct contact with and between members of the UNESCO network of clubs, centers and associations.
The United Nations Associations should play a greater role in UNESCO activities, as they tend to have wider networks and greater visibility than the UNESCO Commissions. There is also a vast reservoir of potential allies who can champion the objectives of UNESCO in their respective constituencies, locally, nationally and internationally. However, without strategic thinking, negotiation skills and business acumen, building allies can be costly, time consuming and fruitless.
Choosing the right allies is half the battle. Except for the well-known polluters and alcohol and tobacco manufacturers, UNESCO seems to be acquiescing to almost any first-comer. This is dangerous in that it establishes precedents and neglects potential risks. Since the process of choosing worthy partners is often counter-intuitive, professional expertise should be sought to formulate a viable policy on partner selection and strategic alliances.
As an example of a solid source of potential candidates, UNESCO would do well to consider the cooperative movement that includes agricultural, commercial, educational and financial cooperatives, credit unions, caixas and mutual banks. Its tradition of bringing members closer together to foster interdependence and mutually-reinforcing relationships is very much in line with the vision of UNESCO. With concerns that are far deeper than profit, power and financial clout, the cooperatives' values set them apart from the mainstream business world and make their future inseparable from that of their local communities. UNESCO should find in this movement a natural ally to work with to improve the well being of communities toward a more humane, prosperous and just global society. However, the best way to reach this movement would be to build the critical mass with the leading members of the group such as Crédit Agricole, Deutsche Genossenschaft (DG Bank), Raiffeisenbank, Caisses Desjardins and Grameen Bank before going after the membership at large or to the world secretariat in Geneva. Among other contenders, employer federations, the International Federation of Societies for Association Executives (CSAE, ASAE), the Council of Foundations and their counterparts in most nations can also advance UNESCO aims.
Furthermore, UNESCO should also seek the active participation of the general public, as UNICEF has done. By donating time or money, citizens identify with UNICEF and give it high profile and community presence. This position in society consolidates bonds with local leaders who provide protection and valuable resources, two essential ingredients for carrying out a demanding mandate and engaging in frontier research. Unlike UNICEF, UNESCO relies heavily on intergovernmental relations, which are not a sufficient prerequisite for building a caring world. Therefore, stronger ties at the interpersonal level are vital. These ties begin with direct contact between citizens as demonstrated by the long-standing success of People-to-People and Citizen Ambassador programs. Created by the Eisenhower Administration during the fifties to bridge the deep postwar gaps between Americans, Germans and Japanese, both programs were widened to permit members of various U.S. professional associations to meet their counterparts in other countries. Similarly, a limited number of scholars from the Soviet Bloc and the West went to work and live together for one year at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxemburg (Austria), established in the sixties to foster détente.
Furthermore, the Internet revolution is gradually extending our ability to network and build allies. The first online real-time virtual communities arrived in the eighties. Among these forerunners of the present day Internet, The Well brought thousands of passionate scientists and educators to debate issues of interest in domains ranging from science and technology to economics and culture. Today, the Internet is both an alternative to and a stimulator of face-to-face contact.
Guided by the lessons from many such experiments, UNESCO should capitalize on the immense networking opportunities in cyberspace to consolidate and expand its partnership base. Since UNESCO's challenges cut across borders and solutions can be shared, cyberspace offers a powerful vehicle for uniting in facing these challenges through shared experiences, deeper and broader relationships and direct control over destinies.
Rather than reacting to ad hoc demands, UNESCO should target new allies based on its long-term strategic interests. It should capitalize on the vast reservoir of candidates such as the cooperative movement to champion the objectives of UNESCO in their respective constituencies (locally, nationally and internationally).
UNESCO should take advantage of the immense networking opportunities in cyberspace to consolidate and expand its partnership base through virtual communities, thereby significantly advancing its mission. UNESCO should foster the creation of affordable and self-supporting virtual communities to complement the conventional forums for direct personal contact between educators, scientists, professionals, youth and other citizens of different cultures and backgrounds. By bringing individuals and remote communities into direct contact, UNESCO establishes itself as a dynamic presence and leveraging its scarce resources in a very cost-effective way.
Judging from our experience in positioning large banks and multinational enterprises in cyberspace, this issue is sufficiently important to merit further coverage in a separate assignment. UNESCO should sponsor a project devoted to the creation of self-sustaining virtual communities with their own capital base. UNESCO would add great value by providing context and relying on others for content and technological infrastructure.
3. Geopolitical Issue: U.S. ParticipationThe tensions that characterized and nearly crippled UNESCO under the previous Administration have subsided and the circumstances have changed vastly... UNESCO is focusing on helping Member States build a peaceful world for current and future generations. It is also providing a useful context for advancing education and sciences and for understanding societies, cultures and languages, all of which are of great strategic value in a "knowledge-driven" world.
As a key architect of the global peace enterprise, the United States can now serve its long term interests better by participating to shape the new UNESCO than by sitting on the fence. The return of the United States to this pluralistic UN institution is important for at least two additional reasons. Firstly, exclusion favors the type of forces that have unsuccessfully tried to turn Americans inward21 twice during this century. We therefore have a moral obligation to support individuals and constituencies who are democratically struggling to steer their country away from this regressive path. Secondly, without this global power on board, UNESCO is shortchanged in capability and will always be working uphill. With American guidance, know-how and support, UNESCO has a better chance of fulfilling its daunting missions in education, science, communication and culture. The issue of Ethical Leadership and Entrepreneurial Integrity illustrates this point. Both UNESCO and the U.S. have far more to gain by working together on the roots of the ethical problems now unduly taxing the interests of every trading nation.
Moreover, U.S.-based companies such as Boeing, GE, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft and Procter & Gamble would welcome and support sound initiatives that would bring more fairness and discipline to the international market place. In order to gain the support of these powerful players, UNESCO must demonstrate to their satisfaction that while the Cold War is over, the path to peace - and better business - can only be irreversible once it exists in the minds of people. In other words, "investing in the ethical mission of UNESCO does not cost, it pays." In short, U.S. participation should be seen as an important factor in turning this type of important global citizen into UNESCO partners.
As close friends, Canada and the U.S. cannot endure the status quo, particularly now that the United Kingdom is returning to UNESCO. I am confident that the Government of Canada would welcome the opportunity to play a constructive role in getting the U.S. and UNESCO to resolve their differences and build new trust. However, given the current resistance to change, it should be stressed that we must first work on finding substantive ways of making it worthwhile for the Administration to reconsider its position and secure congressional support.
With the help of Canada and other allies, UNESCO should build on the recommendations of this report, particularly those on Ethical Leadership and Entrepreneurial Integrity, third-party financing and managerial practices. These topics go part of the way in inviting the U.S. back to the UNESCO family under new covenants. Many current adversaries have legitimate concerns and could turn into conditional allies once they endorse the merits of the change and trust the negotiation process. With openness and unconditional goodwill, an olive branch can weather many a storm and encourage intelligent discussions from all sides...
C. What Can Canada Do?Canada can share its experience. We are a leader in distance learning through the integration of two-way video-conferencing and the Internet.
Canada's RADIAN has substantially reduced the time and cost of distance learning and saved several millions of dollars since its inception in 1994. Through SchoolNet and The TeleLearning Network (National Centres of Excellence), researchers in several universities (Laval, UBC, Montreal, York and McGill) are creating "a relevant, responsive and information-rich learning environment for teaching professionals". The Executive MBA of Queen's University comprises campuses in every Canadian province and in the North-West Territories. TV Ontario and Télé-université of the University of Québec are among the pioneers of cable-TV education. PDI trains executives, managers, professionals and trainers to upgrade their skills and support major change efforts. These educational institutions should team up with their counterparts around the globe to share their knowledge and know-how under the auspices of a virtual UNESCO campus.
CCMD Management Resource Centre produces learning packages on a range of topics related to the public service. The International Governance Network tracks the public sector reforms taking place in the industrial world. Finally, Canada is undertaking a complete re-engineering of Government machinery with due consideration of the human dimension. Its lessons are worth sharing.
D. Summary of Recommendations and ConclusionUnder the leadership of Mr. Federico Mayor, UNESCO has made significant progress in building a better organization, in bridging the gap between policy and action and in facing tough challenges. Mr. Mayor brought greater accountability to UNESCO drawing on his own ministerial and academic experience and remarkable communication skills. This renaissance took place in a relatively short period of time and with fewer levers of motivation and control found in organizations of comparable size.
However, UNESCO has some way to go to become a high-performing organization. There is no shortage of plans and ideas but they lack the rigor and measure that are essential for implementation. Also, priorities are in constant flux; they seem to be driven by surprise events rather than by long-term strategic thinking and concentration of effort. As a result, both resource allocation and creativity suffer. Important assignments get less than adequate resources and attention. A major overhaul to strengthen UNESCO is required based on the following recommendations:
In summary, this report demonstrates once more that the need for UNESCO is greater than it has ever been. The Organization labored for global security under the East-West threat, the dominant issue for the better part of this century. A host of nations were conditioned to face a menace now less likely to present itself. Yet, we still live in dangerous times with other serious threats on the horizon. UNESCO plays an essential role in our lives. Its core mission is to deploy the most peaceful means to thwart current and emerging threats, build a better world for current and future generations and celebrate cultural diversity. We should therefore spare no effort to preserve the best of this noble institution. In cooperation with the Canadian Government and the Canadian Delegation at UNESCO, the author of this report would gladly put his expertise and the resources of PDI at the service of UNESCO to implement any of the above performance improvement recommendations and help make UNESCO a pacesetter in principle-based leadership and progressive management.
Alain Paul Martin
Paris, August 1997
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