Every February for the last 12 years, the Barbadian private and public sectors have been coming together to observe a ???Week of Excellence???.

The Week serves to renew their collaborative commitment to building a more efficient, respectful and respectable working community that understands the importance of the worker, the value of work and the relevance of both to the long-term stability of Barbados.

The concept of the annual celebration was the brainchild of Mr. John Agard, a port worker who then sat on the Executive Council of the Barbados Workers??? Union.

Excellence, as you are well aware, is a talent or quality which is unusually good and so surpasses ordinary standards. It is also a continuously moving target that can be pursued through actions of integrity.

The Week of Excellence embraces the ideals that the National Initiative for Service Excellence (NISE) espouses, and reflects the Productivity Council???s mandate of creating a workforce culture in Barbados that pursues operational excellence.

NISE and the Barbados Workers??? Union, the Productivity Council, the Barbados Employers??? Confederation, the Central Bank of Barbados and the Office of Public Sector Reform, are the organisers of the Week of Excellence and are to be commended for their untiring initiatives aimed at perpetuating the qualities of excellence in every aspect of the working environment.

This year under the theme: ???Continuing the Transition; Growing & Sustaining Tomorrow???s Leaders???, a series of high profile public events have been scheduled, with particular emphasis on youth and future generations of Barbados??? leaders.

The Productivity Council launched the National Year of Productivity in January this year. An important issue to be discussed is the development of a national wellness policy. Initiatives such as these are imperative if Barbados is to take its rightful place on the world stage, as a strong and healthy nation.

The observance of the Week is also designed to be a process through which employers and their employees establish measures by which they can improve the quality of relations at the workplace, enhance efficiency levels and reduce wastage in all economic activities, thereby facilitating productivity.

The legendary American football coach Vince Lombardi suggests that perfection is not attainable, but that if we chase perfection we can catch excellence. Against that background, tonight I want to focus my attention on the need to go back to basics in charting a new way forward which leads to prosperity and which is sustainable in our pursuit of excellence in Barbados.

Cooperation, collaboration, and teamwork, that is, effectively communicating with one another; making our time count; self-motivation; and cultivating a work ethic that is above reproach, are to be actively encouraged, but unfortunately these practices are often forgotten, or overlooked, in the pursuit of individual or even national development.

The acknowledged tension between the gradual dissolution of traditional values and the progressive emergence of more contemporary – and often adversarial – values contributes significantly to the disappearance of these hallowed practices. And so in many ways we need to get back to honouring the virtues of, and the successes from incorporating these fundamentals into every aspect of our lives.

In this the year of our 50th Anniversary of Independence, both The Year of Productivity, and this year???s Week of Excellence, gain added significance. We must renew our commitment to pursue assiduously, and indeed to recoup, all those values and ideals that have made and continue to make Barbados a gem of a nation – a nation with a tenacity and a conscientiousness which belie its physical size, and reinforce the stature and fortitude of the capacity and will of its most precious resource: its people.

Indeed, we must reflect on the practices that have stood us in good stead through the years, and that we need to retain; the valued practices that we have lost and need to regain; and the practices that we have developed that we need to discard, in our path towards excellence as a nation.

To ensure that the search continues for excellence in the context of Barbados, it is essential to invest in the awareness of the individual, shaping the national conscience, and enabling it to create a more balanced human being, whose vision, standards, culture and habits will be used to recreate traditions and re-establish values.

In every space, at every desk, at every corner, in churches and communities we must work together assiduously to inculcate in our youth, and to reinforce in the not so young, those basic values that have served us well in the past, if we are to maintain the levels of excellence that we have already reached and to aspire to levels of excellence in other areas, which we seek as a developing nation.

In addition, we must be inspired by the desire to succeed, the will to win, and the urge to reach our full potential, all of which, according to Confucius, are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence. Only then will we be on our way to creating a Barbados that is socially balanced, economically viable, environmentally sound, and in which there is good and honest governance, for the benefit of all Barbadians.

I invite Barbadians of all ages to join us in the observance of the national Week of Excellence, focusing on productivity, in this our 50th year of Independence, as we celebrate and commit to Pride and Industry.

The message to launch the Week of Excellence may also be downloaded here.

Author: Minister of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development

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