Development Plans:
what the problems are
F Entessarian, Member of ISO Technical Committee 176, Responsible for writing Quality Management Standards, Vice-President of the Iranian Quality Management Association; and Managing Director of Iran Group of Surveyors

Recently Khatami’s government published the fourth Five-Year Socio-Economic & Cultural Development Plan,
the fourth such plan to be drawn up and published since the Islamic Republic came to power in 1979.

When one goes through the Fourth Plan, very quickly one begins to note that it must have been very hurriedly written and printed although the contents, i.e. the objectives, are far more daring and show a great deal more awareness of conditions both inside and outside the country. The hurried writing can be inferred from the large
number of typing, spelling and grammatical errors that the text contains. It is quite likely that the intention was to complete the Plan and submit it to Majlis before the 6th parliament ends and new elections are held.

Another problem with the Fourth Plan – which we find in all our past plans, even those drawn up in the previous regime – is that it has been prepared with a focus on ‘what-should-be-done’, and has totally ignored that vital
issue of ‘how-should-be-done’. Obviously how a thing should be done is usually far more complicated than simply stating what should be done.

In other words plans such as this must, in addition to justifying why a thing should be done, give a guideline as to how it should be done and better still give the exact procedure to be followed.

But this has always been ignored in our plans and this is why we have very often not managed to attain the objectives of our plans. This failure has been the result of the absence of the right strategy, the right way of going about the problem of attaining our goals.

Many countries in Asia were once in the same condition as Iran, yet they managed to accomplish a great deal in very short times, countries like China, Malaysia, Thailand and much closer to us, the UAE.

China has attained two figure rates of GDP growth without having any oil, and with an enormous population to feed. We have oil, gas, a vast range of minerals and most important of all, a large population of highly educated young men and women: a unique asset. But time and again we have tried and failed to develop rapidly and reach a high enough rate of GDP growth, for want of the right strategy.

When we talk about the right strategy we mean strategy that is in agreement and coordination with our other strategies, not in conflict with them. To give an example, suppose we want to increase human resource productivity in a factory, to do the work that is presently being done by 1000 people, by only 400 people, i.e. we wish to reduce the number of workers by 600. In that case we would first have to invest in some industry
to provide jobs for these 600 people otherwise we would be adding to the gravity of the issue of unemployment.

Take another example: suppose we wish to produce 700,000 auto vehicles and export a large number of these abroad. In that case we would have to make sure that the vehicles are of a sufficiently high quality standard and attractive enough to sell abroad otherwise we will end up stranded with a large number of vehicles that will not sell abroad and are surplus to home demand.

The Fourth Plan has one unique feature to its credit, a feature that has so far been absent in all our plans. It has set daring objectives, as mentioned earlier. Never in the past has an Iranian government dared to set such
high goals as a GDP growth of 8%, for example. Not that this particular objective and most others set by the Forth Plan cannot be attained.

Indeed most can. In the opinion of this writer a lot more can be achieved even than the Plan has set as its goals; but provided the right strategies are adopted. On the other hand, as it stands the Fourth Plan is fragmented and does not follow a logical sequence. For example, it may deal with the electricity industry in one part then immediately go on to the auto industry and from there to the country’s water supply and dams.

The Plan demands that the Human Resource Productivity Organization of Iran hold an annual Productivity Award, and grant awards to those countries that do their best to raise productivity. But in the Plan the award is not connected to any purpose, any issue, any entity.

As pointed out earlier, plans and decisions made in Iran are often incongruent with realities or are open-ended in the sense that the consequences have not been taken into proper consideration. For instance the Fourth Plan dissolves the Grain Organization of Iran without caring as to what will happen to its employees or who will do the work the organization has so far done, no matter how insignificant.

A classic example, something that happened a year or two ago, was the merging of two ministries into one, the ministries of mines and of industries to create the Ministry of Industry and Mine. The only thing that had been clarified beforehand was which of the ministers should stay on to take over the ministry and which of the deputies he wished to retain. Another point that our planners must bear in mind when drawing up a plan is that it must be compatible with the times and must make utmost use of modern tools and techniques.

Ten years ago the computer was not so widely and commonly in use. The Internet was not accessible in Iran down to a few years ago. Digital systems did not exist till quite recently. And the environment worldwide was
quite different.

Next comes the question of the Performance Assurance system. This system continually appraises the performance quantitatively, and checks if the performance lags behind schedule, why exactly it does where it does, and what should be done to make up for the shortcoming and the lag.

The last point I should like to bring up needs a brief introduction. Tom Peters, a guru in management, says that
when he sets foot into a new boardroom he will soon be able to tell what the color of the underwears of the members is.

This is because, he says, that the board members live in a closed environment. They work together, eat together, go to the same parties, play golf together, copy one another and become increasingly similar in their traits and attitudes.

You need someone from the outside, someone who is fresh to the environment, to bring about changes and developments. This is why often when a company is not doing well a new managing director can make a lot of difference, can even save the company from ruin.


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