Strategic Thinking

9 Traits of a Strategic Thinker

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“I think and think for months and years. Ninety-nine times, the conclusion is false. The hundredth time I am right.” (Einstein).

Strategy development is not a “cookbook” process. It is a challenging, heuristic task that requires strategic thinking. Strategic thinking involves several traits:

  1. The ability to use consistent definitions of planning terms and to understand their distinctions;
  2. Awareness of the distinctions between project planning and strategic planning;
  3. The ability to discuss and describe items in plans at the appropriate “strategic altitude”;
  4. Awareness of the dynamic system effects in organizations, such as delays and feedback;
  5. The openness to new ideas and encouragement of creativity and innovation;
  6. The openness of the planning process to a team of employees of various ranks and functions;
  7. The degree to which alternative strategies and scenarios are considered;
  8. The linkage of strategic planning to budgeting;
  9. The ability to write and speak with clarity and simplicity.

Evidence for the degree of strategic thinking can be found in the organization’s strategic planning documents.

Strategic Thinking

Enhance your #strategicthinking and #strategicdevelopment skills by registering for the Balanced Scorecard Associate Certificate Programme carded for March 25th, 26th & 27th, 2020 at the Lok Jack GSB, Campus.

To learn more about becoming an internationally certified Balanced Scorecard Associate click HERE

For further information:
📞 (868) 310-3031 (Trinidad) or +592-673-5980 (Guyana)

Corporate Culture, Values and Leadership

6 Ways To Assess Your Organisation’s Culture and Values

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Corporate Culture, Values and Leadership

“A leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not.” (Author unknown).

This dimension refers to the culture and values inside the organization, and it addresses leaders’ and employees’ shared understanding and agreement with stated values. Most organizations post a values statement with a list of virtuous words. What distinguishes maturity is the degree to which those values are communicated, understood, and practised – by the leader as well as by all employees. Evidence of mature workforce culture and values include:

  1. Thoughtful applications of change management principles and practices by the leadership
  2. The degree of ownership that employees feel for the vision and values of the organization
  3. The degree of participation in shaping the organization’s culture and ways of working
  4. The level of trust, transparency and freedom to communicate with candor, as opposed to a culture of fear and denial
  5. The degree of flexibility and willingness to change to align to new strategic priorities
  6. The level of awareness and consistency of adherence to stated values and policies.
Leadership, Workplace Culture and Values

Examine strategies to enhance your workplace #culture and #values at the Balanced Scorecard Associate Certificate Programme carded for March 25th, 26th & 27th, 2020 at the Lok Jack GSB, Campus.

To learn more about becoming an internationally certified Balanced Scorecard Associate click HERE

For further information:
📞 (868) 310-3031 (Trinidad) or +592-673-5980 (Guyana)

The Backbone of Design for Health Behaviour Change Blog

The Backbone of Design for Health Behaviour Change

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The Backbone of Design for Health Behaviour Change

Written by: Steve Ouditt        Updated: Jan, 2020      2 min read

Designers for health behaviour change should learn extensively about the Social Determinants of Health as it illustrates how much our health is shaped by people, places, things, services, organizations, systems, law and lawmakers. One of the best sources of information on the Social Determinants of Health is the World Health Organization –

Here is how they define it, “The social determinants of health (SDH) are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life. These forces and systems include economic policies and systems, development agendas, social norms, social policies and political systems.”

Social determinants include: the food we eat; our levels of education; the quality of our family life; the nature of our jobs; how we get to and from work everyday; the communities we live in; the good and bad policies of the state and much more. In this social gradient of health, if we take a microscope to any of these areas we’d see people of all walks of life creating all sorts of systems and structures to make things fit nicely together. Take another microscope and we’d also see people failing to make things fit, or ‘make ends meet.’

Image 2 - The Backbone Blog
The Backbone of Design for Health Behaviour Change Blog

Living inside this network of systems, it’s impossible to find a single factor that, if engineered well, will make everything work in perfect harmony. There is no perfect starting point for health improvement. This headache gets worse especially for those sliding down the social gradient in health. In short, experts define the social gradient in health as having a top and a bottom, where you can move up or down; something like a ladder propping against a wall but depending on the situation, the ladder might be raised higher or lowered somewhat flatter. Often it’s not one’s own choice to move up or down; this movement is shaped by the social determinants. At the top of the ladder are those, who, being in better socioeconomic standing will be in better health than those at the bottom, whose socioeconomic standing and health are both poor. The majority of the world’s population are trying to move up the social gradient of health.

That is our world. It’s stratified and unequal. Some people are born into wealth and some into poverty. Some are born into violence and some into peace. Some get breaks that make things work and some don’t. Some Governments care and some don’t. We never all start from the same place. Everyone in the world is subject to a unique set of social determinants to their health. Those of us who want to design behaviour change interventions must start by understanding this. At every turn in life we have to remind ourselves that there is a health information seeker, and a health care worker, living inside us all.

On page 3 of ‘The Health Gap: The Challenge of an Unequal World’, Sir Michael Marmot writes, “Were we going to tell the woman in Psychiatry Outpatients that she should stop smoking and, as soon as her husband stopped beating her, she should make sure that he and she had five fruit and vegetables a day?……. Were we going to tell the immigrant with a marginal, lonely existence to stop eating fish and chips and take out membership in a gym? ……….And for those who assert that health is a matter of personal responsibility, should we tell the depressed woman pull her socks up and sort herself out?”

Conscientious designers who work for better population health know these challenges. They know that they can’t simply apply design methods to design away these problems, nor would they be so insensitive and flippant as to think these problems can be solved with an ad campaign. Designers for health behaviour change are trained to expect such dire situations. That ‘s why their curriculum must be grounded on a solid programme of social justice. It is the pillar upon which design for health behaviour change should be built. If this is not the backbone of their programme and belief system, they will be found out early by the shallowness of their work and the institutions they attend. They will never be able to bluff it.

Image 4 - The Backbone Blog
Image 5 - The Backbone Blog

The photos in this blog post are book-covers from books in Vessel’s library. This post could not have been written without studying and comparing passages in these excellent texts.

“How To Thrive In The Next Economy”, and the [Social Determinants of Health]

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“How To Thrive In The Next Economy”, and the [Social Determinants of Health]

Written by: Ayodhya Ouditt        Jan, 2020       2 min read

In John Thackara’s book, “How To Thrive In The Next Economy”, he takes a simple and clear look at how all over the world, small scale community interventions might offer solutions to some of the world’s major social and environmental problems. Thackara, a writer and advisor on matters of sustainability and ecological design, has a simple thesis: our planet’s biggest problems are the result of a flawed model — the ideal of the economy of infinite growth. And to be more blunt, it’s flawed because infinite resource consumption is impossible on a planet of finite resources.

But the book doesn’t focus on the disconnect between the human economy and the rest of nature — what Karl Marx called the “metabolic rift”. Rather, Thackara identifies solutions from all over the world, with the overarching narrative that these are largely local, community oriented, and technologically ‘light’ or ‘noninvasive’. These are presented as clear and concise case studies, drawn from his lifetime of travel and environmental observation.

Each chapter is based on another touchpoint of human civilisation, or to put it more honestly, a ‘need’, (water, shelter, transportation, energy, etc.) for which, examples are given.

For instance in Chapter 3, “Waterkeeping”, Thackara describes water safeguarding techniques such as “Participatory Groundwater Management”, a community driven model in which drought-affected smallholders like the farmers in Andra Pradesh, India, each monitor various watersheds on a daily basis, sharing the information and of course the water as well. Thackara adds — “Before the new system was introduced, farmers had to rely on data provided by so-called ’input dealers’ — fertilizer, seed, and pesticide companies; these sources tended to downplay the huge wealth of grounded knowledge”

Image 6 - How to Thrive Blog

The simple and clear structure of these stories is something I have always enjoyed. But in reading them over more recently, in the context of Vessel’s work, I’ve discovered a brilliant layer of subtext which I can only now appreciate. You see, in many ways, the issues Thackara identifies can be seen as the social determinants of health, or rather, as their precursors.

While there is no single definition of the social determinants of health, they can be generally understood as the economic and social factors that influence individual and group health in different populations. The list of determinants is similarly fluid, with different organisations and policy documents paying attention to different features of their respective societies. For the sake of a simple example, in 2003 the World Health Organisation, Europe included the following as determinants —

  • The social gradient
  • Stress
  • Early life
  • Social exclusion
  • Work
  • Unemployment
  • Social support
  • Addiction
  • Food
  • Transport


That the ten chapters of Thackara’s book and the social determinants of health seem so compatible, is in my estimation no accident. It’s easy to see for instance how issues like pollination, deforestation, and climate change do in fact bear heavily on food security, work, and migration, which in turn lead us to consider more obvious issues like unemployment, social support, exclusion, and addiction.

I like to think about Thackara’s globally ‘crowdsourced’ solutions to environmental problems like deforestation and water potability as addressing the environmental determinants of the social determinants of health. The solutions he describes are therefore not isolated environmental interventions, but measures that we could take to insure our societies themselves, against the burden of disease brought on by our global economy’s metabolic rift with nature.

A Flood of Ideas

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A Flood of Ideas

Written by: Ayodhya Ouditt        Updated: Jan, 2020      2 min read

The recent downpours have undoubtedly brought destruction to many. And while this has sobered the national spirit, it has also sparked solidarity and community. The team at Vessel agrees that there’s tremendous room for improvement in our national infrastructure, but it isn’t all about drainage, engineering, or littering.

Here are 18 ideas we put together, to nudge T&T towards flood-security.

  1. Free Wi-fi so that students, teachers, workers and parents could work at home. This will clear up roadways, and in turn reduce the risk of accidents.
  2. The ability to trade-in all flood-damaged appliances for discounts on new ones. Flood-damaged appliances to be salvaged for workable parts and scrap metal.
  3. PHITT Public Health Information of Trinidad and Tobago — a public health database with centralised information on nearby clinics for those stranded, and / or in need of emergency assistance.
  4. Water trucks to collect and filter water to be reused, maybe for washing away silt once the conditions permit.
  5. Training for all who helped in flood relief to become certified as disaster safety officers.
  6. Suspension of property tax for 10 years.
  7. Suspension of VAT on all appliance and furniture purchases.
  8. Creation of a global school or programme for flood management and relief.
  9. Trinidad and Tobago becomes a global advocate and evangelist for sustainable development and climate change, to create expert publications and develop a global research agenda.
  10. Land exchange. Residents in flood-prone areas can exchange their land for non-flood prone areas on a short term basis while working on sustainable solutions.
  11. An online citizen chat, “Flood Solutions”, where people document their problems and share solutions.
  12. Government sale on all those massive and expensive ‘official’ vehicles, downsizing a bit to smaller ones. The money saved would be invested in a unit of helicopters for times of disaster.
  13. Dissuasion of religious leaders from linking this, and any natural disaster, as punishment from god, especially for lifestyle matters such as sexual orientation. This is counter-productive.
  14. Creation of community laundromats to wash and dry all clothes at inexpensive rates.
  15. Development of ‘fast-inflatable-dingy-kits’ for cars and homes, schools, other institutions and business places.
  16. Incentives to encourage the preservation of trees and the building of tree houses so that people won’t have to sleep on roofs.
  17. Encouraging the construction of rope ladders.
  18. Limited use of rooftop flashing lights on houses and cars.



What do you think? If you’ve got thoughts on our ideas or brilliant ones of your own, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at

And stay safe!

An old mindmap of ours, featuring some of T&T’s big environmental topics.

Leadership, Workplace Culture and Values


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Chess Piece - Leadership

Ken Chenault, CEO of American Express said, “My role is to define reality and to give hope.”

Leaders question assumptions, look at problems in new ways and create and articulate a vision for the future. In the context of strategic management, leadership includes the following traits:

  1. Leaders set a clear and consistent vision or “picture of the future” of the organisation
  2. Leaders are pro-active in preparing the organisation for the future
  3. Leaders are visible and engaged to ensure that staff understand the common vision and can translate it into terms relevant to their roles
  4. Leaders “walk the talk” in exemplifying the values, ethics and policies of the organisation
  5. Leaders don’t micromanage but trust and encourage employees to contribute their ideas and grow in their careers
  6. Leaders “walk around” and work alongside staff to encourage teamwork.

Many employees are now considered “knowledge workers” – they are hired for their thinking skills.  In this environment employees want to know why they are being asked to do their assignments. Hence strategic management leads to increased employee empowerment and less “command and control” management.

Leadership, Workplace Culture and Values

Enhance your #leadership and #strategicplanning skills by registering for the Balanced Scorecard Associate Certificate Programme carded for March 25th, 26th & 27th, 2020 at the Lok Jack GSB, Campus.

To learn more about becoming an internationally certified Balanced Scorecard Associate click HERE

For further information:
📞 (868) 310-3031 (Trinidad) or +592-673-5980 (Guyana)

Over 25 Employer Organisation Representatives Met to Discuss Youth Employability and Skill Development at International Workshop in Aruba

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Co-funded by the European Union, the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and the Aruba Trade and Industry Association (ATIA) hosted approximately 25 representatives of employer organisations across the Caribbean region in Aruba on November 14 – 15, 2019. The International Workshop entitled “Promoting Youth Employability & Skills Development in the Caribbean: The Role of Employers’ Organisations”, sought to ensure that IOE members in the Caribbean strengthen their corporation on youth employability and skills development.

Dr. Kamla Mungal, Director, Accreditation and Quality Enhancement Centre / Leadership Institute at the UWI-Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business represented the Business School at the Workshop. Dr. Mungal delivered a feature presentation at the International Workshop on “The Future of Work and its Impact on Employment and Skills in the Caribbean Region.”

The IOE is the largest network of the private sector in the world, with more than 150 business and employer organisation members. It is the sole representative of business in the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and across the UN, G20 and other emerging forums. The IOE is recognised for its unique expertise, advocacy and influence as a powerful and balanced voice for business at the international level.

Presentation on the Transformation of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service delivered at Leadership Conference in Canada by Lok Jack GSB Director

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T&T Police Service

On 24 – 27 October 2019, Dr Kamla Mungal, Director, Leadership Institute, Lok Jack GSB, presented on the transformation of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service within the last year at the International Leadership Association (ILA) conference held in Ottawa, Canada. The ILA is the largest worldwide community committed to leadership development and practice. It brings together professionals with a keen interest in the study, practice and teaching of leadership.


Kamla 4

This year the overarching conference theme was “Leadership: Courage Required”. The topics of the two panel discussions were:

  1. The Courage to Act: Challenging the Status Quo
  2. Intuition in the Face of Adversity: The Courage to Go With Your Gut

Participating in both panel discussions, Dr. Mungal firstly examined how courage in leadership can enable the process of institutional transformation. In her second presentation, Dr. Mungal dealt with the mechanisms used to challenge gut reactions and facilitate the shift from an embedded negative psychology to a more positive and empowering approach to change.

The international multidisciplinary group of panellists who took a deep dive into uncovering the nature of courageous leadership action also consisted of:

  • Adi Walker, Phd, MSc., B.Tech (Eng), POD International Consulting, Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Shanita Baraka Akintonde,  MBA, M.Ed., DTM, Associate Professor, Communications Department, Columbia College, Chicago
  • Lunthita Duthely, EdD, MS, BS, BA, Assistant Research Professor, UM Miller School of Medicine, Ob/Gyn

Procurement/Supply Chain Risk in Trinidad and Tobago: A case of life and Death?

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With African swine fever wiping out a quarter of the world’s pigs, primarily in China, doctors and drug makers around the world are sounding the alarm about a possible prolonged shortage of heparin, a critically important blood thinner. The drug, derived from pig intestines, is widely used to treat heart attacks and prevent deadly blood clots. China has been the primary source of the medicine, and the crisis there highlights a need to develop alternate supplies.  

So why was this “alternate supply” not identified (maybe as a “what if” scenario?) before this problem occurred?

What’s the supply like now? 

A U.S. congressional committee asked the Food and Drug Administration in July to monitor heparin supplies, noting a six-to-nine-month lag time before a shortage could affect the U.S. market. The agency said in October that there had been no impact. That might be because the outbreak caused a pig-killing frenzy that initially yielded plenty of heparin. However, as the number of hogs slaughtered in China falls, so too will the volume of the raw material. Drugmakers including Germany’s Fresenius SE and South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd. have mentioned shortages linked to rising prices. Fresenius’s Kabi unit told its U.S. customers in July that it put heparin on a protective allocation list due to a potential shortage. Massachusetts General Hospital warned in August of an impending global shortage; the chief of its emergency preparedness team said stock levels were so low at one point that the Boston center was two weeks away from having to cancel lifesaving cardiac surgery.  (Bloomberg News)

Is the Ministry of Health monitoring this?

How effective are your procurement risk assessments?

Venezuela: Financial, Operational, Culture, Political Risk Eventuated

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Eighteen months ago I asked the following question of an executive working in the financial sector and a very senior police officer:

Are you guys considering hiring Bi-lingual employees?

I would respectfully submit that Trinidad and Tobago should have been more prepared to treat with what has been happening over the last 2 weeks (e.g. registration of Venezuelans), if the decision makers were employing more risk based decision making such as: scenario planning/analysis and being more proactive and anticipatory.

One did not need a “crystal ball” to see what the possible scenarios and risks would have been and still is, arising out of the Venezuelan crisis.

Having said that, there are opportunities in any given crisis. The following questions therefore arises:

  • Have you and your institution conducted a risk and opportunity assessment on Venezuela and the Venezuelan migration?
  • Do you need to revisit/update our strategic plans?
  • What about your risk profile/risk appetite?
  • Have you met with your risk teams to chat about any NEW risk and opportunities around financial risk, legal, compliance, operational risk, HSE, demand risk, culture risk, disaster recovery and BCP?
  • What about our social services, not immediately but one year from now?

Trinidad and Tobago and by extension your organization has been/will be disrupted. A determination must now be made as to what is the extent of this disruption and measure/quantify both the constructive disruption element and the negative disruptive potential. 

The velocity and complexity of the risks we are exposed to is rising. How prepared are you ?

Ken Hackshaw – Lead Faculty for Professional Certificate in Enterprise Risk Management. Find out more about our Professional Certificate in Enterprise Risk Management at 868-645-6700 ext. 367