Democracy is people (leaders) working for people (masses). I learnt over time (the hard way) that both new government leaders and government veterans with years of experience can easily ignore the people side of management. In fact, such ignorance of government and corporate leaders of having this blind spot is a result of the fact that their focus is so driven by external results and building an organization or society that is successful in the long-term is the last thing on the minds of these leaders.


Fortunately, in the context of managing Pakistan the policies / programs pursued currently at the level of Prime Minister seem to have taken a positive turn working for people for long-term sustainability rather than short-term gimmicks to capture public praise. More importantly, the people of Pakistan have so far shown trust on the government policies, simply for the credibility owned by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Nobody will argue that every project (use of word “project” is not intended to limit continuity of a change management program) involves people, process and technology – but the hardest part is always with the people. Industry experts with years of experience managing complex nationwide government projects would agree that over 90% of the challenges and opportunities come with culture change – and that is related to the staff outside your door. But in real world near-term technology results or process improvements over whelm the leaders and people (who are intended beneficiary of projects) are often forgotten.

Questions for Bureaucrats

Some questions that a leader should ask himself about his contribution to society or towards an organization of people are:

  1. What “outside the box” vision do we need to implement? What objective or deliverable would be a national best-practice if we could achieve it this year? How to work backwards to build a plan for realizing a mission goal? How to correct course to complete goals from last year?
  2. What are my team’s goals for coming years? Which projects went right, and wrong, last year?  Is my team equipped with necessary skills required for its professional roles?
  3. How to monitor or when to intervene in priority projects?  Who needs new help and/or additional resources? What deliverables, metrics and outcomes shall gauge progress?
  4. What is needed to better model integrity, a caring attitude, innovative ethical thinking and high expectations for my team?  What breakfast and lunch meetings can help build stronger relationships? How can I reward my team members – given available tools and restraints?
  5. Have I mastered the 80/20 rule (Pareto Principle), what can I stop doing now – in order to spend more time doing other things? Do I know about places, events and times to practice “management by walking around?”

Above daunting questions are not meant to make leadership self-analysis to become paralysis. They are meant to serve as a regular guiding or reminding signals for keeping things on track.


Motivating Bureaucrats to Assume Leadership Roles

Answering the questions listed above can help develop theme areas for leaders – which in case of government are bureaucrats. Every bureaucrat can turn into a leader if he creates resolutions and own the actions. Listed below are some professional resolutions that can serve the bureaucrats well, largely borrowed from other experts, to join the vision of sustainable Pakistan:

1)      Teaming Right – Searching and teaming excellent people with right skills and know how, shared values and passion for delivering excellence is the key for serving people.  

Tip: Read books and articles to know the importance of having right people on the bus before you start the journey. For example Jim Collins wrote Good to Great which is one article to ponder on this point.

2)      Rewarding Right – Retaining the right team requires taking care of them. Reward accomplishments and support those who fail to accomplish through a fun process. This is especially difficult in a government context as will require doing the necessary paperwork for promotions, bonuses and recognition. As such bureaucrats have to take personal responsibility to use every tool available to help their team members achieve professional success. Celebrate accomplishments and recognize professional achievements on a personal basis.

Tip: Plan to celebrate every time there is an achievement. Emphasize the importance of shared celebrations to political leaders.

3)      Planning Right (again and again) – There is surely plenty of tasks on a bureaucrats plate, projects to deliver, and maybe even a full calendar that goes through public festivals. Planning to implement a new vision for betterment of public at large will require zero-based budgeting approach. This is difficult and time consuming but absolutely essential. Take some time to clear the schedule and think about what projects truly need to be done by your group and why – starting from nothing. This management approach may help to free up resources and allows bureaucrats to stop doing some tasks in coming year.

Tip: A blank sheet may be too hard in the beginning so consider training your team through taking three tasks off and adding two new for the next year. 

4)      Rightful Charter – For public sector projects that will consume “meaningful amount” of resources, it is absolutely essential to make sure that clear objectives, metrics and deliverables are documented in a project charter. Don’t misguide political leaders during the process of approval of project charter – What are expected project benefits? Who is doing what tasks? Have appropriate staff and financial resources been rightly allocated?

Tip: Be careful to get a project sanctioned from authorized forum after careful economic and social impact review. New projects may include some low-hanging fruit and easy wins but should not include objectives which are based on erratic or manipulated data.

5)      Right Image – Building better image, relationships & professional trust with the public, politicians, peers and subordinates is an important part of bureaucrat’s responsibilities. Give public appearance for promotion of a new initiative always high in “to do” list and do not let these crowded out of busy schedules. Building relationships that outlast inevitable bad news is always a requirement for government functionaries.

Tip: Regular press briefing for public information by Secretary and relevant Minister can do the trick. Organized public debate by experts, media personnel, social organizations (including naysayers and critics) regarding critical issues faced by public can help necessary rectifications of ill-conceived initiatives.

6)      Addressing Wrong – Are we ready when things go wrong? Are we preserving our institutional memories? Do the organizations have sufficient institutional memory to survive a crisis? In politics and public governance, bad news (such as utility outages or price hikes or emergencies) can define bureaucrats’ legacy if they are not careful. Preparation for the worst and unexpected incidents includes retaining updated institutional memory.

Tip: Check to ensure that your employee succession plans and business continuity plans (BCP) are up to date for various emergency scenarios. Practice drills for emergency management can also help.

7)      Right Publicity – With public becoming more and more aware of their right to information related to governance, timely and correct communication has become the #1 problem for both public and private sector organizations. How to improve your messaging with in your operational hierarchy? Are you getting a clear message out? What is the feedback?

Tip: Consider to be active on Social Media.

Final Thoughts

Public sector management is an honour by itself and calls for inherent moral high ground. Entrusted for spending public funds, bureaucrats need to inculcate a sense of responsibility towards sustainability of nation state – a cause that is superior to their duty obligation to people and government. Pakistan can rise or fall due to actions or inactions of bureaucrats.

A cursory glance at the contemporary Best Governments in the World[1] or retrospective view of history bear testament to this fact.



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[1] Cago , Lanessa. “The 25 Best Governments In The World.” WorldAtlas, Apr. 25, 2017,

Pakistan Energy Market Data – October 2019
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