Notwithstanding the challenges involved, the stakes are high and there is little room for false starts or experimentation; therefore, identifying a general set of best practices that Gambian organizations can follow in developing their own set of sustainable productivity practices represents a valuable and timely undertaking, which relates to the purpose of the study which is discussed further below.
Purpose of Study
The overall purpose of this study was to study to provide a review of the relevant juried and scholarly literature together with the findings of a survey of Gambian business leaders to generally identify the most pressing priorities for developing the nation's infrastructure and sustainable organizational productivity. The specific purpose of the study was to determine whether SMEs face the same types of challenges of to optimum performance as their larger corporate counterparts, and to identify any peculiar organizational characteristics that determine levels of performance between SMEs and large organizations based on the available literature and empirical observations from the field.
Importance of Study
An important part of developing and implementing sustainable organizational productivity initiatives is a sustainable development process. The World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission), in its report "Our Common Future" (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), defines sustainable development: "Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts: (a) the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and (b) the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs" (quoted in Sustainable Business Development 2010). The profession of management is increasingly interested in sustainable development as today's organizations confront the realities of managing limited resources, many of which were previously regarded as being unlimited in scope. For example, sustainable development was the main topic of the national Organization Development Network's 2003 conference. Generally speaking, sustainable development takes into account three fundamental aspects of development, including sociological, ecological and economic Sustainable Business Development 2010.
A recent editorial in the Independent, an independent newspaper in Gambia, called for such a broad-based developmental approach to globalization that would allow the country to benefit from full engagement with the global economy while allowing communities to preserve their distinctive character (Keenan 2008). To achieve this level of sustainable development and the improved organizational productivity that accompanies it, the main challenge for the Gambia is to improve stability, consolidate its political system and continue with desperately needed reforms (Gambia 2009). At the time of its independence from the United Kingdom, the Gambia was one of the richest countries in Africa; however, since that time and as noted above, the country has experienced a series of natural and manmade problems that have resulted in suboptimal economic management, problems that have simply been exacerbated by the country's limited natural resources (Gambia 2009). The country's GDP per capita was estimated by the IMF at just U.S.$410 in 2007, ranking it among the 20 poorest countries in the world (Gambia 2009). Although governance has improved with the return to civilian rule and the government has made commitments to privatize state-owned companies, a move which if well managed would help reduce corruption and stimulate the economy, the Gambian economy remains heavily dependent aid flows from overseas and it is now eligible for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative (Gambia 2009).
Scope of Study
The scope of the literature review extended to the global marketplace in which the Gambia competes, but a specific focus on the Gambia was maintained throughout.
Rationale of Study
While time is of the essence and the needs are great, policymakers in the Gambia must proceed with some degree of caution. In what has been termed the "productivity paradox," Morrow (1999) cites the enormous amounts of resources that are routinely devoted to improving productivity but emphasizes that much of these resources are being wasted because of a lack of substantive results. According to Morrow, "The key to understanding, explaining, and perhaps one day attenuating the productivity paradox lies in examining the linkages that exist between productivity at the individual, group, and organizational levels of analysis" (194). Examining these linkages and identifying sustainable organizational productivity approaches for the Gambia, though, is complicated by the fact that much of the economic activity in the country takes place off of the official books. In many developing countries such as the Gambia, unofficial economic activity -- that conducted by unregistered firms or by registered firms but hidden from taxation -- accounts for between a third and a half of the total. This share declines sharply as the economy develops. Despite the sheer magnitude of unofficial activity, little is understood about its role in economic development, and in particular about how important "officializing" this hidden activity and the resources devoted to it might be for economic growth (La Porta & Shleifer 2009).
Because the vast majority of private sector companies operating in the Gambia today are classified as small- to medium-sized enterprises or the even tinier so-called "micro-enterprises," officializing the hidden economy activity could also provide the means for helping these organizations become more productive and therefore profitable through the identification of sustainable practices that can provide them with the competitive advantage they need. In this regard, Folson (2005) emphasizes that, "In Africa, we have people who understand our business terrain and know how to operate in Africa in order to make money. . . . Our strategy to stimulate investment is not on sound footing, and we need to correct this immediately. We are missing [an] opportunity, making a lot of people disillusioned, especially where there is hope and opportunity" (3). While traditional business practices that are tied to the unique culture and regional differences that exist in the Gambia will be challenging to replace with sustainable productivity approaches, the stakes are high and time is of the essence in helping these burgeoning organizations achieve their full potential as actively contributing members of the Gambian economy.
Overview of Study
This study used a five-chapter format to achieve the research purpose above-stated. Chapter one of the study was used to introduce the topics under consideration, provide a statement of the problem, the purpose and importance of the study, as well as its scope and rationale. Chapter two of the study provides a critical review of the relevant and peer-reviewed literature concerning sustainable productivity and business practices, as well as an overview of the Gambia and how these issues relates to its current situation. Chapter three of the study more fully describes the methodology used to achieve the above-stated research purpose, as well as providing a description of the study approach, the data-gathering method and the database of study consulted. Chapter four consists of an analysis of the data developed during the research process and chapter five presents the study's conclusions, a summary of the research and salient recommendations.
Chapter 2: Review of Related Literature
Sustainable Organizational Productivity in Small- to Medium-Sized Enterprises
Identifying and implementing sustainable organizational productivity initiatives is not a hit-and-miss proposition, but rather requires a ground-up analytical approach. In this regard, Morrow (1999) emphasizes that, "Changing a single aspect of an organization almost never results in a substantial change in organizational performance. Organizations are too complex, their performance too multidetermined, and their inertia too great for a single intervention at the individual level to have a substantial impact on organizational performance" (195). In other words, to the extent that managers want to improve organizational performance is the extent to which it will be necessary to change individual behaviors and attitudes, group norms and interactions, and organizational structures and strategies (Morrow 1999). These constraints apply to organizations of all sizes and types as well.
In the Age of Information, it is not surprising that one of the more popular approaches to improving organizational productivity is to implement information technology solutions. As Howell and Higgins (2000) emphasize, "The increased turbulence, complexity, and competitiveness of organizational environments have made the identification, evaluation, and adoption of technological innovations a critical determinant of organizational productivity, competition, and survival" (317). In the case of implementing information technology solutions to improve productivity, though, a system that is purchased may not be successfully implemented. Even if it is implemented, it may not increase individual productivity, and if it does increase individual productivity, it probably will not enhance organizational performance. Mechanisms that may explain these gaps include the fact that the positive effects of interventions may be limited and outweighed by unintended negative effects, that the gains in the outputs of some subsystems may be offset by increased costs in other subsystems, that changes that do not fit the culture will be ignored or absorbed as the system seeks to maintain a state of homeostasis, and that changes that…