Apr 9, 2007

Lagos BRT Project and "Presentation Skills"

About this time last year, Lagosians awoke to a new look on some major roads within the metropolis. Yellow lane dividers appeared overnight as if from thin air. These lines looked conspicuous and out of place. Initial speculations were about some companies which use yellow as their brand color, and some wondered if bill boards had become so scarce such that adverts were now being painted on the roads. It was also curious that the yellow marks only marked the inner lanes and not the outer ones. Not long after, "BRT LANE" signs were painted within the demarcated lanes. Aha! A clue had manifested and trust Lagosians, they made good use of this clue. Emails began flying around advising people about the meaning of BRT lanes. Lagosians drew their conclusions and the general message was "Keep off the BRT lanes!". The next couple of months would see some keeping off the lanes while some refused. However, neither an official bulletin nor a statement was issued by the State Government and soon all the hype of BRT died down.

Early this year, the State Government suddenly announced that private vehicles should stop driving along BRT lanes or risk paying a fine of N50000. It was also announced that the BRT lanes would be used exclusively for a new project tagged "Lagos Bus Rapid Transit project" - a new transportation system that would be managed by Lagbus Asset Management Limited, a bus transport company floated by the state government in conjunction with Cairo-based Export-Import Bank (AFREXIM Bank). This project was aimed at alleviating the transport situation in Lagos, easing traffic bottlenecks by inviting workers to leave their cars at home and joining the buses to their places of work, reduce crime rate on the highways and generally make life easier on the roads. Despite these advantages, Lagosians welcomed the news with mixed feelings. Most of the marked roads had only 3 lanes which were barely enough for the quantity of cars that drive through at any given time. Isolating a lane meant reducing the available lanes to two, subsequently leading to an increase in traffic bottlenecks, hold-ups, and more road trouble - the exact opposite of what was intended. I gave the state government some scores for this project.
Innovation - great
Ideas - great
Presentation - Zero
I congratulate the government on the ideas behind such a good and very necessary project (and I'm not being sarcastic), however, they still have a lot to learn by way of presentation. The first message from the government to Lagosians was "Don't drive on the BRT lanes or pay a fine of N50000" This can only confirm some elements of the "dictatorship" style leadership which we have become used to (and tired of!). There was no explanation for the lanes when the order given, no enlightenment and already some hostility was created in the minds of people towards whatever project was being expected. Statements like "They have come again", "FRSC/LASTMA/Police want another way to chop our money" were not uncommon. The project had already made some early enemies whilst still in the implementation stage - all due to inadequate presentation skills.

A good presentation plan would have been -
  • Intimate the masses about the advantages of having an efficient transport system
  • Create massive awareness and publicize the vision and aims of the project
  • Encourage workers to leave their cars at home and join the buses to their places of work
  • Announce a launch date and make tickets available in advance. Encourage everyone to participate in the launch of the transport system and probably give out some free tickets.
  • Close to the launch date, paint the BRT lanes and explain why it would be best to have a dedicated lane for the Buses.
If such steps had been followed, people would not complain as much as they do now. After the first day of operation, many would see the advantage of joining the buses. This would result in less cars on the streets and thus the effect of the BRT lanes would not be felt. More and more people would stop depending on their cars and soon the city would resemble places like London where the bus system is used extensively and you hardly find people driving during the day. As at the time of writing this article, the BRT buses are only patronized by those who don't have cars, and a few car owners I've spoken to have no plans to abandon their cars and start joining these buses.

Nigeria is indeed getting better with projects like this coming out. However I hope that our leaders will realize that presentation is a very important part in the implementation of any project. A bad presentation can cause the failure of any project no matter how good and well-meaning it is. As Nigeria gets better and more developed, I hope that all such projects shall be presented appropriately.

It's time to bring out some lessons from this. The BRT project only shows how bad presentation can ruin a project. One skill I've always prided myself in is the ability to make a good presentation ... and I know how ideas can catch on if presented properly. How do you present your own ideas? Are your presentation skills good or bad? Have you written proposals or planned projects which have failed due to bad presentation? It's time to work on those presentation skills. Every man who has created a revolution (from the days of old till now) has started with communicating and presenting a vision. Work on your presentation skills today and you'll find yourself gaining more acceptance, and achieving more success in your career, business, home and life in general. I wish you (and the BRT project) good luck in your endeavours.


wienna said...

I totally agree with u on d presentation skills of d project. They should have done radio/tv/newspapers promos beforehand to make d public aware of what was going on. And even do a sort of survey for people who take public transport to see how or what/how they feel about such project. I think d problem lies with MOST naijas, they hastily do things, they don't think of consequences of actions they do, they easily do things without thinking of d end results. e.g. was reading someone's blog d other day, and she was prettily upset dat the price of a lifestyle magazine in naija was increased to 700 naira from 500 without any warning whatsoever in d previous issue. Dis happens, i've observed, on a daily basis in all aspects in naija. We need to start developing ourselves on communicating & integrating with community,public, people etc.

I think d project is a great idea but let's just wait and see how long it'll last for cos we all know dat great ideas r thought out and well-executed, d next minute, u don't see/hear anything again.

akin said...

Interesting blog, especially your view on 'Presentation'. Ever thought about going into Government.
Looking forward to reading your blogs about the impending elections..

Linda ikeji said...

i tried to drop a comment here yesterday but e no go!about this BRT lanes, trust me Lagosians do not adhere to that rule.For where?with all the wahala hapening in lagos who cares to avoid yellow lanes.we need to get our priorities right in this country.

Tayo said...

@Wienna, you're right. It's a naija problem. We are too much in a haste, without a proper plan.
@Akin, thanks for the compliment. Government kee? I've never thought about it o! Thanks for dropping by.
@Linda, thanks for dropping by. lol, you've noticed too that Lagosians don't adhere to that rule. Me I still dey try small but when I wan overtake some slow danfos & Molues, I dey follow the BRT lane.

Pink-satin said...

typical of a naija project to just die down like that!but them Tinubu didnt plan this thing properly b4 they took off

truth said...

I have learnt these key factors in presenting ideas:
-Apply the SWOT analysis to your idea before pre-selling it.

-It is actually an advocacy principle to first show people the consequences of not adopting an idea, then the benefits of doing so.With that said, for a people that are often times burdened with so many social dysfunctions, I would suggest that this order be delivered with less force.

The best way to make people buy an idea is by selling it as THEIR solution to THEIR problem.

-Propose incremental changes. That way it is easier to gain support (even from cynics) and carry other followers along. Most people, nigerians inclusive hate creative destruction.

I commend you on this post Tayo. However, I believe that the measure of the Lagos govt's competency at making these changes acceptable is its ability to firmly and practically validate the essence of the project in the face of objection.

Tayo said...

@pink, true talk. I heard they've withdrawn the fines now and will allow the idea to infuse gradually. They're finally acting with sense
@truth ... That's some real insightful comment. I need to learn more from people like you. Why not start a blog?

truth said...

Thanks for the compliment *wink*. Presently it's easier for me to make time to read up great blogs like yours than to create one of mine. I'm still amazed that I can still read blogs cos I'm definitely a busy bee.
Looking forward to reading your next post.
Enjoy your day.

Anonymous said...

I admit i'm one of those that thought this was another money making scheme of lastma(trust me you never want to fall into their hands). When the lines went unexplained i assumed it was just anoher money making venture of the state government. the proposed levy confirmed my suspicion. i have always wondered if the Nigerian government think their citizens are mind readers. As you can see it appears to be a doomed project before it started. I keep wondering why our government cannot maximise the available rescources are we saying theres nobody wh can effectively manage such a project

Anonymous said...

I did not go through your entire presentation, but i'm here just to post my concerns concerning the scheme (BRT ofcourse).
Like you rated (i saw that part), the concept is nice and i've been impressed from the beginning with the fact that the idea came up in the first place. at the same time my fear has always been that will this be maintained.
And it looks like my fear is getting confirmed as:
1. the buses are not looking maintained. they already look like they spent 10 (oh say 5) years.
2. The original set of rules - basically, you get to the busstop before offloading your passengers, the bus passes through only designated lanes... - are no longer being followed (surprise?, this is Naija).
What i think the government ought to do is not stop after delivering this but actually to have a department (or whatever it is called but not under LASTMA now) to monitor this.
THis department should be in charge of maintainance and further improvement on the product (BRT). This makes sure that somebody is responsible for the BRT and thus when there is success, somebody gets the praise and when there is failure as well, there is someone responsible.