The first major stepping stone of politicians seems to be the conviction that things will simply happen once they provide a political direction. They won't. Underestimating the importance of execution is one of the main reasons policies and promises fail, Külli Taro finds in Vikerraadio's daily comment.
Elections resemble university entry exams. In both cases, candidates first seek to be enrolled, with few giving thought to what comes next. Some candidates have been in the game for a while and are looking to stay there, while others are bright-eyed newcomers. The stakes are very high for some candidates, while others are just along for the ride.
Just as new students might discover that getting in was far easier than maintaining good grades once studies start, representatives of the people might likewise find themselves in a situation where grand plans and beautiful ideas are harder to realize than plan.
Very few people have the privilege to concentrate solely on their topics once elected to the parliament or local council. Similarly, students do not have the luxury of only studying what interests them. Mandatory subjects and routine everyday work have the potential to seriously curb initial excitement.
It would be interesting to ask politicians to what extent what they thought they would be doing and what they had to do once elections were over overlapped. I believe there might be quite a gap between wishes and reality. I doubt Kaja Kallas imagined the situation she would be in as PM when gearing up for the 2019 Riigikogu elections.
Elections are not the culmination of hard work but just the beginning.
The first major stepping stone of politicians seems to be the conviction that things will simply happen once they provide a political direction. They won't. Underestimating the importance of execution is one of the main reasons policies and promises fail.
And so it came to pass that the hurriedly marked down bicycle paths in Tallinn were not met with cheers. Unsuccessful execution and an environmentally harmful and ill-considered solution ruined what was an attempt to shape a modern urban space.
Vaccination works as another example of application problems. The creation and delivery of vaccines was eagerly awaited in the coronavirus pandemic. Because vaccines are the only long-term solution to this crisis.
A clear political decision for universal, rapid and free vaccination was there. However, problems with delivery, registration and later finding enough people willing to get the shot have made it impossible to achieve the desired effect. The need to manage state, local government and private sector cooperation was underestimated.
Critics are right when they suggest that traditional top-down approach based on existing processes and institutions does not always work. It is a good fit for routine activities. But new goals that require rapid solutions and cooperation also take political leadership in executing decisions, as opposed to simply pointing in the general direction.
Kristina Kallas said something along these lines during the ETV "Valimisstuudio" Tartu elections debate. She suggested that Tartu could be run as a startup. This would entail targeted management, courage to experiment with new solutions to make sure momentum is not lost in existing structures and processes.
However, one only has energy for experimentation and out of the box solutions if everyday activities are taken care of. The importance of routine work must not be underestimated.
The true exam of soon to be elected local politicians will be how to execute their plans. It is easier to come to power than it is to be successful once there. Good ideas alone are not enough. One needs to be prepared to put in work that is not always interesting, holds no honor and glory and was never planned during the campaign.
Editor: Marcus Turovski