Government Strategies For A Dead Horse
I have been studying the decision-making and initiative delivery record of Theresa May’s government and as far as I can see, she manages by delivering statements of intent , plus a very clever device which appears to be problem-solving action but in fact, is totally meaningless.
It begins with three words: “We have allocated…..” This phrase is followed by a large number.
Grenfell? “We have allocated……….”
NHS? “We have allocated…..”
This muddly and often protracted management method can be explained by analogy and the wisdom of those without PPE degrees, MBAs and other letters after their names.
The well-known and slightly modified analogy below should also be studied carefully by the real experts in dead horse flogging – Tory High Command – especially when choosing Party leaders.
The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from one generation to another is that if you find yourself riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
However, in modern government, because of the heavy
investment and re-election factors to be taken into consideration, other strategies
need to be tried with dead horses, including the following:
Remember Hale and Pace when they were funny? This isn’t about them – but it is about Management, Organisation and Decision Making – with maybe a quick nod to Leadership.
The context? The ramshackle mélange of lawyers, doctors, local government employees, lecturers, teachers, journalists, farmers, political organisers and city types which makes up the UK Parliament.
Some of them even end up running Departments of State with massive resources and budgets which are measured in tens or even hundreds of millions. Many are unsuitable for management and even less suitable for leadership but………. with a system which promotes from within a very limited talent pool, the strangest of people rise to the sort of power which those of us who grew up in a mostly meritocratic and competitive corporate environment can only marvel at.
Four out of our five most recent Chancellors were either Lawyers or History graduates! Our present Prime Minister studied Geography. Our Foreign Secretary is an Oxford Classics graduate (that’s Latin and Greek to you and me) and our Defence Secretary has a degree in Social Sciences!
There are English graduates and Philosophy degrees. There’s a medical doctor and even a media person. There’s a statistical sprinkling of those ubiquitous Politics, Philosophy and Economics graduates but some say that PPE graduates never quite learn enough about any one subject…….ideal MP fodder!!
But you may ask ‘What has a degree got to do with anything?’
On the face of it – nothing at all….but it is Organisation and Management which run departments with Leadership showing the way…..and if there is no leadership and an inability or unwillingness to take decisions, there is a lack of progress with decisions being consigned to investigations, reviews, inquiries and commissions – which in reality are no more than misused government devices which cleverly disguise intransigence and moribund passivity into action.
The only other place I have seen such a disparate band of individuals attempting to act as a team was a motley crew of so-called ‘middle management’ in a very well-known company’s marketing department. There were graduates of every flavour imaginable – but they neither had to lead, manage nor take decisions. The corporate damage that they could inflict was negligible.
The clue as to the unsuitability of many (most) MPs to administer billions of pounds on our behalf is to be found in the type of individual who chose to study a particular subject…..but there’s more…..
So-called ‘Communication Skills’, exemplified by an ability to talk whilst being insulted is certainly not related to any ability to lead or manage and yet, it is the skill which is prized above all others.
Currently, (as always) there is talk of future reform of the House of Lords reform and hopefully that is where any reform will remain….in the future.
Before training its beady eye on the Other Place, the House of Commons would do well to pause and think about its own fitness for purpose.
Q: How many MPs work at the House of Commons?
A: About 10% of them.
You know when an organisation, government or even a collection of governments is in trouble. The directors, senior management – the leaders – instead of thinking strategically, concern themselves with day-to-day issues.
Some call it Crisis Management.
That’s exactly the zone in which Eurozone politicians are currently operating.
I share the frustration of many others who have been watching the painfully slow process that Eurozone leaders have embarked upon in respect of the terrible and complex financial mess which currently envelopes Europe. In spite of their rank, it would seem that many high-level politicians are incapable of reaching decisions within an appropriate time-scale. Hence the sudden appearance of the ” kicking the can along the road“, ” into the long grass” and the other modern economic metaphors.
We are all frustrated.
The decision-making processes at National and pan-National level are based on the depersonalised mechanistic value system of bureaucracy-based thinking.
However, we live in a very turbulent environment in which many activities – especially those affecting economies have become both differentiated as well as interdependent. In addition, there has been a subtle change in organisational values which have become more based on humanistic-democratic ideals.
Political decision-making is now lagging behind and, under the guise of “democracy”, refuses to become more adaptive and integrated in order to meet the rapidly changing economic and political environments which, from now on, will remain in a constant state of flux.
To put it simply – by the time politicians have provided a solution to a problem, they have been overtaken by the next issue which makes their initial solution redundant.
Decision-making groups should be thinking along organic rather than mechanical lines and leadership and influence should fall to those who seem most able to solve the problems rather than to pre-programmed role expectations – especially those tainted by various flavours of political dogma.
We need adaptive temporary systems of diverse specialists, co-ordinated through say, non-political civil service link-pins to replace the current theory and practice of political bureaucracy.
Imagine, say our current economic issues being solved by individuals who are differentiated not according to rank or role but according to skills.
Certainly NOT politicians.
Currently, the same politicians who decide how often our bins are emptied or the number of hospital beds, are the same ones who make multi-billion economic decisions.
So, hopefully someone somewhere will have the will and the strength to realise that our present decision-making processes at “Macro (international) level” are outdated and ineffective.
The future is with more “Organic-adaptive” structures.
In addition, a combination of centralised and decentralised control mechanisms needs to be adopted – control mechanisms which recognise that , for instance, the various Euro states are significantly different from each other and therefore require different methods of both management and control.
Half-hearted attempts at control such as the largely discredited occasional bank stress-tests or toothless financial “authorities” are just that – cosmetic attempts.
The solution to the flaky political decision-making process is not intellectual – it is organisational.