“Back again? Dear, oh, dear.”
Words exchanged between a Monarch and his Prime Minister are not known but the (probably fictional) comment used in the title of today’s Daily Paradox is too much fun to ignore. If it wasn’t said it ought to have been. Not because a modern Monarch has the right to comment on the political scene over which he rules but because his subjects are themselves unable to make the point collectively except at the polls. And voting doesn’t come round very often.
I was tempted to call today’s DP “The Murder of Moderation” – or even “Damage by Despair”. There are not many exaggerated titles that would be inappropriate. We have reached an Extreme Expletive End in world politics. Please watch the political barometer carefully now. By April 2023 we will know broadly what our destiny is to be for the next generation or two.
How did the Mother of Parliaments in Britain get into such an appalling mess? How has any system, let alone a representative one, fallen into a disengagement-with-reality so deep and so damaging? Is the whole democratic political idea discredited by the behaviour of a handful of people whose understanding of modern economics is clearly more Stone Age than 21st Century? What should society do to put it right?
These aggressive questions are appropriate for all who value freedom of expression and the right to hold views contrary to those of their leaders. If those leaders have not educated the voters to think sensibly for themselves they must expect the chaos the Conservative Party is facing in Britain and the Republican Party, in the United States. And the consequence is a shift towards authoritarian government where dissention is forbidden.
Rule No 1 in all management behaviour is to ask the question “Is it necessary?” Whether creating a new job, passing a modern law, issuing updated guidelines or simply making clearer commands, every innovation needs to answer the question “Does it matter?” A good friend of mine devised the financial reporting system we used in Cerebos Pacific Ltd. Neatly drawn up on a standard spreadsheet it handled all the data we needed in an easily assimilable form. Until, that is, we bought the franchise for an international pizza business. The managers of that business struggled to fit their reporting to the system. My colleague ordered them to do so. However, the things that mattered in the pizza business were quite different from what counted for the rest of our operations. The Pizza Boys finally got a sheet that suited their needs. And management got the information it required to make good decisions.
Common sense is an increasingly rare commodity. It should be treasured and nurtured when found. It is subject to outrageous attempts at conformity. ‘What matters?’ can restore it – and the sanity of people having to report what is happening. You do not want a picture of what others would like to see. High among the list of things that matter is ‘What will people who see this think it means?’ An entire industry – marketing – is devoted to better communications with customers. And yet misleading and fraudulent claims are rampant. Have you fallen victim to the “up to” claim? “This (spray, cream, inhalant) kills up to 99% of germs.” I’ll bet.
The third test to apply to any action that is proposed is “Will the benefits outweigh the efforts?” It seems so obvious and yet it is one of the most ignored questions by those trying to improve efficiency. Efficiency is itself a discipline that needs careful control if it is not to become an obsession. I watched the Agricultural Division of a very big company for which I worked try to standardise operations between its widely displaced service units. The advantages of doing so were obvious. Bulk orders for identical products cut costs and admin overheads. For some items that is relevant. But the reason for the location of the businesses was that agriculture is different in one part of the country from another. The very essence of the service is localised. To make it national would transform it to being irrelevant in many places.
You cannot ‘manage’ 65 million people (UK), let alone 1.4 billion (China). Individually citizens are increasingly aware of their rights, their personalities and their desires. As a political manager you can only give them a policy that makes sense, explain it in terms they comprehend and marshall it flexibly so that it resonates with and encompasses the majority.
If you don’t know whether your policy is likely to do that, try asking them.
Preferably before you ruin their economy.
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17 October 2022