Sunday, 11 July 2010

Business Light

I have just been watching the debate on The Politics Show about the forthcoming (two years away) Mayoral election. Livingstone was there with Oona King. They had to have a bit of a go at each other - traditional Socialist blame someone else policies. What came across was that this very large responsibility was run as a political fiefdom. The council was led to deal with whatever was the popular talking point of the time. Knife crime? Oh yes - lets drop everything and deal with that. Transport? Off we go and sort that out. They may have had some defined plan of action (manifesto?) in the run up to the election but it seems that was thrown to one side once the election was won.

This line of thought took me to comparing things in the way London was ruled with processes on the wider stage. Our National government gets distracted by things - like some sort of Magpie confronted by shiny gewgaw. Short term advantage - go! Score points over opposition - we're off. A lack of anything that seemed planning. In this, they are supported by the fact that the document we had to rely upon was a Manifesto that was imprecise in the
extreme and only touched on matters that they were comfortable to debate and where the Party Line for answers was firmly in place.

No private company would or could function in this manner. The policies and ethos would be enshrined in manuals and Lord help anyone who failed to take them into consideration. The CEO and his cohorts would have a list of aims and things to be accomplished. Maybe something as simple as 'produce 1 million widgets and make a profit of 7% from selling those' As complex as 'establish a presence in China'. They are supervised internally in respect of costs and marketing and manufacture and externally by the regulating authorities and shareholders. Do the job or 'consider your future' memoranda arrive.

I arrived in commerce quite aged at 42 and was appointed to a fairly senior post within the premises and services administration area. This was luck really, my c.v. arrived in HR at the same time as a report from an external management advisory group recommended the post be filled by a senior Army retiree. I made the point at interview that my lack of private industry was not significant. In those days, the general would say 'I want to be at the top of that hill by tonight' and stroll away. Those below him would decide who and how many would be needed. The colonels of the battalions would depute companies A,B and Support to undertake the task and the company commanders delegated responsibilities such that the prime mover - the poor bloody infantryman - was told to get out of bed at 0'dark hours and line up ready to go. From general downwards, all knew that what had to be done was feasible and, short of a disaster of Somme proportions, would be done in the spirit of can do/do or die. I ran my department on military lines (less a bit of the f'ing and barring) and my annual assessments were fine so it must have worked - for the bosses and my staff.

So, why cannot we have a government set up the same way? They may say that quangos fill some positions but they are politically composed. All actions are subservient to political imperatives and the best solution is not always the one adopted. The public is excluded from any decision once they have passed through the sheepublic process of the election. We in positions closely akin to shareholders have no real recourse when we see things going astray. Just think, when were you personally ever asked - for example - how much financial aid we should give to a country that seems to have great resources already?When was anyone you know asked the same question? Have you ever been asked for an opinion on overseas aid of any form?

So, it seems that our present style of running a country is far from ideal? How likely is it that we would ever be asked for an opinion on this? Surely, the extremely unlikely supposition of either is it's own answer.

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