Blogs across the public sector reveal all kinds of futile fantasy in practice. Another set of revelation is to be found in miscarriages of justice. I think a lot of cops would be surprised at how much literature there is, and how much of what they are complaining about now has a long track record. I was a cop about 30 years back and much the same bungling and brutal managerial farce was present in the system then. I began university research and teaching over 20 years ago and the same problems are still being looked at now. Much regarded as complete turkey in the social and business research fields has actually got itself embedded in teaching and consultancy practice. “Excellence” is probably the classic, but there are many patent medicines around such as Total Quality Management (TQM) and Business Process Re-engineering (BPR). The names change, but the fabric remains the same. Most of the textbooks were really written in the 1950s, the ‘new’ versions merely plagiarised and ‘super-presented’. These are not theories that would work if only rotten managers were bright enough to understand them. They are dross not even understood by those teaching them.
The heart has been kicked out of teaching. We used to be concerned with developing people as people. Developing resourceful human beings if you like, not fodder for human resource management. It could take forever to explain this. I can only give a glimpse. Typically, students (customers – argh!) are judged on answers to questions like this:
“Compare and contrast process and content theories of motivation at work and critically evaluate one example of each type of theory against organisational performance criteria”.
You must be chomping at the bit to have a go! I’ve taught the stuff for more than 20 years and honestly can’t remember which theories are ‘content’ and which ‘process’ without a quick shufty at ‘chapter three’ in one of the very dull books we try to get students to buy or get out of the library. Copying such a chapter, taking a few precautions not to make the copying too obvious (which I will have taught in those classes on Thursday mornings after your late nights in ‘Swiggies’), will achieve a fair pass, if you get the presentation right. With me, you might just pull a first with a polite version of the following:
“This question is bollocks and has nothing to do with motivation at work, for these reasons”. This might well be the path to failure with lecturers with no work experience other than reading standard texts and promoting them through ‘death by Powerpoint’ as a fledgling, fundamentalist vicar might use the Bible. It is this approach, jived up with ‘Alpha Course’ enthusiasm and lesson planning (the publishers of the expensive textbooks actually do all this for you), that is now mainstream, including indoctrination into American pop-psychology for the lecturers, blatted out as ‘learning theory’ (which it ain’t). You can teach anything (and nothing of value) using this method, which essentially requires of the teacher nothing other than control of the “answers”. Many extremely experienced and good managers cannot answer such questions because they have already learned in practice that the material you are using is no good, other than to write up essays with for some dullard like you with temporary power over what constitutes ‘learning content’.
This all amounts to something like teaching people to sing hymns.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we are living in a world of cliches and soundbites, with little else beneath the surface of the veneer that has been created. I fear the real substance has been locked away elsewhere.
I believe, as seriously as I can without despair, that we are teaching bureaucracy. You’ll have been through some of it Hog. I’d like to rip the smugness off it all and something will – no doubt does when people have to face the realities under fire of one kind or another.
I can, of course, teach people the academic reasons all this managerialism is crap, but frankly Habermas, Foucault or anything beyond the glib textbook level is just another veneer, another place to be a bureaucratic twat.
I am not an academic, nor a University graduate, no degree or anything like that, so some of your “managment speak” is a bit above my head, I have to confess. But what is very clear is that the system has become far too complicated and tied up in beaurocracy, as you point out.
My understanding and instincts about this problem is, that the “intellectual” side of the brain, of many, has been over developed, through the book learning of the many subjects available; to the detriment of developing and using the “intuitive” and sensitive side of the brain, and often common sense, which unfortunately cannot be taught. One either has common sense, or just does not.
Children with the “gift” of foresight and an ability to receive “visions”, or flashes, glimpses into the future, or events in real time happening at a distance, have for decades been dismissed as strange, weird, or even worse, as “mad”. And yet their often accurate insight into situations and problems would be of great assistance to humanity, but for the dismissive arrogance of the so called “learned intellectuals” who rule the roost, in government, the legal system and elsewhere in the establishment. Some of them, despite their intellectual intelligence, appear to lack even a grain of common sense!
I could name a few names, but won’t. It is enough to say
that some chickens are coming home to roost in certain quarters, that have made a “Balls” of important matters.
The Mail has also reported on an issue of concern in Education, which is lunacy. Something about “Pupil Power” and the kids having influence over which teachers get a job, and managing to either block or get rid of teachers who are strict.
Now either this government is completely stupid, or it is perverse and deliberately trying to totally finish of the job of undermining and unravelling the structure of society. What are they aiming for? A Lord of the Flies 21st Century Britain, where adults have no authority whatsoever over children, who then run wild? Oh My God!
One of the problems with management teaching is that anyone can sound ‘expert’ through a few glib and generally meaningless catchphrases. The same is true in research methods, where I can teach a camel how to produce presentations and documents full of ‘statistics’, but very few to do anything valid (and some of those I can teach this know their organisations require positive bullshit).
We have lost the plot.
Perhaps the “plot” wasn’t such a good one ACO, and if that’s the case, then out of the ruins something better will emerge. But these things do and will take time to sort out. The solution lies with experienced people like yourself being brave enough to stand up and say, Oi, this is not helping people one little bit. It needs reform.
Who exactly do you mean by “we”? The civil servants behind the scenes in Westminster? The current government and the opposition? The top brass of the police? Society?
The trick would be in finding the ground to stand on Minxy. You are otherwise right. And equally so in the question on “we”. The answers are not easy, because ‘we’ are part of our own enemy. Even ‘Gadget’, promoted, might be just as bad as the current lot, consumed himself by the bureaucracy.
There is not a lot I can say to that ACO, except perhaps, Oh Dear…… Or perhaps, please find the “ground”, even if it’s a bit wobbly, because “we” need Heroes right now.