Leadership (preamble)

Do you ever wonder what you would do if you woke up tomorrow and found yourself running a big organisation?  I certainly don’t, but I do think armchair speculation should include this thought more often.  Thinking statistically my guess is that it doesn’t matter much who runs our organisations and countries.  In the.short term of my lifetime there hardly seem any changes at all that happen because we get a new chief constable, bank manager or prime minister.  Longer term it is true we no longer hang nine year old kids for stealing bread and put up with judges bragging about such as socially necessary and just.

We are told, in our dismal literature, that individuals make the difference, but it is easy to write characters as heroes.  The stories are no doubt older than the oldest texts we have found.  Julius Caesar was the great hero of the invasion of Britain in 53 BC, though despite man-management techniques even Thatcher wouldn’t have got away with, he couldn’t get his lads on the boats in France.  I love characters like McGill in Man in a Suitcase.  He’s just lit a fag when two thugs interrupt his solace.  He lodges the tab conveniently, is beaten up and down stairs before triumph, calming his lungs with the last drag before leaving.  Modern action films repeat this play, poorly, in the dull detail of special effects.  They’d cast Justin Bieber in a remake of The French Connection.  The whole history of heroes is a tragic myth, or myth of tragedy if you know your classics.

I don’t suspect recruitment and selection so entirely as to justify picking me ahead of George Best for Manchester United.  But it is possible to believe I might have done a better job running one of the world’s biggest banks better than some diamond geezer.  After all they were all as successful as a fullback who insists on scoring five own goals a half.  I’d have done a better job than John Corzine at MF Global too,  I’d have managed lesser disasters and my excuse would have been the same as all the incumbents – I didn’t know what was going on.  And I’d have been cheaper to pay off and would have declined the knighthood.  Given the nostril culture in banking, George might have done a better job there too.

I don’t approve of the now obscene sports wages, but even worse than these payments themselves is their use in justifying bankster and senior management “earnings”.  The justification for both is much the same – the claim they could go somewhere else in the world if we imposed a maximum wage.  The average worker gets this the other way round.  Shut up and put up or we’ll move the factory to ‘China’.  There is no moral argument I know why scarce talents must command massive “earnings” over and above the average.  Indeed, if the commander of our Army decided to make the most of his scarcity in a foreign country we’d nick him for treason.  It was not unknown for Greeks to threaten to take their fleets to fight for the Persians.  At least one did.

The problem of elites getting into and abusing positions of power is as old as history.  Plato didn’t manage an answer in seven books on how a virtuous society could establish and maintain itself through generations.  He didn’t notice slavery as an evil and it seems statistically unlikely you or I would have either.  He did say somewhere that ordinary income should not be exceeded by more than six times, but what were earnings in a slave-based economy?

We have an economy that organises massive wealth for a few and can’t bring about decent living standards for all.  The only societies that have achieved anything like the latter are or were “primitive”.  And, of course, the failure to provide decent standards for all is actually much worse than the statement implies – there are still slaves, wars, sex tourism and many other abuses we should not tolerate.  Indeed, we might struggle to find periods in history at peace and without these abuses.  I know of none, other than that I have been lucky not to live in interesting times for the last thirty years or so.

I do have some sense of Progress in history and that our institutions have some role in this.  Primitive societies have often been more murderous than ours (Stephen Pinker has put together the numbers), even counting our fixation with wars.  The odd person has made a real difference in my life.  I just don’t get this ‘great leader’ stuff at all – I know of none.  It’s common practice to get classes to list great leaders in bringing about discussion of leadership. Before I taught the subject, my own answer in a training class was to name two of my old patrol sergeants.  Their names went on the flip chart with these others:

Hitler,Stalin, Churchill, Christ, Caesar, Mohammed, Moses, Alexander, Richard the Lionheart, Thatcher …

I later taught this leadership programme around the world.  The names never really change.  People just come up with their own country’s greats.  It was very rare to find someone like me who put up people he’d actually met.  Once the list was up we were supposed to discuss the traits of the people on the list.  The idea was to demonstrate they all had different traits and thus we could abandon notions of trait-theory and get on with Action-centred Leadership.  Quite how one knows the traits of people one has never met I don’t know.  Most who came up on the lists had the traits of getting others to charge off into the centres of volcanoes and getting historian-toadies to write them up as iconic heroes, making followership a trait of easily duped morons.

The first thing that springs to my mind when I see a list of such great leaders is deception, false history and disgust – in fact shame that this is the best we have managed and disgust we revere anything to do with such characters.  I wonder if they have anything to do with Progress other than as blocks to it or through unintended consequence.  I don’t see leadership as necessarily a bad thing, but I am sure we should not credit it as a good before taking evidence.  I am sure it matters less who takes the role of our organisational CEO, Chief Constable, Town Clerk or Prime Minister than what reasonable control we can exercise over what they do.  If leadership matters we can’t have Moses (the war criminal of Numbers 31), Hitler, Stalin, Churchill (in preserving the horrors of British Empire) and others remembered only in myth.  I can name every prime minister since Walpole and can’t honestly say any of them was any good.  The share price of the companies run by our irreplaceable captains of industry who die unexpectedly goes up on average.  Our last local chief constable was heralded as a great leader before losing his fight with a bottle of gin and the Welsh winter.  GMP is running better without his great qualities and no doubt fewer women in the vicinity of the new guy are hearing his wife doesn’t understand him.  My suspicion on leadership is that a real history of it might well encourage us to seek a new system of it altogether.  The first step is to try to let the evidence of what people have done in leadership positions and to get them speak for itself without presupposition of greatness.



Don’t Believe an ACPO Word On Modernisation

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/mar/04/chance-to-modernise-police-force – a link to the Lesser Odious Blair – this one the dork who ran the Met.

I spent some time doing organisational restructuring.  It isn’t pleasant and the major “tool” is sacking people.  People are usually the major business cost.  If you can get rid of them you can buy more advanced machines and this usually lets you get – er – rid of more people.  Terms like rationalisation, modernisation, squeezing costs and all kinds of kwality initiatives cover the basic function.

The idea is supposed to be about producing an overall economy that is high productivity, low unit cost.  We all benefit because we end up in smarter jobs, earning more as UK plc vanquishes external competition.  Obvious bolloxs – but most people seem suckered by this drivel – it has a compelling logic but more or less no corroborating data.

Various countries have been stacked up as being better than this than the UK.  The USA, Germany, Japan have all been the lands of milk and honey in the myth.  They never were.  In other countries Thatcher is lauded for curing the British disease, but in fact “Thatcherism” pre-dates the Iron Lady by a couple of decades.

What smashed our working-class economy was international competition – largely a combination of cheap labour putting up with poor working conditions, huge improvements in logistics (particularly shipping), new production engineering requiring greenfield sites, the ability to embody skills in machines and greedy top managers and utterly hapless politicians.

Many sectors of our current economy are uncompetitive, but find ways to look as though they aren’t.  We seem OK with notions like textile workers having to compete with  South Asian sweat shops and child labour, but somehow OK with our cops being paid vast differentials over such distant counterparts – and judges, lawyers, professionals and managers.  There is no evidence they are more productive than their distant counterparts.

So now the cops are putting some of their work out to tender.  In any company doctoring I did, ‘modernisation’ largely involved finding out who was getting paid a lot and could be delayered.  This means cuts to the overall budget – and it does not mean, as Blair glibly states, that this saving will be spent on more vital activities.  It might mean this in a private company where redeploying the savings could increase productivity and sales; but it just will not mean this in the public sector where the spend is being cut.  It means jobs will go through ‘natural wastage’, redundancies and potentially a big axe on promoted jobs through promotion freezes, new forms of ‘area management’ (with fewer managers) and getting management done at lower levels without extra pay.  These are the rules of the game – Blair and other ACPOs hope to manage the process and keep their own fat pay.  If I was doing the job the outcome would be similar, except I’d delayer the lot of them too.

The obvious and rarely addressed problem with all this efficiency is that it only makes sense in an economy with employers hungry for labour and capital hungry to invest in productive economy.  In previous times it has taken the Black Death and world wars to bring this about.  Sent to Japan to see their miracle first-hand, I found low unemployment but also people doing all kinds of non-jobs in banks and government that made our Post Office look like it was running on a skeleton staff (1980s).  There were great conditions in key factories, but also many employed part-time (48 hours a week) on low pay.  It was clear even then they had no answer to maintaining full employment other than government spending.  Though their executives take more responsible pay, my liver is still recovering from expense account spending!

The essential analysis is called business process analysis.  In policing this reveals that much work done is clerical and can thus be done at a cheaper rate.  I would expect much of the management could also be driven down the ranks and senior jobs eliminated under a form of area management,  You don’t hire extra staff, but cheaper new  staff and although you want the management done, you want this to be part of the lower order jobs, not a LOMBARD class (lots of money but are right dicks).

I could knock out a spreadsheet on what changes produce what savings.  As a clue, you cost the average PC with her on costs (pension, redundancy entitlements etc.), get rid of 100 and cost the new staff (say 50 clerks) and their on costs.  You then cash-flow the savings to show break even points.  You bring in a new rank of ‘supervising constable’ (some are currently called area beat managers) and see how many sergeants and inspectors can go.  Keep doing this until you have rid the world of half of ACPO.

The upfront redundancy costs are laid off against future savings and reduced cash-flow.  You might create a new management level with all current ranks from chief inspector of chief super rolled into one and put out to interview.

Alongside this you would look to reduce the number of steps and any duplication in identified business processes – say getting some bastard to court.  Summons, for instance, beats arrest, custody and charge hands down in business terms.

I admit it is complex, but it always means fewer and less well paid jobs with lower pensions.  No one has ever worked out how to do any of this and produce new job opportunities with comparable pay and conditions.  Why would the private sector produce such when it can invest elsewhere at cheaper rates that bring it more profit?  The private sector cavalry is as mythical as Custer  is as a hero (basically he was a money-grubber who led his men on a cavalry charge into a volcano after an act of genocide).

Not only will the jobs that go never return, the ‘savings’ won’t help the economy either.  Wages have flat-lined since 1980 and cash in the hands of our bottom 50% (most cops) has shrunk from 14% to 1 %.  This is why our pubs, shops and so on have disappeared and why much small business can’t make its way – no one can spend unless they borrow and that bubble has burst,  The redundant cop with any sense will pay down her mortgage debt, not go on a spending rampage.  Most won’t get a sinecure in Bahrain to make sure nothing changes there!

I think most would agree our legal system needs modernisation and to be much cheaper.  We would like to see our economy more productive.  The way to do this is through full employment as a right and democratic-approved earnings caps in all sectors and a more equal society which retains (or improves) innovation motivation and getting the work we need done done.  I’ve always wondered why we are so scared of this and why, with chronic examples like the Soviet Union, we are so tamely on the road to serfdom under banking tyranny’s unseen politburo.

Any money saved in police modernisation (I think ACPO so dire it will end up as a cost) will just be sucked into the swamp of money making money a long way from our shores. And our cops will end up demoralised, just as the communities based around mines still are.  The shining economic miracle of the Rising Sun is now the dead donkey of leading government debt.  If they couldn’t do the jobs business why should we think we can using the ideology that failed them?  Sound, capitalist Japanese will tell you cutting government spending actually made their earlier collapse much worse.

Face Of The End Of Policing As We’ve Known It?

Tom Winsor

This man will not be popular with police officers seeing numbers and resources cut.  The ‘plan’ is clearly to go further.  He has noted that all police pay contains an element of anti-social hours pay while most don’t work them.  I’ve long thought this pay should only go to those working the hours and in greater amounts.  This won’t happen – they’ll just chew out money from those not working the hours.

He’s against of officer class – yet we have ACPO?  He thinks vital lessons are learned as constable and sergeant, so there should be no direct officer entry.  Why not make the same true of the Army then?  Police have a meritocracy?  Not one I’ve noticed.  I’d say we need to recruit and keep good coppers close to the ground, not Peter-Principle them to bureaucratic office-incompetence.

Many jobs that people should hold a warrant card to do (in the sense of the discipline code) have little to do with Response jobs and there could clearly be direct entry to them.  It’s hard to see the ‘bouncers with warrant cards’ on booze-strip patrol needing to be other than part-time and with limited training either.

The complaints that evidence is ‘illiterate’ is bunkum – do we want our cops honest or like lawyers?  Does anyone know the relationship between honesty and skill with words?  Yet one could believe a decline in standards over 60 years because there has been a decline in the standards of our qualifications.  Modern graduates are hardly literate.

The full report is due in January next year.  The chance for meaningful reform will be lost – policing needs reshaping to modern democratic conditions and the basic uniform job needs to be one sought after, not one to escape from.  Much of the rest of police work, given so many end up not on the streets should be directly recruitable – it’s essentially bureaucratic, may require special technical skills not available in the uniform section, and right of passage into it from ‘plodding’ (the hardest jobs cops do) may simply leach the skills needed from this pool.  I’d contend this leaching has gone on to the detriment of coppering for 60 years,

I’d like to see coppering a twenty-year period with regulars supported by part-timers, and seen as the core activity.  Drawing all police jobs from this basic pool that is required to be fit and able bodied is to discriminate against the disabled – and worse against the wider pool of skills in the broad population.

This report, from the pinch-faced weasel, will just be about further cuts, with a little icing.  I’d guess we are paying many of our cops too much, and that this isn’t going to the ones doing the real work.  In the current economy, about to get much worse, we could probably cut salaries by 40% and still maintain the force – I say this because economics is shafted and we are back in 1920 when worse happened.  The chickens are coming home to roost.

Do we rally need to give career opportunities to the uniform preening ass-holes eating chocolate-dipped strawberries and sipping champagne at ACPO conferences – or get a service running with some solid, honest lads and lasses competent in what is actually (like most others) a limited job that demands character rather than skill in weasel words and arse-licking?  He ain’t asked these questions, isn’t Mr Weasel.

Cops I’ve taught as mature students hardly match the ‘think’ image associated with this reporting and when did we start thinking being good with paperwork such an important thing anyway?  It would be the last thing I looked for in a good copper.

We can’t handle the truth, but it’s catching us up anyway

Coppers was good tonight (C4), at least showing the drunken mile well.  Most of the cops were good, though I don’t think the aggressive one much good in provoking idiots.  I preferred the guy whose description of a cold Stella was so good I went looking in the fridge.  The Chief Constable of Leicestershire predicted these scenes long ago.  I wonder just who has made money from this establishment of booze zones in our town centres, and how many clown politicians used the ‘cafe society’ line against all evidence?

Newsnight was good too; finally some admission this crisis is much worse than being stated and that inflation is the only way out of the debt, pretty much all over.  It struck me there is a lot of commonality between the financial markets hiding everything off-balance sheet (and governments) and what has been stacked up in society – crime figures always falling, yet antisocial behaviour rising faster.

Economics has long been split between the basic decision on whether to generate ‘wealth’  by encouraging money to make money, or by making things (including worthwhile services’.  Even now, this leads to trusting markets (which I doubt we can) or trusting to more power to national governments (which I’m sure is a disaster).  In the Athenian Democracy, Solon got rid of debt by administrative fiat, simply abolishing it after his mates had bought up the land.  Our equivalent now is printing money, and probably devaluations.  Portugal, Greece and Spain may get cheap again.  Deep questions remain as to whether we can work this trick without social upheaval.

In a webcast, the director of Coppers described the drunken mile as infantile, clearly borne out.  He also used the word to describe much of the policing he has witnessed making the series – much as Gadget, in that he meant the cops being forced into more and more bureaucratic action by ever changing regulation and management speak – being made infantile through this rather than able to act in discretion and decent common sense.  We talk of a benefits culture, but we are, in fact, perpetuating childhood all over.

Around here, the BB gun is in vogue.  One of my grandson’s mates is ‘carrying one for protection’.  My lad wants one as a kind of follow-on to Black Ops.  I don’t think I’m getting through on it being illegal to carry one, or possess one off my property etc.  I’ve seen groups of idiots posing like gangsters with them, and they are firing the plastic bullets in the street.  On the Internet, you can see videos of clown kids shooting up old windows with machine gun versions.  You need to be 18 to get one, but it’s obvious kids are getting them.  A twit across the road shot his sister with one a week or so back, and my lad was hit in the mouth by a ricochet yesterday.  Wander 100 yards away and I could start pointing to houses where older, criminal clowns could be locked up at will.  By then you’re on the Everglades.  I’ve seen estates like this for more than 40 years.

I suspect the massive difference over the 40 years is the reduction of manufacturing jobs from 8 million to 3 million.  For work discipline to work, it needs to be a discipline of available work sows’ ears can get without being made into silk purses.  We need to look at this and don’t.

If I could do ‘Secret Millionaire’, I’d have IG and his people up here anytime to show GMP what to do – but as he makes clear, it’s revolving door stuff – we don’t have a post-arrest  system in place worth spit.

We are as far from social answers on crime as we are from economic healing – the two are linked.  Even pensioners are becoming more criminal, even in Japan.  I despair, yet Germany and Japan rose from literal ashes.  As MrG points out there has been a good blame game around for donkeys’ years.  We have known the danger of money making money since Aristotle.  Some of the creeps our local Bobby hauls off are as old as me, but with the same language and attitudes I can place amongst our worst 13 year-olds, and much the same bullying and violence, upped with adult strength.  Much colludes, from street crime to the money markets, against us even describing the truth of what is going on, less ‘confidence’ collapse.

I can’t think of much other than spending more time abroad.  It’s not that I don’t think there are solutions.  I could go ‘learned’ on them.No money in that, I’ve banged my head against enough walls and it’s time to take my family away.  It’s easier to live as an alien outside your own country.  Portugal is impossible to do business in, but the fishing is good, crime is low and I’m exchanging my flat for a bungalow after they devalue.  Two more years in Broken Britain to go.

Policing Beyond The Fairies

I stray over to The Thinking Policeman when he posts.  I’m usually late.  He posted a very interesting piece on ‘back room talk’ – readers of Goffman would be very familiar with the general gist.  Different stories being told by the same people in different contexts.  Most of us are at least aware of ‘talking behind people’s backs’, though many, despite  being active participants, don’t understand this is what we do as a rule.  Thinking describes goings on in an SMT situation I have been familiar with across organisations and the theories we use in trying to make sense of them.  The classic in my area is the difference between ‘espoused theories’ and ‘theories-in-use’ in the work of Argyris and Schon.  The chief constable ‘espouses’ by re-hashing ConDoomed rhetoric in terms of his force, and Thinking ‘wonders’ what any of it will mean in practice, generally aware this will not be the same thing.  The metaphors used are superb.

I’m busy doing other things at the moment, but would like to write a book that uses policing as a grand metaphor for what is going wrong in our society.  I generally want to support policing, and believe a good and honest police force may have a lot more to do with economic success and well-being than much written about in economics – though a strong common law is considered a vital part of any country’s ‘success’ in economics.  My current guess is that our cops are as out of control as the rest of our institutions, including the private sector.  I believe we can say ‘bureaucracy’ is the biggest culprit, but this is glib and more or less useless.  Most of us do not spend much time doing what is needed or worthwhile.  One could call this the Pareto Principle, but again what’s the point?  What we need is not labels, but ways to change.

My broad thesis for a long time has been, if you like, that ‘incompetence rules’.  The only way to deal with incompetence, personal or organisational, begins in being able to recognise and admit it.  These are skills we generally don’t have.  It may be so bad, that we only start to get to grips with incompetence in war, when we realise our lions are led by donkeys.  If I’m right, we need to look at our society in a very different way, including such matters as what our current education, recruitment, selection and training processes are really achieving.  Many of our ‘answers’ may be major parts of the problem.