Thursday, 23 September 2010

Help or bureaucracy?

I've been pondering about developing some simple guidelines to making things happen – prompted by the need to run fundraising events at Church efficiently. I had in mind a checklist of activities or a skeleton plan for running an event. However, I was concerned that this may be interpreted as overkill rather than a help. This conflict was highlighted by two consecutive items on Today today. [I'm sorry about my R4 addiction!] The first was about how the police are spending less time on the streets because of bureaucratic form-filling. The second was about the accommodation for the Commonwealth Games and how the Indian contractors have completely ignored any good practices and so roofs fall in and bridges collapse. You can listen to the two clips here and here.

Surely the sensible position is somewhere between these two extremes. Is it a cultural problem that workers in the public sector focus on the process rather than the results? 'Health and Safety' gets a lot of bad press but, as an example, the death rate amongst construction workers has reduced significantly as a result of safer working conditions – 21% fewer deaths in the year ending 31 March 2010 than the previous year. Should we be complacent about 151 deaths? Are the public sector workers too caught up with the politicians who regularly talk in evasive language. When they say 'we must learn the lessons' from a less than successful project, do they say what the lessons are? Have you ever heard what these lessons are? They talk of 'outcomes' – which can be interpreted as anything and probably will be when they are challenged in the future.

So I'll attempt to produce a simple one-page pro-forma for a plan to make things happen and try it out.

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