If You’re Hell Bent on Failure, Appoint a Fool!

FAILUREI thought I’d start this blog with a few strong words. I feel these past two weeks I have encountered fool after fool. As a business person, it just breaks my heart to see how useless some organisations become as a result of putting idiots in charge.

Sometimes though, it’s my impression that the fools I encounter are foolish only as a result of the brainwashing that’s been taking place in the UK over the past few decades requiring people to slavishly follow procedure, even though the procedures put in place are so often not fit for purpose.

I’m not really a mathematical person, but I’ve always wanted to make up a formula so here goes:  foolish people + foolish procedures = organisational disaster OR FPE+FPR=OD. Do let me know if you can come up with a better formula!

Yesterday I was communicating with a finance company by email, the woman I was emailing told me she would send the PIN I needed to change my address on file with them, to my old address. I had just told her that I’d already moved house and wouldn’t be able to access any mail sent to the old address. She said nevertheless, the procedure required her to send any new PIN notifications to the address on file. Fool! Idiot! Wasting my time and her company’s time.

Then I recall the man I encountered recently in an airport who had been told by his manager to line everyone up at the airport gate to speed up embarkation (even though the plane was still en route). His interpretation of his instruction, which he would not be swayed from, despite many of us trying, was that lining up should be in single file. This resulted in a queue of about 200 people stretching the entire length of the departure lounge and blocking access to every other gate. Single file? What did he think was going to happen when forcing kids, adults, the elderly all to stand silently in line for nearly an hour? Idiot! He obeyed instructions, but you can bet your bottom dollar that there’s a fair few passengers in that queue who vowed to avoid that airline wherever possible in future but, most critically, the flight rage that prompted police to board when we eventually landed might just possibly have been caused by the inflexible and autocratic crowd management a few hours earlier. If you infuriate 200 people, what do you think is going to happen when you then coop them up in cramped conditions for 3 hours?

And in my home town last year a light bulb replacer on a temp two-week contract was sacked by the council for not following procedure. His task was to replace burnt out light bulbs around the city.  The procedure was that someone would report a failed light bulb. That report would be laboriously processed and eventually end up in a pile of bulbs to be fixed that were then fixed in order of reporting, meaning the light bulb fixer spent most of their day travelling from one side of the city to the other. But this temp was truly a golden star. He wanted to be efficient. So, he posted on Facebook asking people to let him know of all the light bulbs that needed fixing and then he worked through district by district and within his first week had fixed pretty much every light bulb. But the procedure was to fix them in order of reporting so he was sacked… a golden star sacked by an idiot manager. And councils wonder why they have such little credibility?

And I bet for every one of my examples you can come up with 10 of your own. Who have you met recently who didn’t deserve to keep their job?

I really have to ask whether our education and society/law makers are creating a lot of these idiots. Are people becoming afraid to engage their own brain because of the process and procedure rottweilers out there? Are people unable to use their own brain simply because in education they have never been taught how to?

One of my favourite quotes comes out of The Office ‘Process and Procedure are the last hiding place for people without the wit or the wisdom to do their job’. Harsh you might say and I will be the first to agree that process and procedure are critical for efficiency and sustainability, but don’t you think it’s gone a bit too far in too many organisations? I can’t be the only one to have encountered someone who hides behind process and procedure when clearly what they are doing is a load of nonsense? It takes a brave soul to stand up to the procedural rottweilers though doesn’t it?

And thinking about our education system, how many degree courses and higher qualifications permit students to present their own ideas and perspective on the world learned through experiences? In my experience, students currently are seldom permitted to, instead being required to only cite published academic sources. Such a shame no one ever challenges those published academics to demonstrate they have any understanding of the real world. And what becomes of a student after years of not being allowed to explore and evaluate their own experiences and view of the world? Well they get their qualification, but what use is that when they have lost any ability or desire to think for themselves? The academics of our world have a lot to answer for in my view with their protectionist approach to all things academia. What happened to real education?

I have no use in my business for people who can’t think for themselves, or who think that toeing the procedural line is enough. It’s not. People like that would sink my business in the challenging times we live in and as the saying (sort of goes) ‘this ship is not for sinking’!

25 years or so ago I had my last performance review. Self-employment doesn’t always have many benefits, but no performance review is one of them! But I still recall what my manager wrote as his final comment all those years ago: Helen doesn’t suffer fools gladly. I remember smirking to this day when he handed the form back to me, as both he and I knew he was one of the biggest fools of them all!

Who’s the biggest fool in your business? Who has the greatest potential to create havoc and mayhem in your business? Who is the most senior ‘fool’ you’ve got? Who of your junior ‘fool’ would just love the opportunity to rise above all that clogging, energy sucking process and procedure you’ve got going on because someone somewhere thought that was the way to protect the organisation?

You’ve got to laugh … it would be foolish not to 😊

This is a personal blog written by Helen Jamieson. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Jaluch Ltd. The views and opinions posted in response to this blog are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily represent those of Helen Jamieson or Jaluch Ltd. Jaluch Ltd is not responsible for the accuracy of the information within this blog.


3 replies added

  1. Raoul Perfitt 11 July, 2018 Reply

    Love this article. I am flabbergasted at the number of people and organisations that allow processes and procedures to replace common sense. A process should be the line at which you don’t drop below, it is not the gold standard! People need freedom to express themselves whist having clarity of purpose to understand what is expected of them, poor management allows these people to become robots , it is a shameful waste of talent and resources! Thanks for sharing Helen 🙂

    • Ian 11 July, 2018 Reply

      Helen is perfectly correct in her article and your comments, Raoul, are spot on. I would like to add a bit extra. perhaps a lot of this way of working is caused by job protection – avoid training anyone to think for themselves or they will be after your job! Early on in my working life I was taught by a very wise boss who said “when you interview someone for a job tell them to aim for your job. They may not get it, but you then have the obligation to train them and pass on all your wisdom”. It worked for him and still works for me 55 years later.

  2. Helen 19 July, 2018 Reply

    Thank you both, Raoul and Ian. Ian I am still working on finding someone who is after my job….I live in hope!

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