Monday, 2 June 2008

Those who live by the rules...

Those who manage by numbers all too often end up being managed by them.

Set anyone a target - and they will do their utmost to meet it. Just don't expect them to do it the way you intended them to. Punctuality targets on the railways? Certainly. Now watch, as the rail companies rejig their timetables to give their trains more time for each journey.

Shorter waiting lists on the NHS? Absolutely. So long as you don't count the waiting list you go on to, just to get on the waiting list.

Targets. They have been an obsession for this government. This week, two items on the news show how foolish this obsession has proven.

According to a report by Civitas, the Police are targeted on "clear-up". Unfortunately, little distinction is made between serious crime and trivial. So they achieve as much recognition for arresting a sweet stealer as a murderer.

More broadly, this creates a culture in which the police are going to focus on easy-to-clear crimes - and therefore target "soft criminals" (aka the Middle Classes). Short term success - and longer term undermining of support for the police from those whose whole-hearted support they need.


Meanwhile, midwives are leaving in droves. Not for the pay. But because they are sick of a culture that so ties their hands with petty rules, many no longer feel able to do the job they signed up for.


The worrying thought is that those that remain must, presumably, be those types who find petty hand-tying rules a pleasure to work with. Would you want a baby delivered by one of them?

So there you have it. Perhaps the most lasting New Labour legacy of all: the removal of initiative and goodwill from those who ought to be defined by those very qualities.

1 comment:

Professor Sapient said...

Hi John, thanks for pointing me in this direction, could not agree more about the police. How they will ever get back the lost respect I have no idea.