Government

One cannot help but feel that Hans Christian Anderson's story, the Emperor’s new clothes is an appropriate warning.

Competence

While government spends a great deal of time talking about the competence of the people of of Britain and measuring and assessing it in various ways, some effective some not, it seems that it rarely bothers to look at its own competence.

It puts people in charge of some of the main fields like health care and education who have no experience in the fields they are responsible for.

These individuals then impose their bright ideas (which are often less than outstanding) onto the people at the coal face of health care, education and defence etc. who then spend time trying to make it look as if its working in fear of losing their jobs. This is a marked demonstration of government incompetence.


Fashion and Spin

At a recent meeting I attended one of the topics was "disillusionment" with the government, but this raises an interesting point which is that government has its so called "spin doctors" whose specific job is to maintain the "illusion". This has become a propaganda exercise.

We are being told that the big issue for the next election will be immigration just as we are told what will be next years fashion colours. These are not predictions of choices made by consumers, these are decisions made for consumers by government or industry. Why does the government hope to make immigration the focus of the next election? Perhaps because if they can spin that into the centre position of the peoples minds they will not wake up to the real issues like energy, that the government has no understanding of.

However even then unlike the fashion industry where it should be driven by consumer choice, the subjects of government attention should be determined not by consumer demand but by a proper scientific examination of society's problems. If government truthfully shares this research in both a summary and full format, as its its responsibility, then the population would perhaps not be so lost for what to believe.

It is dangerously easy for any person in power to join the latest wave of fervour and thus win support today, but the consequences of living today's illusions is to live tomorrows disasters.   

An extraordinary culture of pretence is beginning to dominate the social landscape like a competition to see which ostrich can bury its head deeper in the sand. Anyone found not pretending is demoted while the most creative promoters of positive fiction are given extraordinary salaries and promoted up.

No amount of spin will solve real problems in the real world. Churchill's sentence, "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat," was a prime example of how the truth is better than spin.

Our government needs to tell the truth in detail and in summary so that those with the time and without it can have a clear picture as to what is going on. They must not promise things that they cannot deliver and -

truth and integrity

- must be the new backbone of political principles.


Leadership 

One problem is a fundamental misunderstanding about what leadership is. Sometimes to get things done you need leadership and sometimes to get things done you don't. This is simply a matter of fact and in a healthy society people tend to just naturally follow or lead the right people to get the job done.

You cannot train to be a generic leader because today's leader is tomorrows follower depending on what the job is that needs doing. However in an unhealthy society like ours people actually make it their personal objective to lead simply for its own sake.

There are courses in leadership as if it was an isolated discipline, as if the captain of a ship needed the same skills as the head of an art department. Well "hello sailor" it just doesn't work like that!

Right now many of our politicians, who are political studies graduates, and have no experience of leadership in any economically productive activity, are now "leading us" into a state of social decay that it may be hard to recover from. They are focusing only on those issues they think they can spin a story out of that will win votes while avoiding the important issues that make this nation function.

China, I am told, hand has a great many engineers in its leadership.


Regulation and Freedom  

Regulation is needed, but only to the extent that it works and that is where feedback comes in. I don't mean multiple choice questionnaires or tests and measurements, I mean actually listening to what people have to say and having the capability to weigh it up and do the right thing based on the experience of having run an organisation before.

Our government currently does not understand how to deliver quality because it simply measures what it feels like, often choosing what to measure in order to make things look good.

As the situation has deteriorated the temptation is to over regulate when sometimes the removal of regulation is what is required. As the government imposes regulation it fails to appreciate some of the most basic principles of what rules are for.

The objective of rules is to implement disciplines that lead to improvements in the quality of life, and to counteract freedoms, that lead to life degradation.
BUT; the objective of rules is NOT to implement disciplines, that lead to degradation in the quality of life, and NOT to counteract freedoms, that lead to life improvement.
The balance between disciplines and freedoms is a delicate one and going too far in either direction can lead to problems in quality, efficiency and the pleasure in life that we all hope for.

The application of a rule should not require more effort than it saves in the long term, but the learning of a rules may take more effort than it saves in the short term. This is the investment in quality we have to make.


Best Practice

One of the particular excuses for regulation has been the idea of best practice being enforced through it. This is another misunderstood notion in that it is not possible for a career politician to know what is best practice in say education, health care or defence etc. and neither is it possible for them to employ consultants who know, since they are in no position to asses the ability of the consultants they employ, as the disastrous health service IT project of a few years ago evidences.

Best practice is not something to be imposed by government. Its what you get when people meet and share experiences when teachers, doctors, nurses and soldiers meet and share their experiences.

Feedback

Many government people seem to have the attitude that they are uniquely positioned to control every aspect of the organisations they are responsible for in minute detail, yet they blatantly ignore the voices of those tied up in the regulations government creates to the point where delivery of the service or product suffers. Clear evidence of these failures is covered up in the spin culture created by these career politicians.

The failure to understand the basic principles of feedback, the failure to assess the impact of regulation i.e. see if its actually working and the desire to cover up failure rather than expose and correct it are not the culture of proper leadership yet are endemic in our government system. This has to change.

There is a huge formal structure in place for the creation and application of regulation of the people, yet there is no formal pathway for the people to report oversights in the regulation or to propose corrections, as would be expected in any effective quality system such as that used by the aircraft industry.

Part of the reason for not implementing proper feedback mechanisms is that it might highlight the unsuitability of our current leaders to actually lead. Of course there are exceptions but on the whole we haven't seen real leaders like Harold Wilson or Margaret Thatcher for along time. OK they got some serious stuff wrong, but they at least had some vision and insight. Probably the biggest Thatcher mistake was the idea that the free market was the solution to all ills. Only now we can see that its application in healthcare and defence has caused major issues while its lack of application in education has lead to a lack of diversity.

Localisation and Globalisation

It seems that while the government of the UK wants not to be governed by Europe it still wants to govern every aspect of the lives of us, its citizens. Is it not the case that the issue is that governing bodies should endeavour to govern as little as possible leaving issues to be handled as locally as possible? So Europe should only concern its self with issues that are not being dealt with on a national level, and national governments should only concern them selves with issues that are not being dealt with on a district level and so on down to the individual.

For any governing body there is an issue of scope which is not just about where it governs but what it should govern. So for example the suggestion by an MEP that they should force down trans-European mobile phone tariffs was totally out of scope. There is a free market in mobile phone providers and competition will do the job. Such an individual should not be in government.

Much political effort is national governments shirking the responsibility that is in scope in order to pick up on the issues that can be spun to win votes, like immigration.

On a More Positive Note

There examples of where our government has stood up and done the right thing. The push for open government and the putting of legal statutes on the internet.

In education the re-introduction of technical colleges as "university technical colleges" where pupils of age 14 years have the opportunity to develop basic technical skills. Naturally the word University in this context is simply "spin" but the colleges themselves are a good move.

What is still to do

Remove most career politicians who are exactly the kind of burden on society that we do not need. To do this they need to be voted out. i.e. refuse to vote for them and replace them with candidates that have some experience.

Change the system to allow diversity and encourage competition only where it helps. Remove moral hazards. Nationalise the defence industry or encourage its technical achievements to reach civilian markets.

Encourage more exciting technical challenges that place innovators into the lime light as has been done for example with the world land speed record. This means that innovators must be given the freedom and encouragement to work on projects rather than be held back by a non-adaptive school curriculum applying a one size fits all principle. 

Stop degrading specific professions that involve more labour than thinking and start to value people for all their capabilities  rather than only their academic capabilities. Put emphasis on the quality of work in every aspect of the culture getting things right from baking a pizza to designing an engine. Acknowledge and spread this culture from places where it already resides like Rolls Royce.
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