Is police reform suffering from a lack of transparency?

On 20th May Theresa May, the Home Secretary, told the Police Federation that they were ‘crying wolf’ over the impact of cuts to policing. Her argument is the fall in reported crime negates their claim that policing is being damaged. Perhaps she conveniently forgot to mention that Kent police’s detection of burglaries has halved. One of their Assistant Chief Constables, Rob Price said that the way in which the figures are recorded made them look worse. Perhaps Theresa May also conveniently forgot to mention that changes in the way crime figures are recorded can make them look better.

We all know that the way you measure performance can make it look worse – or better, depending on what argument you wish to make. Though have you noticed the trend for senior leaders to take the credit for improved figures and blame poorer figures on ‘the method of recording’? If there is an increase in crime, there follows a quick justification that ‘improved recording means more victims are willing to come forward’, or similar and if crime falls it is due to ‘improved efficiency’.

Is it just me that is fed up of this trite nonsense?

I believe most police officers recognise the need to be more efficient and cost effective. From my experience with the police, following the death of my son in a road traffic crash, it is clear that front-line officers want to do a good job. It appears they are prevented from doing so due to increased policies and processes and a shortage of resources. This results in them over promising and under delivering.

Unfortunately, the Home Secretary appears too focused on the cost of policing and appears cynical of the police wanting to do a good job. This reminds me of the quote from Oscar Wilde in one of his novels, “a cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

She knows the cost of policing but does not understand the value of front-line officers in comparison to other elements she is not willing to address.

If she was serious about police reform then she would start with the structure and governance. In December 2014, Sir Bernard Hogan Howe spoke about the need to review police governance – and he has not been listened to. No politician is willing to look at cuts at the top of the police service because, in 2012, David Cameron and Theresa May introduced Police Crime Commissioners (PCCs). The role of these PCCs is to hold Chief Constables to account for the performance of their force’s area, officers and staff. What you won’t be told is that every PCC has built their own empire of paid staff, with a third of them costing more than the Police Authorities they replaced.

Something else she conveniently forgets to mention is the cost of electing these PCCs was £80 million – and the elections at their end of term will cost another £50 million!

Keeping 43 PCCs can only be justified if England and Wales keeps 43 Chief Constables, all supported by Deputy Chief Constables and Assistant Chief Constables; together with their staff officers and secretaries.

The Police Federation claims 17,000 police officers have left since 2010. Yet not one senior leadership role has gone. Therefore, each senior police officer has fewer staff to lead and the expression ‘too many chiefs and not enough indians’ springs to mind.

At the end of last year the government announced that UK police services would have their budgets cut by another 5%; meaning that they will need to make even more efficiency savings.

At the beginning of December Lincolnshire Police Chief Constable, Neil Rhodes, said that his force would have to cut 20% of front-line officers and that his force would be ‘unsustainable’ by 2018. This followed the Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester Police, Tony Lloyd, expressing concern in September that GMP would be reduced to 6,000 by 2017 – and no longer able to function. At about the same time the Chief Constable of Cumbria, Jerry Graham, was saying similar.

What would a reduction in the number of Chief Officer teams save? In September 2014 the Surrey PCC, Kevin Hurley, estimated the ‘waste of having 43 police services’ at £2 billion! The kind of reduction Sir Bernard Hogan Howe recommends would save well over £1 billion - not including the potential sales of the unnecessary police headquarters that house all these teams.

How many front-line police officers would this pay for? So perhaps it is time the Police Federation asked the Home Secretary about the things she has conveniently forgotten to mention.

It seems that the only people ‘crying wolf’ are David Cameron and Theresa May. They have created a monster that they are reticent to dismantle and can you imagine either of them having the strength of leadership to stand in the House of Commons and admit that, after all the fuss made and money spent on introducing forty three Police and Crime Commissioners, they now only need about nine of them? No, it’s apparently easier to ignore the facts; waste millions of pounds and ‘save face’.

police and car1



by Alan Wingrove. Alan is a Business and Leadership Coach at Blue Lion Coaching. Until 2005 he was a serving police officer, leaving as a Chief Superintendent. Although Alan describes himself as ‘an antique, as regards policing’ he keeps at the cutting edge of leadership and performance, in both organisations and individuals.








What you won’t be told about police reform….

police and car1

2015 has arrived – the year in which there will be a General Election. Police reform is still high on the agenda of this government – and yet there are millions of pounds being wasted, in policing, that David Cameron and Theresa May don’t want discussed and won’t deal with!

We are all aware that the funding of the public sector is becoming an ever-increasing struggle and, for years, successive governments have made cuts to police budgets. At the end of last year the government announced that UK police services would have their budgets cut by another 5%; meaning that they will need to make even more efficiency savings.

In December, Sir Bernard Hogan Howe spoke about the need to review police governance – and he has not been listened to.

This followed the Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester Police, Tony Lloyd, expressing concern in September that GMP would be reduced to 6,000 by 2017 – and no longer able to function. At about the same time the Chief Constable of Cumbria, Jerry Graham, was saying similar.

At the beginning of December Lincolnshire Police Chief Constable, Neil Rhodes, said that his force would have to cut 20% of front-line officers and that his force would be ‘unsustainable’ by 2018.

And yet no politician is willing to look at cuts at the top of the police service. Why? It is because, in 2012, David Cameron and Theresa May introduced Police Crime Commissioners (PCCs). The role of these PCCs is to hold Chief Constables to account for the performance of their force’s area, officers and staff. Something you won’t be told is the cost of electing these PCCs was £80 million – and the elections at their end of term will cost another £50 million!

Another thing you won’t be told is that every PCC has built their own empire of paid staff, with a third of them costing more than the Police Authorities they replaced.

So, how many Chief Constables does it take to run the police services of England and Wales? Forty three, apparently, all supported by Deputy Chief Constables and Assistant Chief Constables; together with their staff officers and secretaries.

The simple question to be asked is, ‘how can we still afford all of these people, when front-line roles are being cut?’

The simple answer is, ‘we can’t!’

However, a decrease in the number of Chief Officer teams would also mean a decrease in the number of PCCs. Can you imagine either David Cameron or Theresa May having the strength of leadership to stand in the House of Commons and admit that, after all the fuss made and money spent on introducing forty three Police and Crime Commissioners, they now only need about nine of them?

No, it’s apparently easier to ignore the facts; waste millions of pounds and ‘save face’.

So, what would a reduction in the number of Chief Officer teams save? In September 2014 the Surrey PCC, Kevin Hurley, estimated the ‘waste of having 43 police services’ at £2 billion! The kind of reduction Sir Bernard Hogan Howe recommends would save well over £1 billion – not including the potential sales of the unnecessary police headquarters that house all these teams.

Instead, there are PCCs around the country entering into ‘consultations’ about increasing the precept on our Council Tax, to secure additional funding for policing. Personally, until there is visible evidence of efficiency savings starting at the top of the organisation, I say that every one of us should oppose these increases – not that, in reality, you’ll have a say!



Why humans are not just resources and people cannot be processed – lessons for the UK public sector….

In July Dr. Anthony Hesketh, Senior Lecturer at Lancaster University Management School produced the key findings of ‘Valuing Your Talent’. Valuing your Talent is a research and engagement programme that the three professional bodies representing the accounting, management and human resources professions – CIMA, the CMI, and the CIPD together with the RSA[i] – have collaborated on.

The work, which is being supported and sponsored by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and Investors in People (IIP), is designed to help employers better understand the impact their people have on the performance of their organisation and as a result make better people management and workforce investment-related decisions.

Although Valuing Your Talent is aimed at all sectors, in this article I will show why these lessons are so important for the public sector. As with any organisation, the way staff are measured will impact on their engagement and the pressure an employer puts on their staff has a direct correlation with the way ‘customers’ get dealt with. Back in the 1990s, as part of its public sector reform programme, the Labour government espoused how much the public sector needed to learn from the private sector.

Due to the government reducing budgets and pushing for efficiency cuts, the learning that took place was the easier issues of cost efficiency and quantitative performance measurement; the first two elements of performance – inputs and outputs. This focus on ‘the bottom right hand corner’ has led to such clichéd phrases as ‘doing more with less’ and ‘working smarter not harder’.

The third element, the outcomes, both for the staff in the public sector and for the recipients of their services, was overlooked – and still is. Often, it is not until you become the ‘customer’ that you experience whether the outcome is fit for purpose – and I can confirm this from bitter recent experience. On 12th June 2013 our youngest son Adam, who was 22, was killed in a car crash – and our family were entered into what we could only describe as a series of processes; some of which were helpful and the majority of which were not.

I would like to emphasise that everyone we came into contact with was really good. However, it quickly became clear they were promising a level of service that they wholeheartedly wanted to deliver, rather than what was realistic. It became clear, the way their performance is measured and the consequent pressure they are under causes this ‘overpromising and under-delivering’.

Consequently, we felt that we were there to be processed and we needed to fit ‘the system’, as it was clearly not going to adapt to fit us! Having spoken with other families since, it is evident that this is a common experience – not only when there is a fatality but also when relatives are ill.

I shouldn’t be surprised as, before I retrained as a Business and Leadership Coach in 2005, I spent thirty years in the police service. My last four years with the police were spent on secondment to the police college at Bramshill and the Home Office; during the introduction of number of quantitative performance indicators, for all the public services, not just the police. These were focused on cost cutting through ‘efficiency savings’ – but now my family and I were on ‘the other side of the fence’.

After nine years, I no longer profess to know anything about policing; in fact I always tell people that, as regards policing, I am an antique. But I do know a lot about performance and leadership; both of which have continued to be my passion and continue to be my ‘day-job’.

What became clear was a culture that has developed in the public sector, whereby the staff are viewed as ‘resources’ – and increasingly referred to as such. For the reasons I’m about to talk about, this can have an adverse effect on them and their key customer – the public!

Let me be clear, I am a fervent advocate of measuring an employee’s performance and anyone who knows me will tell you that I have a high ethic of people doing the job they are paid for. However, the public services have been pushed and pulled in so many directions that I am no longer sure they know what they want their employees to do – or how to measure them.

I have spoken to police officers who tell me that they are no longer doing the job they joined to do – to give the public a service. Instead they go from call to call as their performance is measured in irrelevant quantitative performance measures, such as how long it takes to get to a call without caring too much what they do when they get there and they are subject to more and more processes and spend increasing amounts of time doing paperwork to justify what they did the day before.

NHS staff I have spoken with are quick to tell me they are in the same position. The care patients receive in hospital is coming under increasing criticism, from both the government and the public, with it often being said that nurses no longer spend time communicating with patients. Yet the nursing staff I have spoken to want to give this care – they want to spend time talking to patients, as they know the benefits this brings. What prevents them are the increasing quantitative performance requirements they are subject to, such as the time it takes to dispense drugs to patients; with increasing demands of ‘more with less’.

With both of these services, the staff would like to spend time with their ‘customers’ the public, patients and their families. However, how do you measure whether a police officer talking to a member of the public prevents a crime? Does chatting to a person who has had a relative seriously injured or killed in an accident determine a better outcome? How does a nurse talking with a patient help with their recovery?

This lack of focus on outcomes has resulted in the current gulf between the front line staff of the public services and their leaders. This is evident by the increasing regularity with which front line staff are expressing their discontent through the media. The outcome of this gulf is staff, desperate to provide a high quality service, overpromising what they can actually deliver to the public – the ‘customer’!

Well, there are two lessons the private sector has learned over the last fifteen years that it is time for politicians and senior leaders in the public sector to learn. They are called ‘staff engagement’ and ‘customer engagement’. Successful commercial organisations spend time listening to their staff and their customers. Under-performing companies regularly find out that it is because they are not engaging with their staff, and their staff are not engaging with their customers, that they are losing business. Just watch episodes of Channel 4’s ‘Undercover Boss’ to see how true this is. The competitive advantage of the majority of companies I have worked with in the last nine years has been the way they interact with their staff and their subsequent customer service.

This was best described by Charles Tilley, the CEO of CIMA, during a discussion on Valuing Your Talent, when he said, “Thirty years ago 80% of the value of a business sat on its balance sheet, today that figure is under 20% and going down and so we need to think about the metrics that relate to what is actually creating value – and at the heart of every business are people; the customers are people, the suppliers are people, the business itself is people.”

The key lesson here – your staff are humans, not resources!

Pleasingly, I have met senior leaders in Sussex Police who do recognise the need to learn these lessons. Following my son’s inquest I spoke with ACC Robin Smith, who readily and eloquently described the service as being ‘processed p****d’. Together with the head of roads policing for Sussex and Surrey, Superintendent Jane Derrick there is a clear determination to change the culture into one that recognises outcomes incorporating the second key lesson:

People cannot be processed!

All of us recognise that there will be a challenges for senior leaders of the public services. The first is to stop kowtowing to politicians. We can all recognise the ‘bashing of public sector efficiencies’ for what it is – short-term political demands introduced to curry favour with the electorate. Strong and courageous leadership is required to say to them, “Stop! What you are doing isn’t working – and hasn’t worked through successive governments.”

The second is to face the challenge of how to Value the Talent in your organisation. Monitoring ‘the bottom right hand corner’ and dealing with austerity measures applies to organisations in all three sectors. However, the major challenge for the public sector to learn is how to balance the inputs and outputs and measure the outcomes.

Only by recognising staff as humans, rather than resources, can this be achieved and the outcome will be the ‘customer’ – the public – feeling less processed.


CIMA – Chartered Institute of Management Accountants

CMI – Chartered Management Institute

CIPD – Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

RSA – Royal Society of the Arts

This blog has been written by Alan Wingrove. Alan is a Business and Leadership Coach from Blue Lion Coaching

The mission of the NHS is….?


Why the NHS cannot survive in it’s current form….

Over years the National Health Service in the UK has evolved into one of the best in the world – and employs some fantastic ‘front-line’ staff. However, it is in danger of losing that reputation. You only have to read the papers or listen to the news to be aware of the increasing criticism of hospitals and health authorities – from both staff and patients. In the majority of areas, the NHS overspends each year – or cuts various services in order to stay within budget – and our nurses and doctors are becoming increasingly vocal about not being allowed to do as good a job as they would like to do.

Consequently, the NHS falls in to the trap of many businesses – they over-promise and under-deliver. This is because the ‘customer expectation’ has never been managed, either by politicians currying favour or by senior NHS managers unwilling to stand up to the unrealistic demands of these political ‘leaders’. Instead, managers in the NHS just keep responding to demand after demand; demonstrating the same reactive performance traits of Zebras!

Unfortunately, these NHS ‘leaders’ are responding to two competing stakeholders – politicians and public – without them having defined one key component of any organisation, namely their Mission. When have you ever been told what you can expect from the NHS; what it will – and will not – provide?

Instead of leading their hospitals, they try to manage the increasing demands from politicians in order to appease them. These same political ‘leaders’ know they cannot afford the NHS but lack the courage to say so; as it’s never going to be a vote catcher. The NHS managers are also under pressure from the public, who view any new kind of medicine or treatment as their right.

To be really contentious, if we took all the emotion out of the debate and made it completely objective, then, based on finance alone, the NHS is not sustainable. Consider the facts:-

  • We are living longer, so we have an ever increasing aged population. 10 million people in the UK are over 65 – and this is projected to increase to 19 million by 2050.
  • According to Department of Health statistics, 40% of the NHS budget and 50% of the Social Services budget is spent on those over 65.
  • Logically, most of this number are retired and drawing pensions.
  • Therefore, there are millions more taking money out and millions less paying money in.

Less money going in with more and more money coming out – what sense does that make? Imagine if this was your business – how well would you be sleeping at night?

The Local Government Chronicle  quotes that “a number of NHS finance directors at trusts with overspends said the position was “predictable” due to NHS England’s unrealistic assumptions about both efficiency savings and the volume of work they would carry out in 2013-14.”

Basically, the figures do not add up! Yet, we still have politicians espousing how they are going to put more money into the NHS – without ever saying where it is coming from. If it were down to accountants, I am sure they would put a stop to all medical research, as we cannot afford the outcomes.

Of course, when the subject is our health, it’s difficult talking about what or what not to deliver, as emotion plays a significant factor. We all want the best health care for our loved ones and ourselves. But, is it not time we took some personal responsibility for that? If it was made explicit what was – and was not – available on the NHS then we would also know what we would need to get private medical insurance to cover.

Every new medicine or treatment found seems to be more and more expensive – and is immediately perceived, by the public, as the ‘right of everyone’, even though the NHS cannot afford it. For example, obesity is a pandemic of western society but, when the NHS was first introduced, did anyone imagine it paying for gastric bands?

To become sustainable, strong leaders need to define the mission statement of the NHS and then review the current ‘offerings’, to see what should be delivered and to decide on what patients will now have to fund for themselves – and it is no good waiting for any politician to do what they are, clearly, never going to have the courage to do! These leaders must show the strengths of the Rhinoceros in managing change. They must be focused, have determination and be resilient. They will also need integrity and not pander to the whims of vote-catching politicians. This contentious debate needs to happen as, financially, what the NHS delivers is not sustainable.

Whilst some may think it is too late for such radical reform, without it we do not have a sustainable NHS – and we will regret it when it collapses.

Just a thought….

It’s not my fault I’m tall….

Have you ever wondered whether your business is discriminatory? I don’t mean deliberately discriminatory; I mean whether you provide services or products that treat certain people differently – or exclude them altogether. Let me explain….

Being 6’ 7” tall is not something I can do anything about. I’m also overweight, which is something I can do something about – but my height? I’m afraid that’s a part of me.

However, there are times, when shopping, I’m made to feel like a freak because of my height. When we first met, my wife didn’t always understand my frustration – especially regarding clothes shops and airlines.

Then I needed a new suit. Silly me! We happened to be in London for a day, so she suggested we visit a few clothes shops, to get me a new suit. I think that even she was surprised when a female shop assistant looked at me and said, “A suit for you? No way.” and laughed.

After visiting about seven suit shops I eventually managed to purchase a ‘mix and match’ suit. However, my choice was restricted to black or charcoal grey – and my wife started to understand my frustration.

Now, I know that I like good clothes. I also like quirky touches, especially on my shirts, such as a different coloured inner fabric on the neck and cuffs. In the last few days a new tailor opened up in our local area and, in the window, my wife noticed a really nice quality shirt with such quirky touches. In we went and the staff were very obliging and helpful; informing us that these were a German make and, yes, they did make shirts in an extra-long body and sleeve. Fantastic I thought – until we were shown the range of very plain shirts they made in an extra-long body and sleeve. The same quirky touches? Not for tall people, apparently!

Once again I left a shop feeling like a freak. I only want to be able to buy the same clothes as an ‘average height‘ person – whatever that is. I know that the average height of a male has increased two inches in the last 100 years; being 5’8” in 1912 and 5’10” in 2012 and so, yes, I am over the average height. However, my sons are taller than me and I am noticing that there seem more and more ‘above average’ height people around; so when are clothes manufacturers going to stop discriminating against us?

Yes, I know that I can – and do – get clothes made to measure. These all come at a significantly higher cost – and, strangely enough, the government have yet to give me the ‘being tall’ subsidy

And the same argument applies to airlines – sorry, I know I’m on a rant now! But why is it that if I have to travel ‘economy’ I am required to pay extra for an extra-legroom seat; simply because the airline doesn’t feel the need to provide one that I can physically fit in to?

As a business and leadership coach, I am quite happy to go almost anywhere in the world to coach and deliver presentations. So, how would you feel if you were a client of mine and I told you that you’d have to pay extra for me, because I’m tall?

Bizarrely and unfortunately, that is what I have had to tell clients on occasions. If my flight time is less than four hours I will travel economy, if I have to, with an extra-legroom seat. Some clients prefer to arrange the flights and, therefore, I have to ask them to pay the extra for an extra-legroom seat. Luckily most are understanding. Some are not!

Can you imagine the scenario, after my death, when my sons find out I’ve spent a lot of their inheritance on ‘being tall’?

Just a thought….

8 Great Performance Tips from the Animals of the Serengeti

8 Tips from the animals of the Serengeti on how to navigate the Performance Landscape

Through their performance the animals of the Serengeti have survived their ever changing landscape for thousands of years, which is why we use the analogy of these animals to learn from in our Performance Landscape programme. The following are some tips from them as to how you can best navigate your organization’s landscape in these uncertain times.

  • Be prepared to migrate to greener pastures and ensure that you have a giraffe seeing over the landscape and identifying the direction for the other animals – together with any threats.
  • Encourage all of your staff to be elephants, not by feeding them junk-food, but by communicating with them. Tell them the journey they are going on and trust them to use their intelligence to help you along the way – and encourage them to communicate with you too.
  • Then use your large elephant ears and listen. If you ask your staff to communicate with you and then ignore them it won’t be long before they stop communicating.
  • Be honest – the migration is not going to be easy and you need everyone contributing if you are to succeed, but be realistic. If it is possible that they may not all survive the journey, tell them. If you lose their trust then you will not regain it.
  • Get all of your departments to imitate the wildebeest, by joining together as a super-herd and all going with you on the same journey.
  • Learn from the lions; use the competencies of your staff and do not become internally focused.
  • Like the zebras, know what performance you are going to measure and make sure that all of your ‘elephants’ know it too.
  • Identify your rhinos to implement any changes you need to make. They will have to be thick skinned and resilient – and the giraffe will need to make sure that they are going in the right direction.

To help you to communicate with your staff and turn them into intelligent elephants we are developing a completely updated programme to deal with the leadership requirements, as we come out of one of the longest recessions businesses have ever known.

Find out more at the Performance Landscape website

Is business working now?

Why do current business models not work?

How many management teams today still:

“Believe that as their business model has worked for the past 20 years why should it be any different now?”

“Live with the ‘hope factor’ when profits are down or even worse business levels are unsustainable and wonder what are they going to do?”

“Think the customer needs them more than they need the customer?”

“Scratch around for new business instead of seeking to create demand?”

“Fail to motivate, support and empower their workforce and treat them like mushrooms?”

Today businesses that have survived the deepest recession the UK has experienced are taking a cold hard look at their business model and putting it through a ‘stress test’ to make sure they will still be trading when normal economic conditions really take hold? Not an unfair question but is the right question “Businesses should be facing up to the fact that current trading conditions may be the norm of the future and as a consequence business planning, management strategy, sales strategy, the margin for the risk, right people – right job empowered and accountable with roles and responsibilities clearly defined, adaptability, expectation management, customer service are key elements of any Management Meeting? In short focus on matters of importance.  Does ‘survival of the fittest’ ring any bells?

Standard business models are fast becoming, if they are not already, a thing of the past and if businesses do not embrace change then they too may be a ‘thing of the past’ sooner than they think.

Instead of accepting the recession as a reason for poor performance perhaps businesses should wake up, smell the coffee and accept responsibility for their own actions or lack of them, after all key stake holders will not expect to hear the same story (excuse) more than once.  Some people just don’t like change mainly because they do not understand it.

There is no such thing as a problem. A problem is merely an issue requiring a solution!


When what you’re doing isn’t working ….

According to Albert Einstein, ‘the first sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results’. So, would it not be a fair assumption that, as a number of bailouts in Greece have not worked, neither will a bailout in Spain, Italy, Portugal or France? Yet, Eurozone politicians and financiers remain focused on this as their favoured option, to ensure the future of the Euro.

Over the last eighteen months, they have applied the same bail-out solution to various countries expecting that this time it would solve the Eurozone crisis, without explaining why they think it would work this time. However, doing the same thing on previous occasions has not resolved the problem and the credit rating agencies of Moody’s and S & P (Standard and Poor’s) just keep reducing the ratings of banks and countries that are in difficulties; increasing the borrowing rate.

Most leaders of the Eurozone seem experienced and sensible people and yet they follow this ‘insane’ process, so do their actions demonstrate insanity? No, – actually, on a micro-scale, many businesses do the same thing. This does not mean that most people in business are insane, it means they are human beings who retain traits seen in many leaders.

Once an organisation has started down the road of change, there is a reluctance to turn back or admit that you’ve headed off down the wrong road. Therefore, we become determined to make our vision succeed – and the longer the project goes on, the more determined we become. We start to rationalise our actions with comments like, “We’re too far down the road to change direction now” or “We’ve invested too much money in this project for it to fail”.

And, as we all know, the admission by a leader that they’ve made a mistake is a sign of weakness!

Actually, admitting you’ve made a mistake is a greater strength than blindly continuing with doing the same thing again and again. It is worth remembering that the practices and behaviours in banks took years to result in the 2008 financial crash and the Euro is only just over a decade old – a mere baby of an experiment.

There is another famous saying, ‘If what you’re doing isn’t working…. do something else!’

However, it is easy to say and difficult to do, because it is often not clear what else to do and the leaders within the Eurozone face another challenge; that of ‘group-think’. This is where a group of people convince each other that what they are doing is right and anyone voicing dissent is ignored, even if they have the courage to speak up in the face of their peers. This is even harder if there is a loud voice, like Angela Merkel, and others in the group need to ask what the agenda is of the person with the loud voice. To that extent, I admire one of the people involved in the introduction of the Euro in 1999, Otmar Issing, who has said that some countries may have to leave. However, he still espouses the Euro to be a viable option.

So, whilst there are still people around who were involved in the process of merging the currencies from various nation states in to one common currency, instead of the mindset of ‘this must work’, what would happen if that was reframed? The brave leadership stance would be to ask, “what possibilities are there to reverse the principles of how the Eurozone was created to allow nation states to have a properly planned and dignified exit from the Euro?”

Instead of taking time to do this, various leaders, banks and governments seem intent on trying to fix a flawed concept, with Spain now asking for aid whilst it decides whether to ask for another bailout. I do not envy the position of these leaders, as they are also getting various bits of conflicting advice from other leaders and financial institutions from around the world.

However, break it down to simplicity – what you’re doing definitely isn’t working, so do something else!




Thomson’s customer loyalty has flown…

In his excellent book, ‘management in 10 words’ Sir Terry Leahy talks a great deal about the importance of customer loyalty; how to get it and how to keep it. This is a book the senior management of Thomson would do well to read.

Why? Because they have forgotten about Truth, Values and Trust. For the last four years we have used Thomson and been happy with their service. This is in spite of me having to pay extra for the ‘privilege’ of having a seat I can physically fit in to, due to my above average height. I do feel discriminated against because the majority of airlines limit the legroom of their seats to fit ‘average height’ people. Although a few years ago I could request an exit seat, now I have to pay for one of these ‘extra legroom’ seats, described by Thomson as,

“You’ll be the envy of everyone with one of these seats. Exclusively for adults, they’re next to an exit or by a bulkhead. There  aren’t many though, so get in there quick.”

Although they forget to mention that these seats are usually beside the toilets too, they put £40.00 each way on the cost of our holiday. Since my other-half and I do like to sit together, this totals £160.00 extra. However, most airlines have caught on this way to squeeze more money out of people, so it’s something we have to put up with!

Now, this year, we have been told that our luggage allowance has been reduced by 5kgs to 20kgs per person. We do recognise  we are fortunate, as we go on what Thomson call ‘platinum’ holidays – fortunate because ‘standard’ holidays have a reduced baggage allowance of 15kgs!

This is irritating, but not as irritating as the phone calls that follow, asking if you wish to buy more baggage allowance. When you say no, the ‘script‘ is for the call centre operative to ask, “Are you sure you’re happy with that as excess baggage is charged at £30.00 per kilo!” Why do I suspect this is a script? Because, it has been exactly the same on all 3 occasions they’ve rung!

Their website says,


“No-one likes to be lumped with unexpected charges at the check-in desk. So, if you think your belongings might tip the scales, buy some extra space in your case before you go. Pre-booked kilos are much cheaper than the charges you’ll face at the desk. Prices start at £15 for 5kg.”

Unfortunately, I cannot help but think this is another ‘money maker’. Although I know the airline will bang on about increased fuel prices and airport tax, the plane has not shrunk! Also, because we do not yet weigh passengers, this baggage allowance reduction will not significantly alter the fuel payload. The holiday prices have increased and, if Thomson have made a mistake on their prices, these additional charges do nothing to endear them to their customers. In fact, the majority of people I speak to show the same ‘bloody minded’ attitude as I have acquired; being completely determined not to exceed this allowance by 1gramme, so that Thomson do not get a penny extra from me.

And, yes – next year we will be looking for an alternative company to travel with, which is why the senior management of Thomson should learn from Sir Terry; if you don’t show loyalty to your customers, they won’t show loyalty to you!

Nick and Bob’s dream conversation







I cannot help but wonder whether Nick Buckles had a strange dream the night before he appeared at the Home Affairs select committee, on 17th July, which went something like this:

Nick thinks: – I need to speak to someone who’s experienced this kind of mess before and I know just who to ring!

“Hi Bob, it’s Nick. Based on your recent experience, at the Treasury select committee, what advice can you give me for tomorrow?”

Bob: - “Nick – great to hear from you! You need to remember three things. First seem a bit vague and second – and most important – make sure you tell them that you only knew of the mess a few days before it hit the press. When pushed, I went for ‘the beginning of the month‘, so perhaps you could go for eight or nine days… Finally, just hint that someone in Government seemed okay with what was happening. In your case, try the woman from the Home Office – that Theresa May. It deflects the attention away from you a bit and, apart from that, it gives an excuse for those muppets in the Commons to snipe at each other like spoilt kids!”

Nick: - “But, as Chief Execs, isn’t it fair for our shareholders to assume that we know what’s going on in our own companies?”

Bob: - “Nah! Act naive and try to find someone much further down the food-chain to blame – and make sure you say they were acting without your authority. Also, say how dedicated you are to the company and that you want to deal with the mess and see things through. Don’t worry, they won’t let you – but it increases the sympathy vote and then your final pay-off and bonus will be much better. ”

Nick: - “I can’t see them giving me two million pounds and share options, though…”

Bob: - “Maybe not, Nick, but maybe that’s because you’re in the wrong industry. There’s no money in keeping citizens safe – it’s just not profitable. Apart from that, you only earn £830,000 per year, which is a pittance!”

Nick: - “What’s the worst that could happen, Bob?”

Bob: - “They might decide you should stay until after the Olympics. That’s okay if everything goes alright, but if there is some kind of an attack or explosion, go and book yourself in to The Priory. They can’t do too much to someone who’s mentally ill.”

Nick: - “And the best?”

Bob: - “It goes alright and then you can whinge that the Government over-reacted and wasted millions. Then you’ll get a pay off and can slide into obscurity. Either way, tomorrow the press will portray you as a bumbling idiot, but all publicity is good publicity.”

Nick: - “Thanks Bob, you’re a Diamond!”

Bob: - “Don’t get sarcastic Nick – and don’t Buckle!”

Nick remembers Bob’s hysterical laughing as the alarm clock wakes him – but, from his performance that day, he clearly remembered the advice!