As you are no doubt aware, I had a gas leak.
I complained about it, and there was a to-do over whether some boxes were ticked, or whether gas leaked out of a pipe. Both can’t be true, obviously.
It was never going to end happily, but it was definitely going to end as i received a letter telling me the target time they had to end it in, and this is how it did end.
The box ticking man rang me to arrange a time to come to my house to inspect the meter. I couldn’t be bothered with this as it works now, and it seemed embarrassing. We both knew it worked now. This was his main, and only gambit. I put him off, then he moved onto what else had happened. He had spoken to the gasfitter who originally changed the meter. Apparently he “went white” and was shocked, there was some talk over how the company “takes a dim view of things like this”.
Then it ends abruptly, but not impoliteley, with the statement that this will be written up. For whom, I don’t know. For the records?
Here are scores at the end of the game:
Me: I didn’t want anything concrete from it other than the sense that the meter fitting company were going to do something useful with the information I gave them. I didn’t want “vindication” or anyone to tell me, horrors, that the complaint was “upheld”. I used to worked in the NHS and compiled a monthly complaint report, the feature most eagerly anticipated being the percentage of complaints that were considered to be the fault of the organisation and which were presumably either lies or mistakes by the complainer. Either way there’s a winner, and logically therefore a loser.
I didn’t enter this to win or lose, but regardless it was a game.
Him: The man handling the complaint did so superbly. He won, if anyone did. The system seems to be a complaints process shaped object. All the features commonly thought to bs required to help spot a complaints process. Timed target to respond to first contact? Check. Named person to handle the complaint? Check!
The gasfitter: A clear loser. We all know that individuals are responsible for 5% of the variation in a systems performance, but are held responsible for 95% of a typical organisations performance as they are the visible manifestation of the system. Where else is it? What does it look like? Nobody has ever seen the system, so it is understandable. But unfair. The man lost as he was mistaken for the system.
The organisation: It lost, regardless of whether the complaint was “upheld” as it couldn’t learn. The gas fitter received a talking to and notes on his record. Nothing happened to the system so if this event is a predictable feature of the system, nobody knows. This feature is hidden away in staff records and complaints reports.
Overall, this sorry happening has resulted in a net loss to the universe. But what would it look like if this were an organisation that worked differently?
There would be much less emphasis on process, and whether it is being followed or not, and greater emphasis on purpose. Both the gas installation and the complaints process were ruled by box-ticking of arbitrary activities subsuming achievement of purpose.
There would be an emphasis on learning instead of fault finding. I received a phone message that referred to an “alleged gas-leak”, as if addressing a Crown Court jury.
I have no idea how to end this post, so will end it like the complaint was, politely and with a result.