An open letter to corporate colleagues EVERYWHERE!

This is not an accurate portrayal of corporate staff in the public sector. I wear glasses for a start


Do you work in the corporate part of the public sector? The bit in the middle that is often called Chief Executives Directorate, or Organisational Services and changes its name every two years?

Me too!

You’re probably worried about your job as there are more empty seats around you than there were a year ago. My salary has dropped by 25% so I’m doing my bit, like in the war when they collected pots, pans and iron railings to melt down and make into Spitfires. Never mind, here’s something to CHEER YOU UP!

There, better now?

No, not that. It’s the good news!

The good news

There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to prove your value to the organisation.Listen up. `Front-line Council services that radically improve their performance first have to understand what was going on in their service and why, by finding the features in their that help or hinder staff when they are solving customers problems with them.

Often they find that there are things they do that have implications for your own specialism….

Policy, take note…
…it’s not that they didn’t follow robust plans

Performance, take note…
…it’s not that they didn’t have SMART targets reported on monthly scorecards

Finance, take note…
…it’s not that they didn’t have good budget monitoring

HR, take note…
…it’s not that they didn’t set challenging personal objectives in their performance reviews

IT, take note…
…it’s not that they didn’t pursue the latest thinking in making their service Digital By Default.

The bad news

It’s because they did!

Wrong things done right are still wrong. There’s lots wrong with command and control methods, so if your job is to do the corporate job, your job is to push the wrong thing in whatever is your speciality.

I work in  corporate performance.  This means that it’s my job to push the  things that I know will make services worse. In my time I have damaged services and distracted frontline service managers by the following:

  • pestering them for copies of their service plans so they be critiqued by ignoranamuses like me for links to other shitty plans. Golden Fred I called it.golden_fred
  • making people send me numbers I don’t understand so I can put them into a bloody scorecard that neither contained any scores, or was a card. It was 2 sides of an A3 pieces of paper containing closely packed rows of garbage for people to stare confused at. It demanded reading glasses off every reader over 45, Font 7. The only way it could be squeezed onto 2 sides.
  • conducting “target challenge sessions”. God knows. I must have wiped this from my memory, but I have flashbacks of strutting, clutching my lapels like a prosecution lawyer, “I put it to you, this target is neither challenging nor aspirational!”

Changing corporate central services that are distilled Command and Control is a challenge, but don’t despair! Even after the shaming things I admit to above, I changed, so you can too. Problem is, I changed, not the things I have to do at work. If the paradigm of corporate services is command and control, and it is, they don’t naturally want to be the complete opposite of what they already are.

I wasted years trying to persuade people around me, performance and policy people like me, but got absolutely nowhere. They are the hardest of the hard. The Praetorian guard of command and control. Not them personally, but because they a human being in a job that depends on and is defined by command and control.

‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it’- Upton Sinclair

This entry was posted in command and control, learning, public sector, thinking and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to An open letter to corporate colleagues EVERYWHERE!

  1. Maz Iqbal says:

    The title of your blog says it all. The folks that you are pointing at may not be ‘thinking purpose’ yet they are ‘acting in alignment with purpose’. And your end quote sums it up beautifully.


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Oddly when i was typing this post I forgot that out of those 3 out of those 5 functions I listed had been out-sourced before Christmas to a private sector provider. I forgot! That’s the fast moving world of Local Government for you.


  2. great stuff……yep, been there, done some of that, felt pretty awkward too. What i also recall is a great article from a few years ago about SMART THINKING, ie, the mindset the good and the great think themselves into that says, far better to critique, delay, pontificate, dazzle with erudition than simply say…..yes, let’s give it a go.


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