Systems, Logic and Political correctness, Agggghhh!

I saw a news item that announced our productivity as a country was low compared to most of our economic rivals in the EU. I must say it didn’t surprise me very much. Running a small business here in the UK I can see evidence all around me when compared to 30 years ago when I first started my business. Systems now rule over common sense.

Traditionally we used to blame heath and safety for all of our silly rules and regulations for slowing down productivity and many a time I do come across situations where I ask myself “Really, is that actually necessary?”

But I want to offer an opinion here which might not be popular with some today. It isn’t just Health and Safety that has reduced productivity, human resources and political correctness has far out stretched H&S in slowing production.

Take for example a recent induction scheme I was shown for a local council. A job applicant who might be only starting a zero hours contract doing out of hours cleaning had to sit through a Powerpoint presentation with questions and answers on the structure of the council that was 2 hours long. This presentation included not only the important points of health and safety and how to raise a query with a line manager hidden deep inside but also what were the structures of relationships with other councils in the area, what was the aims of the council towards both the public and the staff. It’s diversity policy, its green values etc etc.

Now does a person looking for part-time work need to know all this? Do 99% of them have any interest in these grander ideals? They are probably more interested in knowing what hours they will be working, where the coffee machine is and when they get paid.

It’s not just the waste of time to the viewer that I’m highlighting here it’s a whole department having spent probably man months producing this 2 hour induction scheme that is the problem. Because this is time and months being spent on stuff that isn’t adding to the nations real productivity.

Unfortunately in some ways the UK being a nation that likes law and order, following rules and what we are traditionally best at – standing in queues we are not ideally suited to mentally cope with a Politically Correct world. Because we will adopt and include every aspect available to be inclusive at the detriment of efficiency and common sense.

This is why we aren’t really mentally suited to being in the EU, we are like one of the clubs junior officials that has read the rule book and tries to abide by every rule going where as the other general members seem to adopt just what suits them best.

It’s easy to list many further examples. Take a large building site I visited where a visitor is not allowed to attend for a meeting on site unless they have done the health and safety course, but they are only run in the morning. The meeting was for 3pm for more important reasons of site schedules. What a time waste that was having to attend the location twice.

Look at all the government department contracts I’ve applied for (and won in some cases) in the past where I’ve had to show I had a green policy for my organization. I’m a micro business with no employees what written systems do I need, once I’ve written them do I need to read them regularly? Does that make any sense? Computer generated tenders with tick boxes and backwards and forwards questions that has taken 100’s of people to develope where a contract could have been awarded after a couple of simple meetings or interviews.

It’s all about big companies and government organizations having data to show they are keeping within the law and being correct. Box ticking I believe the term is. It is dominant in our society because of political correctness to try to prove everything is fair and above board. Yet we can all see from yesterdays leak of papers from Panama that it makes no difference to the real corruption which is still where it always will be, at the top where the temptation and opportunities are most available.

Box ticking is hamstringing this country and reducing our efficiency. It takes a lot of man power and once you have a department or staff dedicated to organizing it then they will obviously continue to add to their output of systems to justify their jobs. We are loosing sight of reality in society and really do need a large infusion of old style common sense. Sense that the war generations seemed to have but we seem to be forgetting.

But is there a simple reason for this? We are doing more box ticking and using less human decision making. Computers are giving us a means to create systems that on the surface make things fairer but actually are these very systems limiting our ability to think for ourselves? It’s for computers that everything is broken down into box ticking exercises but has the tool become the master? Are we not becoming the society parodied by David Wooliams in his “The Computer says no” sketches. Is it not time to step back and relook at the big picture of why so much human logic has been superseded by systems?

It would be very easy to dismiss this view as the ravings of an old bloke who thought it was better in his youth. But as I watch our world change I feel sad that what’s on offer to my children is less than was available when I started. The evidence is there. Free further education, the ability for a normal person to buy a first house in London to name but two advances that have been reversed.

Political correctness and the rise of systems over decisions needs to be relooked at, it’s cancer to our productivity and success in the world.


Brian Russell

Copyright April 2016