You pull a lever and nothing happens. Tony Blair said this about his period in office but I think he was quoting President Bill Clinton. The point being that despite occupying very powerful positions both were frustrated by the long time delay between making a decision and seeing some action and on occasions pulling the levers of government and seeing no action. Cabinet members and Senior managers in local government would recognise this scenario or some of them would.
I was surprised that some of my colleagues were surprised that intelligence would regularly come back from the front line that nothing had changed. Supervision was still very adhock despite their decision that, “every one should have a one to one four weekly” , all offices were still not open to the public across the lunch hour and interview panels were still not routinely balance in terms of gender and race. The assumption was that saying something must happen would mean it would happen. This failed to take account of the issues involved in implementing the decision. Nor did it recognise that the decision may have to be sold as well as conveyed.
Leadership isn’t about making decisions but making things happen. Probably 80% of time is taken up in senior management and cabinet meetings discussing and arriving at decisions and less than 20% on how to ensure they are implemented.
Typically decisions are cascaded down through team meetings with little or no reference to the rational behind them. It is then up to the front line managers to get on and make it work. The Trade Unions may or may not have been consulted or simply informed of the decisions.
In theory the resource implications will have been identified but in practice the view will be that these decisions can be implemented within existing resources with a bit of creativity, flexibility and commitment. Trouble is this may not be forth coming if the decision is considered, “unworkable”. “Silly” or “plain wrong”.
This is the point where either senior managers continue in blissful ignorance that nothing has changed or get annoyed that people are ignoring their decisions. Of course sometimes senior managers don’t want to know that practical difficulties and opposition mean change hasn’t happened they’re content to point to their forward thinking policy documents. Until inspectors point out the gap between policy and practice.
Blair Mcpherson former director, author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk