back to site

Like Hitting a Rolled-up Sock

June 14th 2009

A golfing friend of mine uses these words to describe a bad golf shot where the ball doesn’t travel very far. This is what it can be like when you try to fight the System. Unfortunately the people who just want to build and defend their own nests – I call them ‘termites’ - are everywhere. They populate Parliament, local and central Government, the learned professions, academia, the unions, banking and commerce - united by one simple notion ‘You watch my back and I’ll watch yours.’

This forms the System!

Let me cite an experience outside my dealings with central and local government.

Many years ago I chaired an Action Committee in the UK Furniture and Carpet Industry, representing leading manufacturers and retailers. It was formed in response to Government criticisms of the industry, in particular its failure to offer the consumer a quality product and quality service. Out of this was born the Qualitas Conciliation Service, (now the Furniture Ombudsman). But we came up with a bigger package than that. It required all upholstery to be tested for performance. It required a labeling scheme complete with icons to advise the consumer how to select and use their furniture.

When the Government of the day removed the threat of legislative intervention, the termites in the industry and its Trade Association took over. And nothing came of it. They said they cared. Some did. Most didn’t. And many of them have gone out of business since. They thought the bottom line was one year’s net profit.

The very bottom line is whether a company meets its customers’ needs – or not.

Those who have read earlier Posts will recognise this. The importance of meeting individual needs is a familiar theme.

Let me describe another experience. I chair a care home for the elderly. They are regularly inspected by the authorities. The staff happen to be very good anyway, legitimately wearing the badge of excellence that they have been awarded. But these inspections keep them on their toes, the unannounced ones especially so. There are no termites in this care home as a result.

Sometimes the System does get it right. It should do so more often.