Thursday, 21 November 2013

Celebrity gossip

Snarking aside there's a serious - if unoriginal - connection between all the noise being made about the Reverend Paul Flowers, late of this parish the Co-Op Bank, and Boris Johnson's lafferble demand that we humbly recognise the inspired leadership of the rich and powerful as the only source of any prosperity which might trickle down to the ungrateful proles.

The underlying assumption in both cases, is that the prosperity and success of organisations and nations depend entirely on the innate superiority and f├╝hrerschaft of the glittering people at the top.

The Reverend Flowers didn't have the right stuff, therefore the Co-Op Bank crashed and burned. But the extinction level event that hit the Co-Op was the decision to merge with the Britannia, which was already in place before the scapegoat du jour was appointed. The liner was already heading full steam for an unavoidable collision with the iceberg when Flowers took the helm. A more experienced captain would have hit it just the same.

Conversely, if the Britannia deal hadn't gone ahead, the Co-Op might have been doing very nicely, thank you, in which case you could have put a monkey on a stick in the chairman's office and the we'd all still be admiring ├╝ber-monkey's inspirational leadership skills.

But what about the people who OK'd the Britannia deal? If Flowers wasn't to blame, surely better leadership from his predecessors would have saved it? Well, I don't hear any noisy suggestions that those decision-makers lacked the qualifications or banking experience to be making executive decisions in a financial organisation. And is any individual executive rushing to take sole credit for the merger decision? Unsurprisingly, no. But even if we did try to point the finger, I doubt whether we'd discover a sole executive culprit and not just because success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.

As I've noted, there was a long list of top names attached to the Britannia deal before anybody noticed how pear-shaped it already was. The people in the executive conference room may have been qualified and experienced, but that didn't seem to immunise them against poor collective decision-making and groupthink.

So why imagine that superstar captains of industry are keeping the boat afloat without any help from the rest of the crew? Especially when captains regularly ignore lookouts warning of icebergs ahead.

Never mind BoJo's assertion that if we'd all just shut up and let the top monkeys get on with running ruining things, everything would be just spiffing. Maybe if we started listening to and empowering the people at the coal face, somebody might actually notice when the pit props start collapsing. But that's unlikely to happen while the "news" agenda is dominated by noisy gossip about which top monkey's bottom is currently warming a cabinet or boardroom seat and which bad monkey has had the key to the executive banana cupboard taken away. Which is probably why beneficiaries of the status quo are rather keen on the deafening stream of trivia - it drowns out talk of real change.


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