Monday, June 25, 2012

Stop the PPM NOW!

So the Australian Federal Parliament has gone into the winter recess without resolving the issue of desperate people trying to get a better life - refugees - by risking their lives on inadequate boats. I have no doubt that, despite the shows of emotion during the debates, we will now be regaled by blame apportioning - each side will blame the other for its intransigence and, no matter what the rhetoric, all will try to make political capital out of the fiasco and tragedy.

Our politicians are showing themselves exemplars of PPM - Piss Poor Management. They say that political points should not be made out of this. They claim to be interested in and concerned about the refugees. Then go and continue their puerile facade of blaming each other for a failure to stop the boats coming. Their behaviour belies their words. Their behaviour makes it clear that they don't give a damn about the refugees - they are interested only in their own political stance and the possibility of retaining or obtaining power. This applies to all the political parties in our Federal Parliament.

Like many others, I've had enough of the negativism from the Coalition opposition. I've had enough of the resolute refusal to consider any view but their own from the Greens. And I've had enough of the "do it my way" from the Labor government. And I've more than had enough of the rambling rhetoric of the radio and news media shock jocks who foster extremist views through their commentary on the refugees themselves and on any attempt to take a truly humanitarian stance in dealing with them. And I am totally fed up with the demonising of refugees coming by boat when, in reality, they comprise only a small proportion of the illegal migrants in Australia who have arrived legally, mainly by air, and then overstayed their visas.

It is not an offence to be a refugee. It is not an offence to flee from perceived persecution. It is not an offence to be so desperate that you get on an unseaworthy vessel, travel huge distances, and endure untold hardship in order to find a better life for yourself and your family.

After World War II we took in huge numbers of refugees from Europe. Some of what, today, are our most successful business operations were founded from amongst these numbers. After the Vietnam War we took in thousands of refugees. Today many of these are making their mark as valuable contributors to our society. What's different with these new people?

Part of the reason they are refugees is that we have helped destroy their homelands. We invaded Iraq on a lie; we invaded Afghanistan on a pretext; we are complicit in terrorising people in Pakistan's border areas through the use of drones that kill the innocent along with the possibly guilty. We rightly mourn the deaths of our own solidiers in these conflicts; we are rightly concerned at the physical and emotional injuries suffered by our soldiers in these conflicts - but what about the innocent victims - the "collateral damage" -in these countries. This is the source of the refugees. We share a significant proportion of the blame for their condition because we have contributed to their plight.

I understand that true leadership is a foreign concept to our politicians, but, just for once, it would be great to see them look at the really big picture then do the right thing - place genuine concern for these refugees that we have helped create ahead of their petty political posturing. Until they do that then the task given to former defence chief, Angus Houston, is the ultimate act of cynicism (and that's no reflection on Angus Houston - its just that he's not being set up for success.)

People are dying while politicians play games. That's Piss Poor Management at its worst.

Our politicians need to stop this PPM now.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Empires - building and destroying - high evidence of PPM

One of my neighbours used to be a Police Officer. From time to time we chat and set the world to rights - someone has to do it, and it might as well be us! Just the other day he raised the issue of empire building - the situation where managers become more concerned about their status and power than they are with results - consequently they add staff (full-time, part-time, casual, contract etc - it doesn't matter) rather than examining work practices and capabilities then considering these in light of the results to be achieved. Very often the impact of such actions is demotivation of good staff, under employment of many, reduced productivity (it takes more resources to achieve the same output), but increased remuneration for the manager because of the 'increase in responsibility'. As he says, he's seen it too often and, despite the rhetoric of organisations operating efficiently, it is one of the most common sources of frustration at the lower levels of organisations.

In part our discussion arose because of the recent statement by the NSW (Australia) Treasurer that, while currently embarking upon a reduction of 5,000 people from the NSW Public Service, a cut of another 10,000 is to be made in the next financial year. We've both seen it all before! Time and again politicians announce cuts to the Public Service, implement those cuts, demoralise and politicise the remaining workforce, then, when they are eventually ejected from power, leave behind a public service that is larger and, often, less efficient than the one with which they started. In the interim they've lost many really good people and much of the corporate knowledge that is really essential to avoid repeating past mistakes.

Empire building and empire demolition both tend to be indicators of PPM - Piss Poor Management. Both adding more staff and reducing staff levels are very often "easy way outs" for complex problems that managers don't want to confront. Rather than dealing with productivity issues, PPM will add staff even though there is current capability available. Similarly, rather than appropriately deal with serious systems problems its easier to make staff cuts then complain about the amount of leave accumulated by the reduced workforce that remains.

Lets consider a few issues in NSW. Removing graffiti costs the NSW rail service some $60 million a year. Road trauma in NSW costs $billions a year. Crimes such as breaking and entering, theft, burglary, malicious damage, etc cost individuals and insurers millions of dollars each year. The authorities admit that very few of these crimes are fully investigated or offenders arrested and charged because the resources available to Police and the like are inadequate.

There's an old saying that "prevention is better than cure" and another that advocates putting a fence at the top of a cliff rather than maintaining an ambulance at the cliff's foot. If NSW needs to save large amounts of money - and I fully accept that this is the case - then investing money in actions to prevent graffiti, to improve road safety (and speed cameras will never do this but improved roads, increased and obvious police presence, and better driving training will) and to prevent crime at all levels has the potential to save far more money than may be available from simply cutting public service numbers or reducing expenditure in areas such as education, social welfare services, etc. Unfortunately no politician of any flavour seems to understand this.

PPM indicates a lack of leadership. Beware both those who build empires to bolster their own egos and those who slash and burn staffing levels for short term expediency and to gain political points.

What do you think? Please post your comments below.

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