Monday, July 15, 2013


When we want something done in daily life, from a haircut to a new house to a holiday, we prefer to deal with diligent people. Not so much diligent institutions, but diligent people.

The person who cuts our hair, the people who build our new house or those whose personal diligence makes a memorable success of our holiday – these are the people we want to deal with aren't they?

Diligent institutions? Possibly, but institutions are not what we prefer to deal with when things go wrong. We prefer people, yet so often institutions usurp the diligence of their people and substitute processes. We want diligent people – they want processes. Processes which are supposed iron out the vagaries of personal diligence, because people sometimes screw up.

So do institutions of course, but when they screw up their people can’t always draw on their own diligence to put things right. Most would like to I suspect, but can’t. It’s the rules, the tick boxes. Sometimes diligence seems to have been extracted from them by the corporate machine and thrown away.

I’m reminded here of an issue I once had with my father’s gas bill. He paid by direct debit but suddenly received a bill for over £5000 and naturally I was keen to sort it out for him. On day one I got nowhere with corporate robots at the gas supplier, but overnight it snowed heavily and many people couldn’t get into work.

So I phoned the gas supplier again the following morning and spoke to a very pleasant lady who knew immediately that there had been a problem when my father changed supplier. She sorted it all out in no time. In fact it turned out that the supplier owed my father a refund because his direct debit was set too high.

I’d realised that anyone diligent enough to make it into work through the snow would be a better bet for sorting out my father's absurd bill and so it proved. I made a particular point of thanking her and she was pleased to have helped. Of course she was – being diligent.

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Sackerson said...

I like the point about process becoming elevated over getting the job done. This is dawning on the social services inspectorate, who made exactly that point with our Midlands authority (which has been under the cosh for some time).

Paddington said...

I do my best, and am constantly hindered by those above me, but not by those at or below my level in the organization (usually).