Einstein : Not everything that can be counted counts. And not everything that counts can be counted.

Saturday, 6 October 2007


I have recently visited a large organisation and sat a while in the plush surroundings awaiting the arrival of one of the directors for a bit of a chat.

We talked at length about the macro economy, micro economy and the social economy.
This guy had a degree in economics or someting technically superior to my grasp of reality. I found out that almost all of the consideration for most decisions was given to the first two and the social effects of many of these policies did not warrant full consideration.

The savings gained by employing less well trained staff turned into a financial loss which more than doubled that saved in the initial one off saving. This was by the increased training needed, new corporate uniforms, their inability to deal with a lot of the work they should really be able to do and as a result an increasing workload was placed on the shoulders of other employees, sometimes other departments, they even got new vehicles for christ's sake.

I found out that the Chairperson has become concerned about the job of her ordinary employees becoming submerged under a heavy bureaucratic burden.

She ( a she for the plot) has made several publicised statements explaining her desire to remove these unnecessary burdens in the hope of making things more efficient by removing this problem. She does not appear to have made this clear to her Directors and regional managers.

The Directors and regional managers still seem more concerned with statistics and targets as well as the heavy bureaucratic burden of multi-duplicated adminstration
that goes with such an important process. They regularly inform their staff of the importance of such targets and the deadlines for submission so that they can discuss these at their meetings.

I learnt that in the despatch department they were failing to meet their performance targets. They were all roundly flogged and a new and dynamic method was put in place to help their strategic strategy. They decided to increase the number of deliveries for the delivery department so they could be seen to be up to the mark and hitting their targets. The Director of the depatch department would get the credit for this dramatic increase in performance and service delivery.

At the next monthly meeting of the Directors, the Director in charge of delivery was roundly chastised because his (a he just for the plot) department had failed to meet their target and deliveries were delayed and some long overdue. He raised the issue of an increased delivery workload with no additional staff or vehicles. He had new adminstration systems put in place that he had not yet trained his department in. He agreed to see what could be done to increase his departments performance before the next meeting to ensure he was seen to be promoting the brand and the strategic corporate goals.

At the next meeting he announced that he had improved his performance target figures everyone seemed happy. He had done this by restricting his delivery staff to their old style of service delivery, in so much as their did one job at a time, did it well and with great care for their customers. His satisfaction figures were also back to their former levels. Even though the director had to take staff away from their prime functions to gather this statistical information, analyse it and forward it to other departments he was still able to improve his department's performance because his staff were dedicated, loyal and hard working. They covered for the loss of staff and made his department a success. The director got great praise from the Chairperson and a financial bonus as well. Well done.

Sadly, the despatch department incurred the wrath of the Chairperson as they had, again, fallen behind against their performance targets. I understand that they are thinking about reorganisation with their department as this is another new and radical way to sort out their problems. I believe that they may even consider a merger to help cut costs and make a considerable efficiency saving.

Does this sound at all familiar ?

As Einstein said, "Not everything that can be counted counts. And not everything that counts can be counted."

On my way out I saw that this company were recruiting, I also saw several vacancies advertised in the local press. I though about a bit of a career change but as I looked I saw that none of the posts were for the jobs I had expected from such a large organisation. They offered wonderful conditions but the prospect did not really appeal to me. I could facilitate, administrate, monitor a whole range of things, advise, ensure compliance of a whole range of other things, support and assist in other areas, work with multi-agencies, record things and work in a dedicated team managed by a team leader. Sadly none of this was what I really wanted to do.

Suddenly my interest faded and I tried to find my car in the vastness of car park central. Some jobsworth had put a ticket on my screen because I had allegedly parked in the wrong place even though I was at the car park extremities and there were actually some spare places, even on a Wednesday. CCTV would be examined and I would be informed of the consequences.


Annette said...

Oh yes, it's all about cutting costs, mostly cutting them in the wrong places.
I work for Asda and I can tell you, like many other places they are cutting costs. By that I mean not quite so many employees, only on the checkouts.That's the dept I work on. They want them on there of course.

You find yourself doing ten things at once and of course the quality you give is not as good as it should be because you haven't the time. That pus you under a lot of stress and strain.
You go home shattered.
That leads to illness and then dare have a day off!!
Someone, somewhere has got to come up with a better way of working not just for the employees but for the managers as well.

We never used have all this cost cutting and stress at work.
I can remember the days when work used to be fun. It wasn't that long ago.

Sorry you got a parking ticket though.
How annoying is that??

Metcountymounty said...

sounds like you were at NSY, or possibly visiting one of the rather large bluechip multinationals on the southbank that I once had the 'pleasure' of working for. Both buildings actually full of people more concerned about money than those people outside of their particular buildings.

Anonymous said...

I got to th 5th line before I `had a moment` and have now posted this and left. Suddenly my interest faded.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness that this was all just a work of fiction. It would be unbelievable to imagine that organisations like this exist.
Employing less well trained staff, having to uniform them, give them new vehicles etc....
No publisher would buy into this, it's too fanciful even for fiction.

What a nightmare this would be!


Emily Featherstone said...

Fact often is stranger than fiction - have a read of PC Bloggs' "Diary of an On-Call-Girl: True Stories from the Front Line" if you don't believe me. It is a brilliant book and utterly hilarious.
The people she meets and has to deal with had me shaking my head in disbelief. In fact I wouldn't have believed it if my friend, who is a police officer, hadn't said "have a read of this. This is just like my life!"

Emily Featherstone

sam said...

I take it you won't be transferring to us then :)

Steve_Roberts said...

In the bigCo world, such nonesense would lead to a drying up of income as customers took their business elsewhere and costs increased, causing a reduction in profits, causing cuts in dividends and the share price, followed by angry scenes at Board level, followed by replacement of one or more directors, and changes in policy - if necessary repeated until either competence is achieved at policy level, or the company is taken over by a more capable team. I deduce the organisation of which you speak is not answerable in those ways to customers and shareholders.