Mindworks’ Weblog

Thinking Matters

Tick-box mentality

Posted by Andrew Cooper on December 2, 2008

An editorial comment in today’s Guardian points out that the tragic case of Baby P was in part due to Haringey council using ‘…the very system designed to monitor its performance to disguise its failure.’

Anyone who has seen a school preparing for an OFSTED inspection will understand the problem.  A general unwillingness to admit that there are things which we might call ‘problems’ is, to my mind, part of the problem.  Imagine how the crew of Apollo 13 might have behaved if their primary concern was to give the impression that everything was fine.

What they actually said:

Swigert: ‘Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.’
Duke: ‘This is Houston. Say again please.’
Lovell: ‘Houston, we’ve had a problem. We’ve had a main B bus undervolt.’

How much weaker that would have sounded in 21st Century UK public-service-speak:

Swigert: ‘Okay, Houston, we have some issues.’
Duke: ‘Pardon me?’
Swigert: ‘We have some issues around the main B bus.’
Duke: ‘What sort of issues?’
Swigert: ‘Potentially rather serious issues, going forward’ etc.

Things would have turned out rather differently, don’t you think?

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