What have the Romans ever done for us!!

Biggus DicusFor those of you Python fans out there, I suspect the title of this post draws a smile of recollection from you. It draws out a big hearty grin from me.

For those of you who don’t know what I am writing about (and for those who do…but would like to relive the moment – go on, you know you want to!), here’s the famous clip from the Monty Python film ‘The Life of Brian’:

What have the Romans… (1 min. 25 secs)

This clip was triggered in my mind the other day when pondering how people collect and use data in reports (I had just seen one that offended my sensibilities!). I get frustrated when I point out a serious fault within a report and the response I get is “yes, but apart from that….”

Here’s my attempt at a Python-like response:

Leader (John Cleese): Look at what this report is telling us!”

Minion 1: “…but we don’t have enough data to know what’s actually happening.”

John Cleese: What?”

Minion 1: “We are only using a couple of data points to compare. This tells us virtually nothing and is likely to be highly misleading.”

John Cleese: “Oh. Yeah, yeah. We have only got this month vs. last month. Uh, that’s true. Yeah.”

Minion 2: “…and we’re using averages – we’ve got no idea as to the variation in what is happening.”

Side kick 1 (Eric Idle): “Oh, yeah, averages, John. Remember some of the mad decisions we’ve made in hindsight because of averages?”

John Cleese: “Yeah. All right. I’ll grant you that our lack of data over time and the use of averages makes our report a bit suspect.”

Minion 3: “…and, even if we did have enough data points and could see the variation, we don’t understand the difference between noise and a signal (common and special cause variation)”

John Cleese: “Well, yeah. Obviously we don’t want to be caught tampering. I mean, understanding the difference between common and special cause goes without saying doesn’t it? But apart from a lack of data, (miss)using averages and tampering – ”

Minion 4: “We often compare ‘apples with pears’: Lots of the things we ‘hold people to account for’, they have virtually no ability to influence.”

Minion 5: “Much of the data we use is unrepresentative and/or coerced out of people, which makes any data biased.”

Minions: “Huh? Heh? Huh… “

Minion 6: “And we are focusing on one KPI and not seeing the side effects that this is causing to other parts of the system.”

Minions: “Ohh…”

John Cleese: Yeah, yeah. All right. Fair enough.

Minion 7: “and we are using targets, which are arbitrary measures that have nothing to do with the system and cause dysfunctional ‘survival’ behaviours from our people.”

Minions: “Oh, yes. Yeah… “

Side Kick 2 (Michael Palin): “Yeah. Yeah, our targets cause some pretty mad behaviours, John, and it’s really hard to spot/ find this out because our people don’t like doing ‘bad stuff’ and, as such, don’t like to tell us about it. Huh.”

Minion 8: “Our reports are focused on people (and making judgements about them), rather than on the process that they have to work within.”

Eric Idle: “And our people are ‘in the dark’ about how the horizontal value stream they work within is actually performing, John.”

Michael Palin: “Yeah, they only know about their silo. Let’s face it. If our people knew how the horizontal flow was actually doing, they’d be far more engaged in their work, more collaborative (if we removed some of the management instruments that hinder this) and therefore far more able and willing to continually improve the overall value stream.”

Minions: “Heh, heh. Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh.”

John Cleese: All right, but apart from a lack of data, (miss)use of averages, tampering, comparing apples with pears, biased data, focusing on one KPI, the use of arbitrary targets, reports focused on judging people, and our value workers being ‘in the dark’….Look at what this report is telling us!”

Minion 9: We’re using activity measures (about outputs), rather than seeing the system and its capability for our customers (about outcomes).

John Cleese: Oh. Seeing the capability of the system from the customers’ point of view? SHUT UP!

  • THE END –

In short, many (most?) organisations are terrible when it comes to measurement. They are stuck in a weird ‘conventional reporting’ world. Perhaps this is a blind spot in our human brains?

‘Statistics’ is a word that strikes fear into the hearts and minds of many of us. I’m happy to admit that I’m no expert. But I think we should have a healthy respect for data and how it should and should not be used. I’ve heard many a manager raise their voice to say that they have the data and so can ‘prove it!’…and then go on to make inferences that cannot (and should not) be justified.

(Personal view: I think that it is better to be mindful (and therefore cautious) of our level of competence rather than blissfully ignorant of our incompetence, charging on like a ‘Bull in a china shop.’)

Where to from here?:

I’ve previously written a few posts in respect of measurement. I’ve linked a number of them in the skit above or in the notes below. Perhaps have a (re)read if you’d like to further explore a point I’m attempting to make.

…and here’s a reminder of the brilliant Inspector Guilfoyle blog that is dedicated to measurement. He writes nice ‘stick child’ stories about the mad things we do, why they are mad…and what a better way looks like.

Some closing notes on some of the ‘reporting madness’ points made above:

Binary Comparisons: Here’s a really great explanation of the reasons why we shouldn’t use a couple of data points: Message from the skies

Averages: If you don’t understand the point about averages, then have a think about the following quote: “Beware of drowning in a river of average depth 1 metre.” (Quoted by John Bicheno in ‘The Lean Toolbox’)

Variation: Deming’s red bead experiment is an excellent way to understand and explore the point about variation that is inherent in everything. I’ve written about variation in (what happens to be my most read post to date): The Spice of Life

Tampering: This comes about from people not understanding the difference between common and special cause variation. I wrote a specific post about the effects of tampering on a process: Tampering

Biased data: There are loads of reasons why data collected might be biased. The use of extrinsic motivators (as in contingent monetary incentives) is a BIG one to consider and understand.

Targets: John Seddon  is the place to go if you want a deeper understanding of the huge point being made. His book ‘Freedom from Command and Control’ is superb. Also, see my post The trouble with targets.

Capability measures: I believe that this point can take a bit to understand BUT it is a huge point. I wrote Capability what? In an attempt to assist.


School boy debating society

donald-trump…so I was in a room with a few Executives who had ‘spared me some of their time’ to allow a discussion about how I could help them move their organisation towards its stated purpose.

I said something and almost immediately one of the Executives leapt back with a seemingly clever (or was that merely ‘conventional’) and forceful counter. He then looked at me in such a way as to imply that:

  • what I had said was clearly very stupid; and
  • my lack of immediate and razor-sharp response to his challenge proved that he was right.

The implication was that I didn’t know ‘as much’ as him (as in “Silly boy, you are wasting my time…best go away until you can justify being before me”). There was no consideration that I (might) know different things to him.

I took a moment, I pondered what he had said, I thought about what I had said and I provided a reasoned response.

…and he leapt back with another counter, getting more animated and looking around the room at his fellow executives for emotional support. They (quite naturally) returned some smirks to him, translated as clear and obvious agreement with what he was saying.

I quickly realised that this had (unexpectedly) escalated, that my original comment had not fitted into his current world view and that there was no way that I would alter his thinking by attempting a short verbal rational explanation…so I politely said words to this effect and attempted to move on.

..and so he and the Executives sat back with smiles on their faces, looking smug that they had ‘won the argument’ – and that they were clever, and clearly more so than this upstart before them.

Hang on a minute! ‘Won the argument’? Who said there was an argument? It certainly wasn’t supposed to be (Cue Monty Python ‘argument’ sketch).

I suspect that such meetings with ‘command and control’ executives are all too common.

I compare them back to what I imagine to be the format of public school boy debating societies:

  • you have a position which must be pushed, and defended, at all costs;
  • you’ve got a fixed time to put your point across;
  • there will be a vote at the end to determine a result;
  • there is glory to be seen as the winner;
  • there is mirth to be shown to the loser, who will be considered ‘weak’; and
  • once the debate is over, it is ‘case closed’.

Note: None of the above was actually a surprise to me. I know about different worldviews, about rational vs. normative change and about the boomerang effect*.

(* the unintended consequences of an attempt to persuade resulting in the adoption of an opposing position instead).

The reasons for writing this post are merely to share:

  • the similarity between exchanges with ‘command and control’ executives and school boy debating; and
  • how easy it is for such a well meaning ‘rational’ conversation to descend into a head-to-head ‘win or lose’ argument.

…oh yes, and as some form of therapy for me 🙂


To all those executives out there:

If you are an executive and people put forward ideas that differ to your own, I’d humbly suggest you see this as a (free, yet valuable) opportunity to self-develop and improve (rather than protect) your world view.

As a point of fact: If the person in front of you believes differently to you then there must be reasons for this…and it could be very useful for you to consider and understand why…and thus mature and/or expand (rather than defend) your thinking.

False Economies

chasing moneySo I expect we have all heard the phrase ‘Economies of Scale’ and have a view on what is meant.

The phrase is probably covered within the first pages of ‘Economics 101’ and every ‘Beginner’s book of management’. I think the idea has even leaked out of these domains and is used in every-day parlance. It is seen merely as ‘common sense’*.

(* please read and reflect upon a hugely important quote on ‘common sense’ when you get to the end of this post)

So what is the thinking behind ‘Economies of Scale’?

Let’s start at the beginning: Why is it said that we benefit from ‘economies’ as an organisation grows larger?

The idea in a nutshell: To run a business you need resources. As you grow, you don’t necessarily need a linear increase in those resources.

Basic example: A 1-man business premises needs a toilet (if he needs to go, well he needs to go). But when the next person joins the growing company he doesn’t get his own personal toilet written into his ‘remuneration package’. No, he has to share the existing toilet with his fellow employee. You can see this logic for lots of different things (one building, one IT system, one HR manager….), but I reckon a toilet is about as basic as it gets.

The theory goes that as the volume of output goes up* then unit costs come down (where unit cost = total cost/ units of output).

(* I’m writing generally now…I’ve moved on from toilet humour 🙂 )

It should be noted that the classical economists that came up with the theory did accept the idea of ‘diseconomies of scale’: that of costs rising as growing organisations become more complex, more bureaucratic…basically harder to manage.

You’ll likely see all this expressed in economics text books with a very simple diagram (below) and, voila, it is surely so!

economies of scale

Getting into more specifics about the phenomenon, three distinct reasons are given for those scale economies:

  • Indivisibility: Some resources aren’t divisible – you can’t (easily) have half a toilet, a quarter of a receptionist, 1/8th of a manager and so on.
  • Specialisation along with Standardisation: this reason goes way back to the writings of Adam Smith and his famous book called ‘The Wealth of Nations’ (1776). In it, he used the example of a pin factory to explain the concept of ‘the division of labour’. He explained that one person performing all the steps necessary to making a pin could perhaps make only 20 pins a day but if the pin-making process were broken up into a series of limited and standardised operations, with separate people performing them in a joined-up line, productivity could rise to thousands of pins per day per worker.
  • Machinery: Investing in ever larger machines mean that they can turn out more and at a faster rate…and our beloved unit costs come down. In service organisations the equivalent could be a ‘bigger, better’ telephone system, IT system,…etc.

Sounds like a water tight case to me – ‘Economies of scale’ proven, case dismissed!

Not so fast…a few dissenting voices:

“All the above seems to be about managing our costs? We are concerned about where this might lead – shouldn’t we be first and foremost focused on delivering value to our customers?”

“We’ve got really low unit costs at lots of our activities…and we keep on making ‘economies of scale’ changes to get them even lower…but this doesn’t seem to be reducing our total costs (they remain annoyingly high)…are we missing something?”

“Gosh, that ‘economies of scale’ average cost curve looks so simple…so all we need to know is when we are at the optimum size (Q) and stop growing. Easy! Can someone tell us when we reach that point? How about a nice warning signal when we are getting close? What do you mean it’s just ‘theoretical’ and no-one actually knows?!”

“I’ve heard that ‘behavioural economics’ is debunking a central assumption within Adam Smith’s classical economic ideas. Apparently we are all human beings (with our own unique purposes), not rational robots!” (Nice link: Who cooked Adam Smith’s dinner?)

“We don’t make pins. We are a service organisation. We have much variety in demand and our customers are ‘co-producers’ within our process…specialisation and standardisation can do much harm to them, and therefore us!”

Meanwhile, on another planet…

Taiichi Ohno developed the Toyota Production System (TPS). In so doing, he used totally different thinking, with profound results.

(Note: Historians have identified a core reason for this difference in thinking as the heavily resource-constrained context that Japan found itself in after the 2nd world war. This was in complete contrast to 1950s America that had an abundance of resources and booming customer demand. In short, Ohno had to think differently to succeed.)

The big difference – Flow, not scale, as the objective: Ohno concentrated on total cost, not unit costs. He realised that, first and foremost, what matters is how smoothly and economically a unit of demand is satisfied, from initial need through to its completion (in the eyes of the customer).

The flow is everything that happens between these points and, as well as all the value-adding steps, this includes:

  • all the time that nothing is happening (a huge proportion of a traditional process)
  • all the steps that occur but shouldn’t really need to (i.e. they are non-value adding);
  • all the repeat and/or additional steps needed because something wasn’t done right; and (the worst of all)
  • everything needed to be done when the customer returns with the good or service as not being acceptable (where this could be days, weeks or even months later)

There’s no point in a particular activity being made ‘efficient’ if this is detrimental to the flow.

‘Economies of scale’ thinkers (and their management accountants) are obsessed with how much each activity costs and then targeting reductions. Their belief is that, by reducing the costs of each activity, these aggregated savings will come off the bottom line. Such thinking has led to:

  • ‘large machine thinking’ (which also relates to centralisation/ shared services);
  • ‘batch thinking’ to make these resources work (allegedly) more efficiently;
  • ‘push thinking’ to keep these resources always working – high utilisation rates are king; and
  • inflexibility due to highly specified roles and tasks

…which cause a huge amount of waste and failure demand.

Ackoff made incredibly clear in his systems TED talk (using the automobile as his example) that trying to optimise the components of a system will not optimise the system as a whole. In fact, the reverse will be true and we can expect total costs to rise.

Rather than trying to get the cost of a specific activity down, Toyota (and other system thinkers) focus on the end-to-end horizontal flow (what the customer feels). This is a different (systemic) way of thinking and delivers far better outcomes.

It is no coincidence that Ohno is also credited with much of the thinking around waste. It is only by thinking in terms of flow that waste becomes visible, its sources understandable, and therefore its reduction and removal possible.

In short, Cost is in flow, not activity.

Flow thinking has led the design of systems to:

  • ‘right-size thinking’ and ‘close to customer thinking’;
  • ‘single-piece flow thinking’;
  • ‘pull thinking’; and
  • handling variety ‘in the line’ thinking (Note to self: a future post to be written)

These all seem counter-intuitive to an ‘economies of scale’ mindset, yet deliver far better outcomes.

(How) does this apply to service?

Okay, so Ohno made cars. You might therefore question whether the above is relevant to service organisations. Here are examples of what the ‘Economies of scale’ mantra has given us in service, broken down into comments on each of specialisation, standardisation, centralisation and automation:

Specialised resources: Splitting roles into front, (middle) and back offices; into demand takers (and ‘failure’ placators), transactional processors, back room expert support teams and senior ‘authorisers’…meaning that:

  • we don’t deal with the customer when/ where they want;
    • causing delay, creating frustration – which needs handling;
    • incorrect setting of customer expectations;
    • unclear ownership, leading to the customer having to look out for themselves
  • we have multiple hand-offs;
    • causing batching, transportation, misunderstandings, re-work (re-reading, re-entering, repeating, revising);
    • we break a unit of value demand into separate ‘work objects’ which we (hope to) assign out, track separately, synchronise and bring back together again (…requiring technology);
  • we collect information to ‘pass on’ (…requiring technology)
    • often passing on incomplete and/ incorrect information (or in Seddon’s words “dirty data”), which escalates to the waste of dealing with the defects as the unit progresses down the wrong path;
  • we categorise, prioritise, allocate and schedule work around all these roles (…requiring technology)
  • …all of the above lengthens the time to deliver a service and compromises the quality of the outcome, thus generating much failure demand (which we then have to deal with)

Standardised activities: Trying to achieve a standard time (such as Average Handling Times) to perform a standard task (using standard templates/ scripts) that appears to best fit with the category that ‘we’ (the organisation) jammed the customer into

  • rather than listening to the customer’s need and attempting to deliver against it (i.e. understanding and absorbing customer variety);

Centralisation: Seeing ‘shared services’ as the answer using the “there must be one good way to do everything” mantra.

  • creating competition for shared service resource between business units and the need for SLAs and performance reporting;
  • requiring some ‘super’ IT application that can do it all (“well, that’s what the software vendor said!”);
  • ‘dumbing down’ the differences between services (and thus losing the so-called ‘value proposition’)
  • loosening the link between the customer and the (now distant) service.

Automation: Continually throwing Technology at ‘the problem’ (usually trying to standardise with an ‘out of the box’ configuration because that will be so much more efficient won’t it) and, in so doing, creating an ever-increasing and costly IT footprint.

Whilst technology is amazing (and can be very useful), computers are brilliant at performing algorithms (e.g. calculations and repetition) but they are rubbish at absorbing variety, and our attempts at making them do so will continually create failure demand and waste.

In summary: ‘Economies of scale’ thinking is more damaging in service because of the greater variety in demand and the nature of the required outcomes.

To close:

This post isn’t saying that scale is wrong. It is arguing that this isn’t the objective. Much harm is, and has been, done by blindly following an activity focused logic (and the resultant ‘specialise, standardise, centralise, automate’ mantra)

Further, I get that some of you might say “you’ve misunderstood Steve…we aren’t all running around saying we must be big(ger)!”…but I’d counter that the ‘economies of scale’ conventional wisdom is implied in a relentless activity cost focus.

Put simply, “Economy comes from flow, NOT scale” (Seddon)

End notes

Beware ‘Common sense’:

“There is a time to admire the grace and persuasive power of an influential idea, and there is a time to fear its hold over us.

The time to worry is when the idea is so widely shared that we no longer even notice it, when it is so deeply rooted that it feels to us like plain common sense.

At the point when objections are not answered anymore because they are no longer even raised, we are not in control: we do not have the idea; it has us.” (Alfie Kohn)

Credit: The ‘Economies of scale’ explanation comes from reading a John Seddon paper.

Being fair to Adam Smith: He understood that the specialisation of tasks can lead to “the almost entire corruption and degeneracy of the great body of the people [the workers]. … unless government takes some pains to prevent it.” i.e. it might be great for the factory owners…but their workers are people, not machines.

Social workers, Sociopaths and Politicians

silence of lambsI have written a few posts to date about money and one thing that constantly comes up in the mainstream media is pay. I break these ‘news’ stories into three categories:

  • Pay for social workers;
  • Pay for sociopaths; and
  • Pay for politicians

Warning: This post is a bit political…sorry about that. Normal service will resume once I’ve got this one out of my system.

Social workers:

I am using the ‘social worker’ label in a very broad way and deliberately so. I am referring to those workers who provide incredible value to our society yet do not get paid mega bucks for doing so.

You know who they (and perhaps ‘you’) are – just look for the perennial ‘offenders’ in the eyes of the establishment* for complaining about their meagre pay. Yes, these are the health workers, teachers, emergency services (police, fire and ambulance) and so on.

(* as in “their Unions are being unreasonable again and are threatening to strike!”)

Here’s the thing I find interesting about these social workers – we all recognise that:

  • we want ‘the best’ people in these roles: we have a vested interest since they nurture, develop and care for us!
  • (virtually*) all of them ‘bust a gut’ in their roles, doing far more than most of us should expect of them (or might do ourselves); and yet
  • for the value they provide to our society, the effort they put in and sacrifices they make, they aren’t paid well.

* sure, you’ll find the odd incompetent or bad egg but this is surely so in every walk of life. This can be an issue of selection but, more likely, of what ‘the system’ has done to them/ turned them into.

Classical economic doctrine would hold that, if you want the best, you have to pay for it. Further, if you don’t, then they will swap to complimentary careers that pay better.

But here’s the interesting thing: the vast majority of these social workers stay and soldier on in spite of the pay and conditions (i.e. the ideological policies handed down to them by politicians who have little real knowledge about what they are commanding).

This got me thinking: There is clearly an error in this supply/demand economic model. If I’m a social worker (using my wider definition), poorly paid, working long hours, and could get, say, an admin. job on similar money and far less stress…why do I stay and put up with this sh1t?!

Here’s my answer: Because they are paid in more than money – they are doing something that meets with their purpose (i.e. gives them great personal satisfaction). This, to them, is worth more than the monetary alternatives on offer.

And here’s the catch-22:

  • We want people like this to be doing social worker jobs! We don’t want people doing it ‘for the money’, we want people to be doing it because of the good that they do;
  • However, it would be very easy for society at large to take advantage of such people (in fact we do!), paying them poorly knowing that they can’t easily leave a job that they love.

I think society has to be thankful for, be respectful of, and do all it can to protect and support such people. This means:

  • providing them with a decent standard of living so that they can do as much good as possible, and not have to worry about the roof over their heads, the food in their bellies, the clothes on their backs and the bringing up of their families; and
  • listening to them, to use their undoubted passion and expertise to make our world a better place.


So, clearly, I put this group forward as a sort of opposite to the social worker. As usual, I want to get my terms right so here’s a definition:

“Sociopath: a person with a psychopathic personality whose behaviour is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.“ (Dictionary.com)

I then turn my attention to executives and their pay. Here’s an illuminating graph:


Bizarrely, rather than being ashamed of this graph, many an executive uses it as justification to lobby for more pay from their boards!

“Look at what he/she gets in comparison to me…it’s not fair – I need a pay rise!”

This is merely a never ending race-to-the-top argument.

Indeed, I know of one (Antipodean based) executive using it to argue that their high pay isn’t an issue because “look at the Americans!”. Yes, you poor thing – it’s all soooo unfair.

We are fed the line that they (the executives) are brilliant, that only they could do the job and as a result, their pay is totally rational and justifiable.

Even more weirdly, if a good candidate for leading an organisation told its board that they would do the job for far less pay than what the market was demanding, the board would likely think that they surely can’t be up to it!

Here’s a test for any board:

Test: Advertise the top jobs to people in the company for, say, 10x workers pay, see who applies and find the best one.

Likely outcome: The person selected may very well be someone with great passion, leadership and humility…where money wasn’t the driver…you know, where they truly believed in the organisation’s purpose and are willing to bust a gut to strive towards it.

Executives have conned us into believing that, unless they are being paid mega-bucks, then they clearly aren’t competent to hold the job…what a topsy-turvy way of thinking.

Worse still – the majority of executives preside over command-and-control management regimes as if this were a good thing. It is, for them…but not for their employees, customers and (as a result) their shareholders*.

(* If you want to know why this is so then this is the subject of virtually all the other posts on this blog.)

Some daring thoughts:

  • if a job is so big that it really is so hard and complex that it is worth millions of dollars in pay…then the job is too big and needs breaking down into many roles.
  • just because a person happens to be brilliant at something doesn’t mean that we need to shower them with riches.
    • Who believes that the best teacher in this country (who shapes hundreds of lives daily over a dependably long and loyal career) should be paid many millions per year? Anyone?
  • the person who says that they need to be paid millions or else they won’t do it is likely not the best fit for an organisation – they aren’t really in it for the organisation’s true purpose, they are in it for themselves.
    • It’s no surprise that founders live and breathe their company – it is most likely about their passion rather than the money.

Cor, that’s all a bit controversial….I’ll be accused of being a socialist next….and then it’s not too far down the spiral to be branded a communist…I’ll get my coat!

Here’s a theory: If you are paid, say, 50+ times the amount of your workers and you think this is justified then you are a sociopath.

(Corollary: If you get paid this much and don’t think it’s justified then you are likely unhappy in yourself, with feelings of guilt, which isn’t very healthy for you)

Why do I put this theory forward?

  • you think that you are better than everyone else (with your sense of extreme entitlement); and/or
  • you have an unhealthy relationship with money (and are excellent at rationalising why you need it).

And, just to head you off from the ‘communist’ label you may be lovingly making for me right now, here’s where I turn sideways, go all Zen and pull out one of my favourite quotes:

“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple.

And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.” (Alan Watts)

Or, put into this context: sure we need enough to cover our basic needs but, after that, money cannot buy happiness. I’m pretty sure there’s been a song or two written about that?


And finally, I’ve saved the best till last!

This post wasn’t really about sociopaths, and it doesn’t matter whether you agree with my logic above or not (my views, whilst reflecting what I currently think, are just a red herring)…but it was necessary to set executives up for comparison purposes because this is what is done for and by politicians.

Back in February of this year, we had the all too common comedy of MP’s being awarded a hefty pay rise by an ‘independent’ body and then the leaders of political parties desperately trying to distance themselves from said pay rise.

Setting the scene: MPs in democracies around the world realised a while back that they were on a sticky wicket when it comes to their pay…so they create an ‘independent pay authority’ to take pay rises out of their hands…and then they can say “erm, I’m not asking for it but they think I deserve it – what can I do?”

Then some MPs aim to look pious by being seen to be ‘turning down’ a portion of their pay rise.

The MPs independent pay authority becomes the scape goat but, with some justification, argues in reply that ”it’s fulfilling its obligations, set by Parliament, that include relativity with comparable positions, recruiting and retaining competent individuals and any prevailing adverse economic conditions.”

The underlying scam: The ‘independent’ part of the pay authority sounds good in practise but what are its terms of reference? What is the job that it has been given to do? It has been set up on the same basis as boards considering executive pay.

  • To use money to ‘get the best’ (as in “if we don’t pay them well, they won’t come”); and
  • To compare, which includes against the corporate world (as in “look what a private sector CEO gets – MPs are at least as important as them!”);

The comedy:

“I think there are two sorts of MP: those who see being an MP as a public service and know what they are there to stand up for, and those who see it as a conveyor belt to a private-sector job after two terms and a spell in government. There seem to be many more of the latter these days” (Quote from a backbench British MP, Source: Owen Jones’ book ‘The Establishment’)

Sure, have pay set independently, but with what objectives? …which points directly to THE question to be answered:

Who do we want our Politicians to be compared with? Social workers or sociopaths?

…and whatever your answer is, will be what you will get.

Good luck to all of us with that!


  1. The best teacher: If (as unlikely as it seems) you are a politician reading this, I’m only theorising – PLEASE don’t think you should now rush off and hire some consultants to supposedly come up with a measure for this!!!
  2. Addendum: As I look ‘in’ at the current wonder that is the American electoral process, I see the following candidates for President: a gaggle of smooth politicians, 1 social worker and 1 sociopath. It sure is an interesting one – Go America, see what you can do…but (for the sake of the rest of the world) please consider what I write above. No pressure! Thanks in advance 🙂