There Wouldn’t Be a Cost of Living Crisis if We Had Better Management

February 17, 2022 | By Paul Mackenzie Ross | Filed in: business, philosophy.

Things go up. Things go down. When this happens along a historical timeline you can see that it’s cyclical.

Stock market sentiment, share prices, inflation, interest rates and economic activity in general are all examples of systems that are subject to ebbs and flows in fortunes. Ultimately economies are just rather large businesses, made up of private ventures and state activity. As the small print on your financial statements say; “The value of investments can go down as well as up”.

I’m not here to dissect the boom and bust nature of private businesses, more look at the role of government in the management of UK plc.

The British economy, whilst being a collection of multiple businesses, from the sole traders to the FTSE 100 listed firms, is when you think about it a large business in itself. Think of a large shoal of fish; Whilst comprised of millions of individual creatures, the shoal tends to move as one. The fortunes of the country as a whole are dictated to a large extent by the actions of the government. After all, they are here to govern and that means everything from the level of tax we pay, who pays it and where the “big pot” we all pay into goes. Even on that relatively simple but hugely important concept alone, you can understand that it’s the government that have the biggest responsibility for every citizen’s quality of life.

With that burden of responsibility, the Government is liable for a lot of the overarching things that happen to the people of the United Kingdom.

Now, you could say that “smaller Government” allows us to me more self-directed and lose the “shackles” of a centralised decision-making body that may not always make the right decisions for individuals. The UK Government is supposed to act for the benefit of the electorate, on behalf of our democracy, and for the wellbeing of the nation as a whole. However, when 60% of the population vote for one party and 40% do not, then it doesn’t take much to realise that  over half of the nation’s populace “get what they want” whilst just under half do not. The case for smaller government is compelling when you look at our island nation from this perspective, especially when, for example, Scotland voted to remain in the EU whilst the larger UK did not. Scotland now has to abide by the wants of the English – hardly a (historically) fair direction for a so-called sovereign nation.

But the point I’m trying to make here is bigger than all this. Whilst I am an avid supporter of self-determination, there’s a broader framework which we all have to work within. It is this overarching structure that is for the common good not for the benefit of the few. This is where the UK Government, as custodians and managers of the public purse, have the most important duty to us all.

We all work hard (I hope) but better still work smart. For our collective toils, we all have to pay tax and national insurance. Contributing a proportion of our earnings towards a communal pot is quite natural and welcome. There will be those undeserving of taking their part out of the public purse, be they the lazy, the selfish or the greedy, but the vast majority of those who pay into the common account are good, deserving citizens.

What’s most contentious about public finance is who is in control of it? Who has their hands on the public pot and what are their intentions?

The political parties all have their own front-facing agenda. The Conservatives say they serve the wider public but, as their name suggests, are more for the preservation of the country’s antiquated social and class system. Labour, also according to nominative determinism, are at heart for the benefit of the many, but do they also actually serve the few?

You have only to look at the Wikipedia entries for party frontbenchers to see that their professional experience is dwarfed by their political aims. To have attended a top university or college, been fast-tracked into a position of power and then, after ten years, become a politician, is an arrogant level of conceit. That is not what the average UK citizen is. So to be represented by those who have more personal ambition than communal experience is huge injustice.

Of course, were we to be managed by those with only experience and no ambition, we may well be in a much better place. If that ambition is less personal and more civil, then that’s almost perfect, and just what the nation as whole is in desperate need of.

This is where the army of civil servants come in. They do an incredible job for the good of the whole, but in the end, it’s the ones in charge, the ruling political party, that does what it wants with the output of the civil service. Any political party can put its spin on the output of a non-political body.

Then the head of the body in charge is responsible for the direction of everything.

A privileged, Eton-educated, former journalist who could say what he wanted with impunity is in charge of the United Kingdom. He is our figurehead. What he says and does on the international stage reflects on approximately 70 million of us. What he says and does on the national stage is the same – he is supposed to be representative and a distillation of all of us, every single one of us.

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is very far removed from who I am. I suspect that Alexander Johnson is not aligned, professionally or academically, with a good 99% of the population, if not more.

So who does Mr de Pfeffel Johnson really represent?

That’s not to say I suddenly and instinctively want Sir Keir Starmer in power (Perpetrators of the right-wing Jim Saville conspiracy theory, are you listening?) but at least the man had a better professional track record. I’ve been a journalist in my time, and done well, it’s the most admiral profession. But to be rich, privileged, and a journalist is a bizarre anomaly. Sir Keir Starmer is left-wing but also partially privileged, however, he has used his intellect to benefit wider society as a human rights lawyer.

As for management – those in charge are managers. They sit back, take in the whole scenario in front of them the world that they see personally and that is presented to them by their team. Fundamentally, they distill and focus the data and insights on their desk, in their in-tray.

Management has the ultimate responsibility to make the right decisions. They have all the data, all the knowledge, all the insights. They can “see things coming” they can steer a course before headwinds strike us.

But do they?

We have to all ask this most critical, most pertinent question: Is the current management fit for purpose? Are those who make the decisions doing it for themselves their friends, their benefactors, or for all of us? Are they working for us, them or their friends? Who stands to benefit the most? Who will lose out?

We are all human and we can all be subjective as well as objective. Being aware of, and nurturing an ability to differentiate between the two, is vital. Are we being run and controlled by those who are just literal? Are those in power, those making the decisions, both blinkered (Narrow-minded) and short-sighted? That’s a huge limitation when one’s world view is both short and narrow. When the majority electorate have similar shortcomings, then we see the blind leading the blind, quite literally.

This is where the nation needs a collective vision. A visionary. It needs to broaden its horizons, wake up, smell the coffee, and realise there is tea too, and water*.

* Other healthy beverages are available.

Leadership and management needs to be from all of us for all of us.

Only then can the cost of living crisis be fully realised and better managed. Privileged journalists and hedge fund managers will not help us. By equal measure, I’m not convinced that lawyers will save us either. However, human rights lawyers have a certain humanitarian quality to them that brings them closer understanding and appreciating the values of the common man, and woman, than their advantageous education usually affords them.

Only when we have better management, that is in touch with the populace, the workforce, the aspirations of a nation, and of 70 million individuals, will this country be on track again. And that applies to all levels of management in between, from the micro business to SMEs, charities and corporates.

Be a better manager. Work with people, don’t expect them to work for you. That’s a soft management style, the soft skills are what it’s about. The tortoise wins the race, not the dictatorial hare.

I once accepted a job when I was asked “Do you want to work for me?” I said yes. Had I been true to my soul and my own personal management style, I should have said “No. But I will work with you.”

Collaboration not dictation is the way forward for all of us.

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