Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Target Practice

I have been chatting to nice Mr. Hopi Sen about targets … do look at his blog he is such a good writer . Sadly he is still convinced of the wisdom of Brownite targets .....

Against Targets :

It is not so much detail of Hopi`s piece as the direction such thinking would imply . It would, for example, imply an end to private provision, as this will respond to commercial pressure and elude top down manacles .It would imply an end to varied and independent schooling as this is specifically designed to avoid the dead clammy hand of state . It is in fact 'Brownism' and if you look at tomorrows ICM Poll you will seewhy , firstly ,I say right or wrong , you might as well forget it. …Brown is dead in the water ; time to move on. I do have more imprtnat objections than fashion though. Some examples ..

Mr Blair placed a target for LA s to collect a certain quantity of recyclable waste ( or rather the EU did but I digress..) , Many authorities insisted residents separated their waste and thus met their targets . There was , however, a shortage of depots so some LA s ended up putting the recyclables back in with the rest whist collecting their bonus for having achieved “collection”

The RAEs were intended to justify University funding by measuring research. Well all the universities soon became adept at playing that game and made costly changes for the sake of funding. As the level remained uniform ,however ,no information was acquired by the system, and the same pot was shared in ignorance of a now distorted system. Targets for deaths in operation lead to an unwillingness to take on dangerous operations .and on it goes…. How tempting to imagine a better target and it would al work …this is the Brown trap.

Theoretically it might be possible in the NHS , say by the provision of a gigantic and costly data base , to get enough information and be reactive enough to fine tune at all times .The expense is prohibitive though and the complexity itself soon reaches a point of negative return as no-one understands it . This is a common complaint as erosion responsibility and devalues decisions and the workers themselves . This why we have the odd phenomenon of the Public Sector turning on their paymasters .They are insulted daily from teacher to Doctor to Policeman

What about safety in the workplace . On construction sites certain levels of competence are require and in order to escape Prosecution it is handy to be able to demonstrate that the Company provided the training and the employee was indeed trained . Such is the legal “Terror “ that Companies are now able to buy software that automatically provides the training in accessible modules and requires the employee to sign off his having watched and learnt. The soft ware logs what is in effect a ‘hold harmless’ from employee to Company.

The perverse result is that the sum of knowledge held by real people reduces as does the level of safety over time , the legal responsibilities of the Company will soon shrink to 19th century proportions . Again this is quite real and accounts for the rise in Industrial accidents of late ( not cuts in H and S funding as bureaucrats pretend). The FSA has had much the same effect on Financial services eventually and it was their hopeless tick box approach that allowed Northern Rock to sail unnoticed into trouble although the market had noticed some time before. This was a directly attributable to Brown reforms
.Now any private company would use models as aids but in real competition these models are themselves subject to cumulative evolution. The Conservatives as I see it wish to reincorporate human knowledge into systems . This need not be a market but might equally be something developing over time like Common Law.
What I think , Hopi objects to is that on the ground politicians of all Parties will be averse to advocating a sort of Laissez faire for health or education. It is so much easier rhetorically to bang your fist and talk about funds , targets and plans . Nonetheless we must move from the IBM mega computer into the PC age of interacting units .It is my belief that the people feel in their water that Brownism has been tried and failed .

The Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and food ( MAFF) in 2002 met 10 of its 13 targets . Sadly one of the three targets it missed was to prevent the outbreak of serious disease .

Never mind it did all the easy ones before it was dismantled

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