Imagine you are a shopkeeper. You earn your living by the shop being open & by you selling your wares.
That is one of the reasons that Asian run corner shops survive & seemingly thrive whilst traditional shops seem to close.
I live on the edge of London, many if not most people living where I do commute by train or tube to their jobs in Central London or drive round the North Circular Road to get to work. Few people work locally to where they live. By locally, I mean so they have a commute of less than 15 – 20 mins.
In the past people worked closer to home and most women did not have employment outside of the burden of child care. They would visit the local shops during the daytime.
This has a significant effect on the ability of people to visit the local shops if they only open from 9-5. The Asian shopkeepers recognise this & you will find their shops open until late so the local population can visit them & spend money after they get home from work.
Sadly too many shopkeepers have not realised this & open from 9-5 when their target customers are not around.
The shops could increase their takings without increasing their opening hours if they responded to the cultural changes by for example changing their opening hours from 9-5 to say 12-8. They still open 8hours a day but are now open when customers can visit. The big supermarkets & DIY stores have responded to these changes & open late & as a result thrive.
So, what’s this got to do with the title? Well bear with me (bare with me if you fancy) & I will try to get to the point.
Now, as we have hopefully established, as a shopkeeper you need to be open when your customers need you.
Imagine the said shopkeeper shutting for regular days/ parts of days to have team meetings or to discuss drawing up new policies on equality & diversity or to decide what appropriate behaviour is.
Every hour the shop is shut, money is being lost. I’m not suggesting these sort of issues are unimportant, but a prudent businessman would fit these sort of things around opening hours.
Now imagine if you have 2 business premises 200 miles apart, do you close both businesses for a day & pay for everyone to travel to one of the premises for a 2-3 hour meeting. Bearing in mind you will need to pay for 10-15 staff from one premises to travel by train to the other premises. You will also have to pay for their meals etc as well.
So you are unable to do any work at either premises for a day & you have to pay the travel & subsistence costs of getting the staff from one place to the other. This cost, is money you will never get back. It is a cost on top of the loss of earnings.
As I’ve said these sort of things are important. Businesses need to ensure they have appropriate policies & exchanges of information with staff & between staff. However, in the private sector, these are fitted around work, not done instead of earning money.
The civil service/ public sector which are paid for out of your taxes see things differently. Meetings are seemingly encouraged. Today, I along with all my colleagues based in London have travelled the 200 miles to our other office for a meeting.
No file examination – our day to day work- for us today. No getting on & reading the 100s of CPS files we have to read. Instead, we have had a 2-3 hour hot air session where we *:
1. Initially discussed whether we agreed the minutes of the last meeting 4 1/2 months ago. – who cares? They are 4 1/2months old & work have moved on since then;
2. Debated to death minor quibbles about what is in the minutes & whether they had been circulated via email or via the computer shared drive. Not that this matters at all;
3. Had a repeat of the training update we were given a fortnight ago & nothing has changed. Rather than just say nothing has changed, we were told again everything we were all told 2 weeks again
4. Next we had a senior member of staff spend 10 minutes telling us what the topics were that he was going to tell us about rather than just getting on with things.
5. Next was a 30 minute update on methodology updates despite telling us that most people will never use the methodology as we are almost certain not to use it again! We also learn that another member of staff is compiling a central repository for the methodology & all the linked documents we are unlikely ever to need again.
6. Next an repeated lecture on a policy we were told about at a previous meeting & which has not changed since then.
7.Next we had half an hour to talk about the future work programme which is pretty much the same as before & a discussion at length of the policy to distribute work which boils down to “you’ll do what you’re told”. This is pretty much what it was before!
Oh, I forgot that we spent the first 15minutes going round the room saying who we are & what we are working on at present. We of course all know each other already & know what everyone is working on as well all have a copy of the work programme/timetable!
Like any other group, we have some people who seem to like the sound of their own voice & have to debate or challenge everything that anyone else says. Thus dragging the meeting on & confirming to everyone else the old adage that “empty vessels make the most noise”.
What is that saying? “Better to remain silent & have people think you are a fool than to open your mouth & confirm it”
As I type this blog, I am on the train back to London having done no productive work. I am employed as a legal inspector at your expense. (Assuming you are a taxpayer). I could have been far more productively employed inspecting & file reading. That would be cost effective & is what you employ me to do.
To spend lots of my time in similar types of unproductive meetings is not unusual. It seems to be a fact of public sector life.
In these times of austerity & cut backs, it would be far better in my view to work efficiently & cut down the time spent doing non-productive non core work than to reduce the time for core work by having lots of meetings & then complain you can’t do the day job because of lack of resources!
Some of the public sector in the UK is a great example of inefficiency & avoiding work. Just google & see how many civil servants we have now compared to when the British Empire was at its peak! Now try to tell me the public sector is not inefficient!
The blame for this has to come from those at the top who allow and or encourage these inefficiencies
The public sector is an essential part of the UK & cannot all be privatised. It is more than a balance sheet entry, but it must be run more efficiently. It is not about making a profit, but making a difference & making that difference efficiently.
The answer to the title of the blog post is to have a meeting.
* some events may have been adjusted for explanatory purposes but the gist remains accurate.