Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Am I in a time warp?

I'm a busy chap.  I'm a busy chap with an aptitude to work fast and accurately. I have a team around me in my business and the IT infrastructure around me enabling me to work almost any time, any place anywhere.  I realise not everyone is like this nor do many want to work like this.

I take advantage of this in my professional life where often I am able to 'outrun' the opposition.  When the opposition is some 'emanation of the state' such as a regulator or local government I often don't have to get out of a canter to yield the desired effect for my clients.

As Chairman of Overview & Scrutiny at CWaC I am called upon, from time to time to certify that a decision is urgent.  I take my responsiblities in this regard very seriously and ask for evidence justifying the urgency (as this is used to depart from the normal democratic decision making processes).  I also seek to impose a time limit on any authorisation I give - as if a decision becomes delayed that might indicate that the so-called urgent decision wasn't in fact that urgent.

Yesterday I received a request from CWaC to certify an urgent decision.  I turned the papers around within the hour after having received 4 substantive papers to read.  To me urgency means please don't delay in dealing with this matter and give it a high priority very likely the highest priority.  In my case I finished my tea before reading the papers - I needed the Earl Grey!

Now I'm not being critical of anyone - just pondering whether I'm in a time warp or have a different appreciation of time from other people.  I was alerted to the need to certify an urgent matter at 10am - but it took another 8 hours before the papers I requested to read briefing me on the decision reached me.  Now in my business if I say something is urgent to a client or vice versa I'd want to see something happening within the hour - and normally it does! 

Back to CWaC - I was told that the decision had to be made by 31 March - and I was offered a meeting on 31 March to discuss the urgency.  It was at my prompting that I did receive papers briefing me on the situation (albeit after 8 hours) - and which, in my view articulated the matter with sufficient clarity that I was content to certify the requisite urgency directly without the need for a further meeting likely to be 2 days later and right on the deadline for the decision making.

Does this little experience suggest that my view of urgency is more immediate than for others?  It does make me wonder about how the various guises of the state actually work and whether we should all insist on much greater efficiencies.  Now I did receive an unprompted apology for the late dispatch of the papers to me - the excuse proffered being that the officer in question had been in meetings.

So with the proliferation of Blackberries around CWaC - affectionately known as 'Cwackberries' could not these papers have been sent earlier?  Could someone else have dug out the already existing papers and sent them to me without an 8 hour delay?  I'd like to think so.

Now nothing turns on this little issue - and in fact all has been accomplished pretty swiftly.  However I have struggled over the last 3 years as Chairman of Overview & Scrutiny to get others to see the need to 'up the tempo' and be timely in the production of papers and I see this little exchange as typical of the problems. 

If I have the relevant documents as electronic files (and doesn't everyone these days) I can turn out hundreds of pages of papers as fully paginated pdfs within minutes - even if I am remote from my office - so long as I have an internet connection or a phone line to a collegue in the office.  I have a very lean back-office team too.  So if business works in this fashion why can't the state - or do I have it completely wrong. Am I in the one in the time warp?