Philip Whiteley's Blog

February 16, 2013

Party politics can’t reform meat industry and NHS

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 9:21 am

Never have I felt more smug about being a vegetarian with private health insurance. Indeed, for some years I’ve been fascinated that eating meat and the British National Health Service are so popular, and felt somewhat alienated and distanced from my compatriots as a result.

In the past two weeks, the horsemeat scandal and the Francis Report into the corporate manslaughter[1] at Mid-Staffordshire NHS hospital expose some truly shocking examples of poor management, almost certainly including unlawful conduct, at the heart of these two industries.

There’s been much written on these two affairs; you can go elsewhere for the details. As a management writer, I’d highlight what we need to learn, and specifically, the limitations of conventional analyses for understanding what has occurred.

The left-right perspective would treat the two as being very different, because one is private sector and the other is public sector.

So the left would complain that ruthless supermarkets, dedicated to outsourcing and creating long supply chains, practically invite corner-cutting which has resulted in products labelled ‘beef’ to contain cheaper ingredients, including horse.

A right-wing analysis of corporate manslaughter (sorry, there I go again) at an NHS hospital under a Labour Government would focus on the complacency that monopoly state providers tend to exhibit.

What both analyses miss is that fraud in the food industry, and neglect in the NHS, do not constitute the whole story: hopefully, they are very much minority practices. So there are more similarities between the failing institutions in different sectors than between different institutions in each.

The problem with left-right way of thinking is to focus on structures and ownership, rather than values and qualities of leadership. It is a limited way of understanding organizational performance, and has probably outlived what little usefulness it has.

For more on the uselessness of left-right politics, go to the Radical Shift blog here.

From 28 April, the New Normal, Radical Shift book will be on sale.


[1] Note: Mid-Staffs campaigners have informed me that they’re not allowed to use the term ‘corporate manslaughter’ to describe conditions of neglect that led to large numbers of vulnerable patients to die of poor care or dehydration. Go ahead, Mid-Staffs lawyers, you can sue.

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