I attended a conference last week that was trying to encourage a multi-agency (Comprehensive) approach to the solution of (Inter) national security issues. Rarely have I felt such a sense of despair. One senior civil servant after another stood up and reeled off excuse after excuse ... blaming everyone but themselves. The conclusion officially was that we are enjoying "sub-optimal state response" to the resolution of the crisis we face. There was a tiny ray of hope (which led to this blog and request for insight) ... The reason I was there was that "We" (the private sector business community) are held in high regard by many in public service for our ability to overcome personal interests and agendas for the achievement of corporate success ... (I know ... I know ... we'll keep that our dirty little secret ... OK!). They were looking to us to suggest ways the UK civil service could sharpen up its response to terrorism.
The core of the problem (not exclusive to the UK, I'm sure) is that frequently critical decisions that affect our nation's best interests are being compromised for personal gain / self interest. The extent to which civil servants are being allowed to "mark their own homework" is truly frightening. Politicians are (largely) held accountable but it's the "Mandarins" in Whitehall and probably Washington, too, that seem to be inhibiting a high performance response to terrorism. Not the expertise of al-Qaeda. These terrorists / gangsters are relying on our inability to respond in a coordinated way. They are relying on the tribal natures of the Home Office / DFID / Treasury / MOD / Diplomats and the NGO community, et al., to deliver a poorly coordinated and slow response to critical situations.
Why are we as businesspeople so tolerant of non-elected senior civil servants impeding the resolution of international crises? The "War on Terror" is not exclusively a military / Security services affair. Cosy though that thought may be. It is just as much our war on our own drivers of ineffectiveness. It's a real test of the belief that market forces will ensure optimal state performance (à la Capitalism). Well, I'm not seeing much evidence of a high performing state response to terrorism. Are you?
I left the conference no closer to the answer but determined to mine the intelligence of those who frequent Tom's Blog site ... So the question is "What can we as businesspeople do to 'encourage' our senior civil servants to act in our citizens' best interests and not their own?"
The reason to answer this question is ... if we don't, all the interesting stuff we talk about at this site will, I believe, rapidly become pretty irrelevant.
Before blogging became all the rage, Tom was posting book reviews and Observations (essentially early blog posts) to this site. You can find the archives below.
What we're talking about
on the front page.