April 29, 2009

Trust but verify - The Plumber arriving on time will make us rich

Posted in Your Ideas ·
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If plumbers generally turned up on time. If every Doctor favoured the patient over their “business”. If more political decisions were free of bias and corruption. If quality assurance was an intrinsic part of our culture (like, say, English soccer), then we would be the wealthiest nation in the world. Without question!!

Ireland has some of the best international business people in the world. But the Irish internal economy is a joke. As soon as we got some money, we all started to rip each other off — Politicians, Plumbers, Bankers, Pharmacists, Carpenters, Doctors, Tilers, Hotel owners, B&B owners, Shop keepers, Civil Service, Solicitors – you name it — they took advantage of their monopolies and ripped off the public at every opportunity.

The reason we created a society in the first place is that co-operating with each other benefits everybody. So the question is how do we prevent small groups who co-operate with each other taking unfair advantage of the larger group (us!) e.g. Politicians, Builders, Lawyers, Civil Servants?

First of all, monopolies will always exist in one form or another e.g. if I sign a Distribution deal with Coca-Cola in the morning, I automatically have a monopoly. However, if I abuse this monopoly, the market (e.g. by shopping abroad) — and probably Coca-cola (who wish to keep its reputation), will regulate me. The point is that even though we cannot stop monopolies, we should do everything (and I mean everything!) to reduce their negative effect to an absolute minimum. Is there an easy way to do this? YES! How? Quality Assurance! What does that mean? Simple: If you say you will do something, then do it! If you are failing, come clean at first opportunity — and compensate where possible!

How do we achieve this in practice? We Measure!

“People don’t do what you EXPECT they do what you INSPECT” (Lou Gerstner). Lou Gerstner (ex IBM CEO) is the architect of dramatic turnaround of IBM. IBM lost $15.4bn between 1991 and 1993. In 1998, IBM had $6.3bn profit – and are now second biggest computer company in the world. Ironically, the IBM “economy” is not so different in size to that of Ireland.

- Would you drive your car without a petrol gauge?
- Why would you use a Doctor when you don’t know how often they mis-diagnose?
- Or a solicitor who continually misses important clauses in contracts?
- Or a plumber who repeatedly misses appointments?
- Or an Electrician who does not follow safety guidelines?
- Or planners who repeatedly grant planning to the friends?
- etc.

Well, except for the petrol gauge, most Irish People are doing many of these things today.

How would we measure in Ireland? Its easy. The key word is “Visibility”. How do you get “visibility”? By finding the least expensive, smart, way to gather the fundamental variables (like missed appointments, missed diagnosis). Will this create burdensome bureaucracy for the workers? No because that would not be smart (I said it should be smart!!)! If done properly, it can save time (e.g. they waste so much time with bad diary management and irate customers). There are plenty of ways — especially using the internet and smart devices e.g.:

- Web Interfaces for service receivers to log successes and failures.
- Mobile phones with internet access for on-road service providers.

We would not exclusively use the internet, but it would be a super start — most Irish people use the internet (e.g. in a recent Bord Gais campaign, 80% of people registered to switch to Bord Gais Electricity using the internet)

By the way, this is not “Big Brother”. “Big Brother” puts the “people” under surveillance in the George Orwell book. This is the “people” holding each other to account. And Building a society based on real (not blind) Trust (or “Trust but verify” — as Ronald Reagan said of the Soviet Union).

By measuring, we also learn what works and what does not work. In other words, we continually innovate and improve! As part of the culture —Wouldn’t that be fun?