Hierarchical corporate structures are how we arrange most services and organisations. Those at the top are the highest earners and are paid for their leadership and organisational skills. Personally I believe that those in privileged positions should understand the tasks and responsibilities at the important end and keep in close touch with the client group they serve. I would go further and suggest that they should have personal experience of the front line jobs that they oversee. In services like education and social care I feel this is most important. I believe strongly that Heads of Service should be in regular contact with the client group whose needs they serve .
Recently I spoke to a former CEO of a large voluntary care organisation who told me that he tried to visit a different project every week to keep in touch with service users and frontline staff. I think that’s how it should be. The needs of the client group must always be uppermost in policy development and resource decisions. Sadly this is rarely the case nowadays.
Recently due to poor service to my children I have had some contact with senior figures in education, care services and social work. I have been genuinely astounded at their clear discomfort at having to have a dialogue with me and my children. Only under pressure from politicians and elected officials have they engaged at all and then it has appeared grudging and often through gritted teeth. This despite the fact that my concerns and complaints had been fully upheld and accepted. This has been followed by a desperation to delegate communications arising back down the corporate structure as quickly as possible. The education head even has several folk who respond for her. Perish the thought such a lofty official should ever have to actually meet one of the people that her well paid job is to serve. What could possibly be more important than the children being educated or cared for?
In the course of at least some of these dialogues it has been apparent that senior people are willing to simply hide behind the mantra that there are tight and effective procedures in place when that is simply not the case. Whether this is about simply burying their heads in the sand or a complete disconnect with those who use the service I am not sure. What is clear is that society’s fascination with the importance of hierarchy too often produce egos that forget who the important people really are.