The General Uselessness Of British Management

Discussion in 'Taylor's Tittle-Tattle - General Banter' started by Clive_ofthe_Kremlin, Nov 20, 2021.

  1. Clive_ofthe_Kremlin

    Clive_ofthe_Kremlin Squad Player

    In the various places I've worked in the UK over the years, the management has generally been pretty inept and useless. In the rare occasions where managers have been experienced, knowledgeable and competent, the senior management have quickly intervened to make them all redundant and bring in loads of young, inexperienced, barely competent, management trainee types. This was precisely what happened on BR.

    I thought I'd just been unlucky, but I'm increasingly convinced that the vast majority of British management is like it. Ignorant, volatile, prone to rash decision making, precarious, lacking in experience of doing the job they're managing, treat workers as the 'enemy' rather than partners in the enterprise and above all, very, very lazy. We've all seen them rolling in at 11:15 before swiftly departing for a long 'business lunch' and then home in the range rover in time for Countdown. That's when they show up at all. Most of all, in my experience, they waste their time in endless meetings. Meetings in the morning, meetings at lunchtime, meetings in the afternoon. Hour after hour after hour all the seniors are sat in there, all leaned back in their chairs nice and relaxed, having a good old chinwag. Sometimes they'll send out for coffee or pizza or other snacks, at the company's expense of course, in recognition of all the very difficult brain work they're doing in the meeting. When it's eventually over, they all emerge, straightening out their elegant jackets - the meeting is over! And off they all rush home, presumably exhausted.

    You never find out what's happened in these meetings and I think that's because nothing much has happened at all. Nothing was really meant to happen. It's simply the most pleasant way to while away a few hours when one is absolutely forced to show one's face at the office. If I were in charge of a company, my very first action would be to remove all the chairs from the meeting room. All meetings from now on to be conducted standing up. See if that shortens them down at all.....

    What prompted me to start this thread though, was listening to the latest BBC Grenfell Tower Enquiry podcast. You'd think something like the London Fire Brigade would have top management. The organisation would be tight as a drum, you'd imagine. After all, it's life and death isn't it, not producing widgets or something.

    As it turns out though, no. Absolutely dire. And their failings undoubtedly contributed to the deaths at Grenfell. Far fetched? I don't think so.

    Fire Survival Guidance Calls (FSGs) are when someone's trapped in a fire or affected by smoke etc. One of the under-bosses at the LFB who's in charge of FSGs was asked what guidance he'd been given by the big boss. Answer, none. He'd been simply told "Write an FSG guide". He was not very competent. He didn't really worry about the person affected by the fire, he concentrated more on the flow of information between the LFB control and the firefighters on the ground.

    Now, if I were told to write an FSG guide, the first things I think I'd consider would be what information I need to get from the 999 caller. Name. Address (flat number in the case of Grenfell). Number of people at the premises. Is there anybody at the address who is disabled or otherwise vulnerable. Those would seem to me to be the basic considerations. At Grenfell, the control room operators took all sorts of different courses according to their own preferences it seems. Sometimes flat numbers were given, sometimes they weren't. Sometimes just a floor number was given. They rarely, if ever, asked how many people were in the flat and they never asked about anyone vulnerable. 40% of vulnerable people at Grenfell (disabled, aged, pregnant, very young etc) died. One operator spent more than an hour on the phone with 12 year old Jessica Urbano, but never managed to find out in that time that although she lived on the 20th floor, she'd fled with various neighbours up to the top 23rd floor. Firefighters went up to the 20th floor, searched her flat, found nobody and left again. Jessica died.

    Special mention here for brave but rubbish firefighter David Badillo. He was on one of the first engines to arrive. He met a young girl, Jessica's sister, who told him her sister was on the 20th floor and she was very worried. Did David radio this in? Did he take the girl to the LFB mobile control so they could take details and he could receive his orders? No. He did not.


    I just wanted to go and get the little girl out of the flat, as she was alone,” he told the enquiry. “I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing as there was so much going on. I also thought that I would be told: ‘No’, but I was worried about the girl’s safety.”

    Firefighters should always work in pairs, for obvious safety reasons, but big-hearted David didn't believe this applied to him. After all, he was being a hero and was on a personal mercy mission. Going into a fire, they should of course have breathing apparatus, but not David. His big heart would carry him through! One of the essentials for a fire fighter going into a fire, is equipment such as as hoses and axes and so on, so they could extinguish it. David didn't bother with that though. He would extinguish it by love alone.

    We all know that in the event of fire you must NEVER use the lift. Why? Well apart from the risk of the cables burning through, there's a big danger of the doors opening on a fire floor and getting trapped by smoke etc. It'd be stupid to use a lift in that situation. But David was special and such considerations didn't apply to him, so he used the lift. He takes up the story.....

    It seemed to take forever and I felt very alone, but the lift opened on the 15th floor, which surprised me,” he said in his witness statement. “I was even more surprised when the lift immediately filled with thick, black smoke..."

    Realising that he might need breathing apparatus after all, David "ran" all the way back down the stairs again and put some kit on. Still didn't report to anybody. Didn't tell anybody the 15th floor was full of smoke. But then, he was on a personal mercy mission. He managed to find to other firefighters in gear and persuaded them to come with him back up the tower. They made it to the 2oth floor this time. Searched the flat, didn't find anyone. The flat was empty, so they turned round and came back down again. A whole family died in the flat next door to the one they searched.


    Did the man who wrote the FSG guide consider disabled people? No. Why not? Don't know really.

    Here is a heroine:- Senior Operations Officer Joanne Smith of the LFB.


    She was called out to the control room on the night of the fire and crucially, at 02:30 made the decision that the Fire Brigade seniors on the ground at the tower should have made long before - abandon stay put and do anything you can to leave. A very, very obvious decision. I'll include a You Tube video of a timeline of the firespread from the enquiry evidence and all you can hear from the various members of the public who are recording on their phones is "Get out! Get out!". They asked one of the senior firefighters why they didn't change stay put earlier and he said it was because he thought they'd put out the fire. He said they never went thinking they couldn't put a fire out, so that was all they were concentrating on. However, if you look at the video, it's clear to anyone after about 5 minutes that nobody and nothing is putting that out.

    Joanne was also a heroine in other ways. She complained to her boss frequently that the training of control room operators was inadequate. Training was held on an "ad hoc basis" as the number of control room operators had been cut from 24 to 16 on each shift, in the name of efficiency. In order to have training, the operator would have to sign off the phones and do as much as they could. If it got busy, they'd have to stop and go back to working again. Training was not subject to quality controls and was recorded on paper (!). It went against national guidelines in several places, most notably in giving callers reassurance by saying things like "The firefighters are on their way, they'll be there very soon" and "the firefighters know where you are and are coming" even though they know no such thing. Government direction since 1993 had said not to give people false reassurances. Joanne picked this up and repeatedly pointed it out to her boss, who did nothing. Well, busy with meetings you see. “I finally got round to ‘reviewing’ the FSG training. It may be a good exercise for us all to do as my review is pretty scathing!” she told him.

    Joanne had set up a system of 'active' FSG training. That is, one controller plays the part of a caller who's trapped in a fire and another answers the call and gives advice. Then afterwards they all run through it and give feedback and ideas. In the name of efficiency, it was decided to make the training 'passive' instead. So they would look through an FSG transcript and discuss it together over coffee and cakes.

    Joanne got seconded away to another job for a couple of years. FSG training fell in her absence from 68% of staff before she left, to 23% in the first year after and then 0% the year after. Although they were supposed to have a full day of FSG training, they cut it down to only 4 hours in the name of efficiency.

    When the big boss found out the training of the control room operators was so utterly shyte, he was "angry". He made Joanne's boss, the training chief, redundant as a result. He was called Scott Hayward and was useless. Of course if we are useless at our jobs, we get the sack, but Scott only got made redundant. Joanne got promoted to Assistant Commisioner in charge of control rooms. Good.!

    Scott Hayward - useless
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  2. Clive_ofthe_Kremlin

    Clive_ofthe_Kremlin Squad Player

    Here's the timeline video - caution anyone of a delicate nature as it is quite shocking

  3. Clive_ofthe_Kremlin

    Clive_ofthe_Kremlin Squad Player

    Here's poor old Mike Dowden. He was a Watch Manager at Kensington, which is like a foreman grade. He's only supposed to be in charge of fires with 4 engines in attendance. There are supposed to be senior managers to take over in big instances.


    Mike was a bit like a rabbit in headlights unfortunately. Apart from rapidly increasing the number of engines required to 5, then 10, then 20, then 25, he didn't do very much. He broke down in tears at the enquiry saying he felt "helpless" and "out of his depth" and that “I have never been an incident commander and had to make that rapid increase in resource before.”

    Mike was in charge from 00:59 when he arrived on scene (only 5 mins after the 999 call) until 01:50. Even though people were emerging from the tower coughing and covered in soot from around 01:30 and the fire was obviously out of control, he neither declared a major incident nor considered revoking stay put. He seems to have been overwhelmed. He had no training in evacuating a tower block and amazingly, firefighters are given no training whatsoever on evacuating people through a contaminated environment. He had previously carried out Fire Brigade inspection visits of the tower, but didn't follow the checklist he was supposed to and didn't check things like the smoke extraction system, the fire fighters control over lifts and he didn't ask whether there were any disabled people in the flats or what that stuff was they were covering the outside of the tower with.
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  4. Clive_ofthe_Kremlin

    Clive_ofthe_Kremlin Squad Player

    Also forgot to mention that institutional racism was brought up and vigorously challenged by the LFB. They couldn't see who was who in the smoke they said! Ridiculous!

    However it is perhaps best illustrated by a 999 call made by a Mr Li on the 20th floor after the stay put advice had been revoked.

    His first language is Mandarin and although he speaks English, it's fairly basic.

    The 999 LFB operator told him "Your best bet is to try to leave". Did he understand that? No. He complained, understandably, that he wanted them to tell him simply "stay" or "go". Yes or no. He didn't understand what they were on about betting and trying.

    You'd think keeping the language simple where there's difficulty understanding would be part of the training. Even we carers get trained on communication difficulties and how to overcome them.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2021
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  5. Clive_ofthe_Kremlin

    Clive_ofthe_Kremlin Squad Player

    Another mention for the LFBs useless new IT system called 'Vision' which didn't work properly, continually slowed down further and further then stopped altogether (sometimes for minutes, sometimes for hours).

    The operators had continually complained that the screen section containing their prompts and what they were supposed to establish was way too small and couldn't be read. The new system consumed almost all training time for the operators, thus explaining 0% FSG training in one whole year.

    Poorly commissioned, badly designed, badly programmed, full of bugs, poorly and thoughtlessly implemented. Brings more problems than it solves.

    Now where have we heard that about expensive new multi-million pound super duper IT systems before.

    Some of those IT people ought to be up in front of the inquiry I reckon.

    And who were the proud developers of the system? Why Crapita outsourcers you won't be surprised to learn...
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  6. Arakel

    Arakel First Team

    No, that's a bit too far.

    If they made crap and not fit for purpose software, management should have rejected it and stuck with the original system.

    I've dealt with my fair share of software deployments that were absolutely unfit for purpose, and you simply declare it as unacceptable and sweep it aside, then don't play the vendor since they didn't deliver on agreed terms.

    The fact that didn't happen is on the figures in the LFB management (or similarly relevant bodies) who made the decision to go live with an unfit system.
  7. Diamond

    Diamond First Team

    Agree with this. I work with a team of developers who do what they're asked, our team test the software and if it fails at the end users it's down to us for not picking it up.
    I have to say there is some absolutely shocking software out there that I have no idea how it passed QA, (mostly competitors which is fine with me).

    I think Clive hit the nail on the head early on in his tirade.

    Clive said: Ignorant, volatile, prone to rash decision making, precarious, lacking in experience of doing the job they're managing, treat workers as the 'enemy' rather than partners in the enterprise and above all, very, very lazy.
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  8. Pepper pig management are not useless, allegedly
  9. Keighley

    Keighley Squad Player

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  10. ... although clearly their marketing department is (useless) if they can't spell pepper
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