The Grenfell Tower catastrophe threw the failure of hierarchical leadership into stark contrast. Only the leader at the very top of the hierarchical tree is empowered to make decisions. Those on the upper echelons must defer to those above. Those at the highest rungs are so removed from hands-on practicalities and or technicalities of any issue that they are incapable of making informed decision. Yet all look up to them for a decision, rather than lose face or risk the challenge of lacking leadership, to assert their given authority, of course they take decisions. At the very best they might take some counsel from those raking immediately below them. But these next ranks down are equally sufficiently removed from hands-on experience and so no more likely to have an in-depth feel for the issues behind any problem.
Meanwhile at the coal face all those whose job it is to get stuck in and sort out a problem are frustrated and handicapped by the lack of adequate tools and equipment to get on with the task. Instead they have to stall and watch the situation worsen while they, or more likely the next tier or two up compile ‘acceptable’ reports of what is deemed likely to be approvable by whatever height of decision making the report has to ascend to. So time marches on. The gap between the workface and where the decision to make any change is so large with myriad layers of intervention simplifying the issues for ease of comprehension, increased acceptable, defensive cover, whatever, just obscuration of the actual issues that have to be dealt with. This is where Theresa May found herself. All eyes on her for that decisive leadership yet bereft of any insight to make any meaningful decision. So all the best face could put on a horrendous situation was to consult with ‘experts’ and await for their considered and edited recommendations to drift up to her desk for rubber-stamping.
UKplc is stuck in a Victorian timewarp. Hierarchical authority might have worked for them back then, but not anymore. Life has moved on, got considerably more complicated, the pace of events has accelerated with ever widening threads of potential interest or conflicts. The Continent has moved on. Time we did and ditched this clinging on to past practices. On the Continent they have collaborative decision making. All work as a team, it is everyone’s problem until an acceptable solution is found. The lowest manual input to the highest accountability are all on equal footing trying to offer a solution, collaboratively. There is no deferring, there is no procedural ranking, there is no one person’s glory, all focus is on finding an acceptable solution. That is the way this modern world works. Time for Theresa to wake up and get real. Time to show actual leadership by inclusive collaborative working. Then the anger of the residents might have been abated.