A Message For Those Who Make The Big Decisions

People who have direct interaction with the end user are often the ones who really care because they see the consequences of their company’s actions.

If you work for the FCA or a provider or a bank or the Government, I’d especially like you to read on.

I recently had the unenviable task of spending a night and day in hospital with my father as he slowly passed away. I had a surfeit of time to think about some of the bigger issues in life, fuelled by an overdose of perspective.

One of the truly inspiring aspects of that experience was the incredible kindness of the staff. My father was in a holding ward between A&E and a ‘proper’ ward, so the staff were not be used to this situation. Yet the two junior doctors were caring and thoughtful and gave their time freely. The nurses were simply incredible, telling us what they were doing and speaking to my unconscious father kindly, quietly closing the door to give us privacy when appropriate. The ancillary workers, many of whom were not born in the UK, were possibly the kindest and most thoughtful of all, bringing us tea and chairs and making sure we had all we needed during our vigil.

Only one person let us down. My father’s medication was altered upon the instruction of a nameless consultant (I got the impression that the junior doctor didn’t entirely agree with this decision). When we queried this, the nurse passed on a message from the consultant that she would come in to explain.

The consultant never showed up. The junior doctor came in an hour later and, with little fuss, quietly changed the medication back again.

When I first started Ovation, my father was our second employee (after myself). An ex IFA himself, he was invaluable in supporting me and sorted out paperwork and the accounts.

As it was just the two of us, I was the one who had to make those calls to the insurance companies. Now, I’ve never been particularly blessed with patience when it comes to administrative matters, and so I would often end up seething as yet another provider had failed to do what they had promised.

I would bash out a letter to senior management telling them exactly what I thought about them while Dad watched. When I had finished he’d look over to me.

“Finished?” he would ask.

“Yes,” I’d say, printing off the letter.

“Say all you wanted to say? Got it off your chest?”

“Yes,” I’d say, signing it with a flourish.

“Well done,” he’d say. “Now throw it away.”

Only one of many excellent pieces of advice he gave me. He was telling me to ‘Rise above these things, move on’. But he was also saying ‘It won’t make any difference.’

The people on the end of the phone, the potential recipient of my letter, were often just as frustrated as I was. It wasn’t their fault, lack of resources or poor systems often being the root cause. But I always felt these poor ordinary workers were put in place almost to protect the decision makers, put up as a first line of defence.

So if you are a senior person in a large organisation, please heed my advice. Get out front once in a while. Speak to your customers. Whether you run a bank, pension provider or the FCA, go and ask those you deal with what they think of you, what you could do better. Doctors, explain your decisions to families of patients. Senior management allow yourself to be accessed by angry customers once in a while.

But perhaps the most important message in this time of a general election is for us all to have respect for that most extraordinary of organisations, the NHS, and the wonderful people who work on the frontline of healthcare, constantly buffeted by the changing whims of politicians.


5 thoughts on “A Message For Those Who Make The Big Decisions

  • What a great article. Too many people sit behind their desks without really knowing what is going on in the frontline. If ‘senior management’ took the time to find out what is really going on, that would make a huge difference. But there is also another issue of lack of responsibility. Very few people take responsibility for anything anymore. I experience this time and time again and it drives me mad. It’s easy to spend hours on the end of a phone trying to sort out an error made by xyz company but rarely does anybody say “I’m sorry that we got this wrong. My name is Joe Bloggs and I will personally rectify this for you”. Frontline staff need to take responsibility, and senior management need to find out what’s really going.

    With regards the NHS, I am so glad you had such a positive experience and I hope your dad died peacefully. Myself and my extended family have unfortunately had shocking experiences at the hands of the NHS (including my father – a semi-retired Consultant). The NHS is falling apart and the next Government really need to stand up and do something about it. Free healthcare for all just isn’t financially feasible anymore. It’s a nice dream, but the NHS can’t continue as it is.

    • It’s a complicated body, that NHS. My wife has been an oncology nurse for many many years now, and how they continue delivering amazing care despite, not because of, the intervention of successive Governments is extraordinary.

      Personally I would sack half the House Of Lords, who seem to be granted their peerages based on what they did for the political party in question, and put the nurses in charge.

  • I hope you’re bearing up with the loss of your dad; what a great mentor. Having been through a family vigil Easter Saturday, I can only agree in how caring these folk are at the end of life.


    ‘But I always felt these poor ordinary workers were put in place almost to protect the decision makers, put up as a first line of defence.’

    This comment made me think of Anzac Day, just passed, which happens to be the 100th anniversary this year. It would seem not much has changed in all these years: sadly.

    • Thanks Dan, and sorry to hear of your own difficulties. Death is part of life, happiness is an interruption to the sadness. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

      With regards Anzac Day and the comparison you make, our very own WW1 line ‘Lions led by donkeys’ comes to mind.

  • Great article Chris and I agree wholeheartedly with what you’re saying. Having lost far too many family members to cancer (inc my Mum) a few years ago, the NHS do a good job with the resources they have. Catriona, I agree with you too, how long is free healthcare for all going to be sustainable?

    I just wish the political parties would for once stop acting like spoilt children and all come together to sort out a long-term plan for the NHS instead of it being treated like a political ‘hot-potato’ from one government ‘term’ to the next.


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