Pipeline at the gates of dawn

Apart from some lurking images that would give Freud a field day, this email that I received at work is thoroughly baffling:

\’Over the past week, each Directorate has been requested to send the Corporate PMO updates for the Pipeline Tracker tool. This tool ensures visibility of all projects that are expected to pass through the Gateways at any given time.

\’This is an ongoing process requiring continual maintenance and review to ensure the Tracker is accurate and reliable.

\’The Corporate PMO needs to identify representatives from each Directorate to act as a Pipeline Champion, and this will be initiated next week.

\’Please can you nominate these representatives ASAP.

\’Thank you for your cooperation.\’

I\’d love to help (probably), but I really don\’t have the faintest idea what I am meant to co-operate with.

Living in a box

I watched the ponderously-titled \’Big Chef Takes On Little Chef\’, wherein Heston Blumenthal seeks to revive Little Chef, with a creeping and dismal sense of familiarity.

The show pivots on an initially contrived, but subsequently all-too-real clash between Blumenthal and Little Chef boss Ian Pegler. The problem is something like this: Blumenthal sees his role as recovering the reputation of a British classic and, for all his culinary curiosity, seems to nurse a genuine interest in and affection for the traditions of British cooking.

Pegler, however, seems to view Blumenthal as a performing food monkey, who will bring \’blue skies thinking\’ to bear on Little Chef\’s tired menus (but doesn\’t need to worry his little head with anything like business models).

I don\’t know much about catering, but my experiences on the fringe of architecture suggest that the clients who demand wacky, iconic designs for buildings with a \’wow factor\’ are those least likely to understand the careful, pains-taking accretion of change that the best architects can orchestrate. The neophiles want the glamour and the buzz, but are too superficial to consider the sweat and the craft that underpins it.

They want \’thinking outside of the box\’ (Ian Pegler came up with this with a mere two minutes of TV programme to go). To which my architect friend Mark has the only sensible response: \”Err, I don\’t really think in a box.\”

Maoist managerialism

Mao and Stalin are rarely cited as management gurus, but today\’s announcement that 6,000 civil servants have been selected to act as \”special agents\” of the cabinet secretary Sir Gus O\’Donnell, with a remit to \”give their bosses a hard time\” if they don\’t push reform hard enough, suggests that their influence lives on.

Mass mobilisation by cadres of young zealots was a popular technique for both of the great communist tyrants: Stalin\’s purges in the 1930s were often fueled by workers\’ denunciations of their bosses, and the Red Army cadres who led the Cultural Revolution were chosen for their youth and commitment to cleansing the party.

Of course, you can\’t really compare what Sir Gus is proposing with the horrors of those regimes, but mass mobilisation is undoubtedly a popular tool in seeking to enforce change in the face of perceived inertia within a monolithic public sector. In a previous generation, John Major rtied to do something similar through his much-mocked Citizen\’s Charter initiative: unleashing the forces of consumers against remote and unaccountable service providers. Rather disturbingly, the wikipedia entry for the Charter even refers to \”taking measures to cleanse and motivate civil service\”.