The time has come to stamp out incompetence

A few weeks ago I felt very sad. The golf club that I had belonged to for 17 years closed overnight, without any warning, leaving members without a golf club and the golf professional without a living. Thankfully I had seen the writing on the wall and had left some months before but it did not stop me feeling very emotional and sad for all of my friends who were still there.

The closure of my golf club coincided with the collapse of Carillion. What a horrific situation for all of those people out of work, plus the impact on all of those smaller businesses who relied on Carillion – some of those were our clients.

The more I thought about these two things, the more angry I became on behalf of all those that I knew were affected. Two factors were at play in both scenarios – one was greed and the other was incompetence. It seems like an increasing number of people are directly affected by these factors these days. I can’t do anything about other people’s greed, but I can do something about incompetence in organisations.

Organisations can choose to stamp out incompetence internally but it takes someone with a passion to recognise incompetence and to see the negative impact it has on everything. I think the time has come to learn the lessons of Carillion and other failures and recognise the importance of not only training people to be good at their jobs, but also to introduce negative consequences for incompetence. Perhaps the time has come to see training people as an investment and not simply as a cost.

When I was at Boots, we trained everyone who became a new supervisor as a matter of course. Basic skills and some knowledge of the law over a two day introductory programme were provided without question. As a result our manufacturing facility ran smoothly and efficiently. Training was seen as an investment and a necessity and the benefits were there for all to see. I see such inefficiency in organisations where people run around like proverbial blue flies but not actually achieving anything. If only I could stop the chaos.

Training helps people to be able to think about solutions to problems, rationalise new ideas to see if they will actually work and it stops our brains from going to mush. Employees can only be as good as they are allowed to be. If their managers are incompetent, team members below them are never going to be allowed to reach their full potential. Management is a completely different set of skills from being a good specialist or senior in your original role and organisations need to train these in (and then hold people accountable for their performance).

Let’s start a campaign to stamp out incompetence (#stamp-out-incompetence). Where can you increase competence within your organisation? What little steps can you take to make your organisation more efficient and your people more effective? Perhaps lots of little steps made by ordinary people will not only stamp out incompetence but may also positively impact on individual greed. We can only hope!