The price of success is failure

The Guardian reports that thirty NHS trusts have accumulated between them a deficit of £300 million.  Presumably, the government will have to bail them out.  That shouldn’t be such a grand task for Whitehall’s busy bees – after all, they’ve had plenty of practice in recent past of hand-over-fist bailouts for the banks.

Meanwhile, I also read the following from a short article in the Telegraph this morning:

[Bob] Diamond, along with David Cameron, was a very public supporter of John McCain, the last Republican candidate for the presidency, when he ran against Barack Obama in 2008. [The current Republican candidate for the American Presidency] Romney earned a $50,000 speaking fee from Barclays in 2011.

Now I suppose you could argue that as Barclays wasn’t nationalised at the time (though this, of course, could quite easily change), such a payment to a foreign politician was purely a matter for Barclays and their shareholders.  But I do wonder if even a significant minority of customers were aware that the profits their business generated for the entity were being employed to fill the already deep pockets of American presidential hopefuls.  Customers are also stakeholders, aren’t they?

Or so they say …

The truth of the matter is that the price of success has clearly become massive failure.  Yesterday, I quoted from another Guardian article where it described how the atmosphere of fear amongst ordinary bank staff clearly made it impossible for alarm bells to be sounded.  I remember, myself, when I used to work at data-inputter level for a bank, how we would get bombarded with messages and training courses from HR insisting on the importance of learning from mistakes.  However, the only real lesson we learned from making mistakes was not to run the risk of making them again.

And one of the biggest mistakes you could commit in a bank was to question the exhortations of your bosses.  Especially as an ordinary worker you were only assigned a five percent bonus on a salary less than the national average.

Your importance was clear.

So it comes to pass: Mitt Romney is no longer friends with Bob Diamond.  As the Telegraph also reports:

“When we first started organising it, Bob was perceived to be a respected captain of industry in Britain, and precisely the sort of man that Mitt would want to be photographed with when he comes here,” one of the organisers of the event tells me. “Obviously, the situation has since changed somewhat.”

Which leads me to arrive at the following conclusion: if the price of success, especially short-term corporate success, is becoming awful and consequential failure for everyone – CEOs, managers, workers, customers, the poor, the rich and the squeezed middle too – do we not define success incorrectly?

For if failure involves committing the mistake of daring to question what others do, we are surely in the world of Nuremberg all over again.

Stalinism has won, hasn’t it?  Only now it exists behind the closed confidential walls of large companies across the globe – companies which have learnt to avoid paying social taxes through a multitude of tax-havened schemes.  No wonder telling your boss he or she’s got it wrong has fallen so dramatically out of favour.  The environment of secrecy which must grow up around such mentalities leads everyone to see shadows almost everywhere.

In truth, we’ve forgotten the true definition of success.

And – in that short and unprepossessing conclusion – we inscribe the enormity of our failure.

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