Sunday, 18 April 2010

I Am Waste, Come & Get Me

I know about certain stuff that not a lot of other people know about – or at least, not in such mind numbing detail. And I make a living out of it by hiring myself out to local authorities and other bits of the state. It’s cheaper for them than actually employing someone who knows about the Stuff I Know About (SIKA). So, yup, I’m a consultant.

You remember all that stuff about ‘Waste’ in the Leader’s Debate? That’s me, that is.

For 25 years I was employed in the not for profit sector where I did a range of things, including developing my alleged expertise. But I had to do other stuff as well – the meat and potatoes business of managing people and stuff. Let’s get real here: I was never a Captain of Industry or a Hero Innovator of the Managerial Classes. I fell into that dread category, Middle Management. I really never liked it – like a lot of folk I found managing people basically either stressful or boring 90% of the time. But I did it because that’s what you do if you get restless working at the coal face – you look for something more ‘challenging’ to occupy your time. It wasn’t that I was a bad line manager per se, it was just a role that never really fitted and I always felt like that proverbial dog walking on its hind legs. But somehow along the way I developed a certain grounding in the SIKA. I like my SIKA. & it is genuinely technically useful and necessary, not one of those faddish cult-things like Change Management or Systems Thinking.

So, in my late forties, I thought ‘sod this for a game of soldiers’ and tootled off to my back bedroom to become a self employed consultant. Everyone, it seemed, was a winner: my former employer found a younger, more energetic person to do my job, I got to work on stuff I actually liked and other organisations could hire me without getting stuck with some moderately expensive but not often used technical skill on their payroll. I could be a Charles Handy case study.

I’m not alone: pop down to the Royal Festival Hall or the British Library cafe anytime during a weekday and you’ll find little groups of self employed consultant-y type folk like me sitting round with their laptops having meetings. & a good half will be out sourced Public/Voluntary Sector types like me. A lot of low-mid level consultancy is retail, rather than PWC-style wholesale.

So, anyway, here I am in my early fifties now and I’m targeted as Waste. The only question seems to be whether I’m Waste to be cut out this year as Mr.Cameron thinks, or at some point in the next four years as the other two main parties think. Oh well, I suppose I could aim to be the oldest holder of those coveted five stars on a McDonald’s staff badge.....

Ah – but what about my SIKA? Think of it as a kind of specialist oil which, in its own little way, helps the bit of the public sector I’m concerned with work better. You don’t need a lot of it, but without any of my SIKA the whole engine begins to work less effectively – and more expensively.

I'll leave you to join the dots in terms of the political implications of all this for any cuts programme.


  1. Charlie,

    I've kept having a look to see if you'd started posting again, because I miised your comments, as and when I could given my own problems of he last few months. Glad to see you are up and running again, and I look forward to reading your musings. Hope you were able to get through your problems okay.

  2. On your SIKA, and what to do with it, you know my view. Actually, a Consultancy Co-op that could offer a wide range of specialist knowledge to workers trying to establish Co-operative services in their community as an alternative to inneffective state provision seems to me something that could under current conditions develop a very good business model.

  3. Thanks Boffy. I was sorry to hear about your various misfortunes during the move, and I have been glancing at your blog from time to time.

    I stopped blogging because I simply ran out of things to say - or anyway things that I felt strongly enough that needed to be said to justify not prioritising other stuff in my life. I think this is not unusual - and I think you need to consider this factor as you continue to evangelise for workers co-ops.

    I think you're on the right lines when you insist that, actually, popular control of different bits of life is - or should be - a issue for the left, not the right: but it is also necessary to accept that very few of us can spare the requisite time, all the time, to contribute. A 'tyranny of the activists' at work would be as unpleasant as the 'tyranny of managers'. So, for me at least, it is a question of groping towards some set of arrangements when the State comes to a new form of arrangements with a more autonomous and more democratic array of service provision.

    Buy, hey, what's new? By comparison with your politics I always have been, at best, what you'd call a 'centrist' :)

  4. Charlie,

    I agree, but I disagree. As with everything we have to prioritise, and what is a priority will depend on the inbdividual and the circumstances. But, I simply don't buy the "nobody has time argumnet." That is the argument that people always use for not going to union meetings, for example. They do have time, they simply choose to do something else instead. When I was UNISON Branch Secretary, I used to call General meetings at lunch-time. I'd even lay on a buffet out of Branch funds, so people didn't have to worry about missing out on their lunch. What happened was people would go out, and expect to come back and help themselves to the Buffet! It was amazing how people's "priorities" changed though when on one occasion we organised a raffle with a first prize of £100, but which people could only win if they stayed through the meeting. We were packed to the rafters.

    If people do not have time nowadays, how is it that Trade unions were organised by people 200 years ago who were working 18 hour days? How did they manage under much worse conditions, and with fewer resources of all kinds, to also organise Friendly Societies and so on? How is it that even in the 1920's, and 1930's, when there were no automatic washing amchines, and other labour saving devices, they were still able to find time to go to meetings, to worrekrs education and so on. Could it be that there were no TV sets for them to be sitting watching instead?

    I do recognise problems of those who most need a "Big Society" to coin a phrase, being the least able to provide it. That is why the responsibility lies with Marxists, and more advanced workers to facilitate them achieving it. The reality is that much of the Left criticism of Cameron, actually ends up using arguments, which rely on the idea that "there is no such thing as society" i.e. people always look after themselves. In other words to disagree with Cameron, theey end up agreeing with Thatcher.

  5. Great to have you back blogging Charlie!