From top: Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Gardar Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan; Tony Groves
We are all guilty of it, myself included, the institutionalised thinking bug. Almost 20 years ago, a Senior Banker asked me: “What’s the best thing about working for The Bank?”
My ears burning red with embarrassment, I blurted out something about the Institution and the comfort of been under the umbrella, or some other clumsy metaphor (yes, clumsy metaphors are my speciality) to which the Manager nodded and smiled.
After I’d finished waffling he gave me one of the best bits of advice I have ever got in my life.
Pushing a big silver and black stapler towards me he said:
“That’s bullshit Tony, and you know it. Do you see that stapler? Pretend that stapler is your sales targets. Well, we’ll have a meeting about them, set goals and conduct a SWOT analysis to help get those goals.
Next year the same stapler is targets on mortgages and we’ll have a brainstorming session, set stretch targets and get a Sales Guru to give us a course on achieving them.
Then the next year the stapler is a Pension Growth target. We’ll say stuff like ‘proactive’ and ‘local marketing planning’. At the end of the day, Tony, after all these years, it’s the same f@cking stapler.
We move it around, reset the goal and make up new buzzwords, but unless you’re happy pushing the same stapler around then you’re in the wrong game.”
I thought of this again last week when I heard the Garda Commissioner, who has spent €93,000 in the Communications Clinic using management speak/ Pronespeak. I thought of it again when I heard a Justice Minister, who has spent €11,000 in the Communications Clinic, using the words of deflection and blame-throwing.
Someone asked me ‘why doesn’t anybody yell out stop?’. Well in every Institution the staff take their lead from their bosses. Tone from the top and if the boss can imagine/fabricate stories and then simply say Mea Culpa and shimmy away unscathed, then why can’t the others say things like “I’m on a journey” and walk away similarly?
We must respect the Institutions of Government, Justice and an Garda. Never mind the reality that these Institutions are disrespecting the very people they were established to protect. I’d wager more people believe in the Tooth Fairy than in the Institutions of the State.
Every year, as part of my real job, I have to complete an Ethics course. Failure to do so would mean I’d lose my Financial Designations and thus my ability to work. No amount of money to the Communications Clinic could fix that.
But perhaps if I re-designated myself an Institute…
There’s a line in a Paul Simon song, Gumboots; it goes, “Why don’t we get together and call ourselves an Institute?” It can’t really be that simple, can it? It can and it is. The Iona Institute, The Economic Social and Research Institute, The Hibernia Forum, The Irish Tax Institute are but a few users of the trick.
You get a few lads together who have similar worldviews, call yourself a Think Tank or an Institute and you get an invite to every television panel show.
Nobody introduces an ESRI reports by informing viewers that they are funded by the government, which they are. Nobody likes to suggest that he who pays the piper, calls the tune. Nope, we wouldn’t want to question the Institutions.
Someone recently sent me the old Simpsons sugar clip. You know the one, first you get the sugar, then you get power, then you get the women!
In Ireland, first you pick your stapler, then you call it an Institute, then you get the power, then you get Terry Prone to cover up that it’s just a f@cking stapler.
Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld