A law of economics, often overlooked, is that the value of money is proportionate to the effort and discomfort experienced in obtaining it. So, for example, each pound earned from being in the company, or even the proximity, of, say, Ruby Wax, Edwina Currie or Graham Norton, would have a real value of at least &£5.
It follows that the harder it is to obtain money, the more it is valued and the more thoughtfully it is spent. This relative value of money explains why government, both national and local, is so careless and profligate in its spending. Public money illustrates the economic law at its most extreme: it is unearned by those institutions to which it accrues and is therefore next to worthless.
This economic law ought to have a name. Gresham’s law, for instance, which states that bad money will drive good money out of circulation, owes its name to Sir Thomas Gresham, an adviser to Queen Elizabeth I. The law that states that unearned money has the value of crap ought to be called Dyke’s law, after the director-general of the BBC, whose bons mots include “cut the crap”.
Far from cutting it, however, he hoses it around with the manic glee of a sportsman on a pedestal squirting free champagne. Last week it was reported that the BBC is to spend about &£7m a year on sending a fifth of its workforce for management training. It will be compulsory for every member of staff in any sort of managerial position to attend the course at Ashridge business management school in Hertfordshire.
This will almost certainly be a complete waste of money. Management training, along with management consultancy, is a superfluous industry whose absence would have no effect whatever on industrial or commercial performance. On the contrary, the many man hours of managerial time that are currently expended on role playing, bonding, team leadership exercises and jargon-ridden workshops would be released for the task of management.
Management trainers and consultants are the self-appointed high priests of the business world. By dint of superior understanding, diligent learning and divine revelation, they hold the key to the mysteries of running organisations effectively and efficiently. Or so they would have you believe. These secrets they will vouchsafe in return for a stupendous fee.
But such is the insecurity of management and so keen its yearning for truth and enlightenment that a never-ending stream of votaries, many coerced and conscripted, makes its way to the temples of Ashridge, Henley and others, there to kneel at the feet of the masters. Days later they will emerge, as if from a dream, none the wiser but mightily relieved to be restored to the sanity of the outside world.
Greg Dyke has ordered that the minions yoked under his domain tread that dreaded path because he believes that the BBC can make better programmes if it is better led. Or at any rate that is what he is reported to believe. There must be some doubt as to its validity because it implies a recognition on the part of the BBC that its current output somehow falls short of a desired standard, something that it normally denies with all the reflexive venom of a trodden-on rattlesnake.
Much of the BBC’s TV programming is poor not, one suspects, because the staff are badly led but because the corporation has become enslaved to the democratisation of broadcasting. It craves mass popularity and the surest way to achieve that is by sucking up to the proletariat. The answer to gorblimey, second-rate programmes is not better management but a better grasp of the purpose of public service broadcasting. It’s not as though the BBC can’t do the job. As its critical well-wishers (for there are such things) never tire of pointing out, Radio 4 and the World Service are models of bright, intelligent broadcasting. Are their managers, too, to be dispatched to Ashridge for a spot of role-playing and assault by jargon?
The reason Dyke can indulge in this silliness is, of course, Dyke’s law. The BBC has an annual income of more than &£3bn, a whopping sum by any standards, almost every penny of which is abstracted, under duress, from the pockets of TV owners and therefore has little value. As they say on EastEnders, “Easy come, easy go. Innit?”
There is, however, an answer. The BBC employs some 23,000 people, equivalent to the population of a small town. It is inconceivable that all of them are needed. With a little imagination many thousands of the concealed unemployed in the BBC could find happy and rewarding lives as plumbers. When the City of Bristol College invited applicants for its plumbing course last week, 2,000 people applied for 36 places. Plumbing is the future. If Ashridge business school wants to stay ahead of the game it should forget management training and dedicate itself to imparting a rough and ready knowledge of plastic piping.
Course modules would include teeth sucking (prior to giving an estimate), the &£35 call-out fee, the &£100 replacement of a worn washer, and the unnecessary ripping out of equipment in good working order. Bearing in mind that plumbing is as much art as science, topics covered would also include bum cleavage and radio playing. Role-playing would be optional.