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Thursday, 6 August 2009

I’ve decided to risk being potentially political for this post, but be reassured that the politics is not the real point – the point is how business systems and processes can serve to undermine the original objectives for which they were established.

As part of the development of the trainingreality business, I’m focusing this month on securing public sector training contracts. As such, I’ve been online to fill in various forms to begin the process of becoming an approved supplier. The difference between those organisations with common sense approached and those with “cover their backsides” approaches is astonishing!

Starting with the positives, one organisation simply asked for the basics (as many private sector organisations do) – company registration number, VAT number, and so on. Simple stuff, aiming to get enough details so that future transactions can be administratively simpler. No problem.

Others are rather different though – convoluted mazes. This blog would be a mammoth read if I replicated even half of the 21 page “approved list application form” I’ve just completed, but here are a few highlights, with my thoughts…I’ve avoided commenting on the Health and Safety section, for my own health and safety.


Six questions over two pages (small font) asking me about whether I, or my companies, have been convicted of money laundering, fraud, bribery, corruption or conspiracy. The answer to that (and, as it happens, any other criminal charge) is a resounding no. But who would answer yes? And, if they did, could you trust them? More fundamentally of course, I’m of the slightly simple belief that if someone has been convicted of fraud, bribery, corruption and/or money laundering, I’d worry about how accurately they’d complete the form anyway.


Quoting 8 (yes, eight) pieces of legislation covering from the 1970’s to the Equality Act of 2006, I need to confirm that it is my policy to comply with them. Honestly, I have no idea – I’ve never read any of them. I would employ anyone with the right attitude and talents to do a good job for me and my clients. That’s it. Will that do as my “policy”?

Oh, and no, in the last three 3 years I’ve not been prosecuted for unlawful discrimination (but who knows…4 years ago…?!)


Four individual questions here, including requirements for attachments on the company environmental policy and 150 words on how our “processes and procedures” for environmental management are audited. Now, I run a small management training company, with an office at home and one off-site (essentially, borrowed as and when I need it). I recycle my paper, switch my computer off every night, and generally try hard to be green. But I can’t imagine wanting or needing to spend the time to write a policy about it.

It’s been a little rant today, but no apologies. Creating a paper trail is sometimes required, but is no replacement for (and should not try to replace) common sense, reference checks, and gut instinct. It’s like the immigration questions in the US where you can be asked if you are, or have been, a terrorist. Think about it…the objective is to stop people intent on terrorism entering the country, but, if you were intent on it, would you reply “yes”?

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