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Thread: Systems Failure: A Fig Leaf to Cover Personal Fault

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    Politics.ie Member bactrian's Avatar
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    Default Systems Failure: A Fig Leaf to Cover Personal Fault

    Eddie Molloy wrote a very interesting Opinion Piece We must stop blaming " We must stop blaming ‘systems’ for shameful human failures " :

    "The “systems failure” explanation has been used repeatedly in recent years in Ireland as a convenient fig leaf to enable individuals who were ultimately responsible for catastrophic institutional crashes in all sectors and individual human tragedies to escape accountability. "

    I have to agree with him in the points he raises. Once the system is blamed then there is never an actual culprit.

    I recommend reading the article.
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    Well we need to stop: dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good. T.S. Eliot.
    Last edited by Mossy Heneberry; 27th April 2013 at 09:41 PM.
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    Politics.ie Member nonpartyboy's Avatar
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    No it's not quite that, when the blame can go no lower a low ranking public servant gets sacked, a high ranking public servant is a systems failure.............

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    Politics.ie Member 4horsemen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nonpartyboy View Post
    No it's not quite that, when the blame can go no lower a low ranking public servant gets sacked, a high ranking public servant is a systems failure.............

    I agree with you that it is invariably a cop out. Systems rarely fail and most disasters, crashes etc are due to human action or inaction whether due to nonfeasance, misfeasance or malfeasance.
    Two classic examples are:
    1. In banking if actions that result in incorrect application of interest and incorrect sales of insurance etc were simple systems failures it would be reasonable to expect some would benefit the client.
    2. If the Health sector operates without legistlation that reflects our Constitutional rights then this due to negligence by successive Ministers of Health.

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    In focussing on the fig-leaf word-bite, you're missing the main point of Molloy's excellent piece; read on past that!
    "Whenever there is a systems failure, however, it does not mean that no one is to blame because the vital question always arises: who was responsible for the design, installation, maintenance, auditing and continuous improvement of the system in question?...Boards and senior managers are responsible not just for achieving certain business outcomes, they are also responsible for the overall health of their organisation which includes ensuring it has structures fit for purpose...not least ensuring necessary skills are in place."
    Molloy doesn't mention W.E Deming (his classic book Out of the Crisis published 1982) and his 14 Points for Management & Deadly Sins which are unfortunately still acutely relevant today. Point 2: Management must lead (as opposed to administer)
    In contrast, the general standard of what passes for board and senior management, certainly in the health service today, has more of an Orwellian taint about it with senior management walking around repeating mantras akin to "2 legs good, 4 legs bad" such as "patient care will not be affected": in the words of Aidan Halligan speaking recently at Trinity College "wilful blindness"

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    Quote Originally Posted by An oul crisp View Post
    In focussing on the fig-leaf word-bite, you're missing the main point of Molloy's excellent piece; read on past that!
    "Whenever there is a systems failure, however, it does not mean that no one is to blame because the vital question always arises: who was responsible for the design, installation, maintenance, auditing and continuous improvement of the system in question?...Boards and senior managers are responsible not just for achieving certain business outcomes, they are also responsible for the overall health of their organisation which includes ensuring it has structures fit for purpose...not least ensuring necessary skills are in place."
    Molloy doesn't mention W.E Deming (his classic book Out of the Crisis published 1982) and his 14 Points for Management & Deadly Sins which are unfortunately still acutely relevant today. Point 2: Management must lead (as opposed to administer)
    In contrast, the general standard of what passes for board and senior management, certainly in the health service today, has more of an Orwellian taint about it with senior management walking around repeating mantras akin to "2 legs good, 4 legs bad" such as "patient care will not be affected": in the words of Aidan Halligan speaking recently at Trinity College "wilful blindness"
    Exactly so - systems do not simply spring into being from nothingness, but are created, operated, and overseen by people, who are responsible for those systems - and a system that has responsibility so diffuse that nobody can be identified as "guilty" if it fails is a problem in itself, because that is a system with built-in moral hazard.
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    Politics.ie Member The Owl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ibis View Post
    Exactly so - systems do not simply spring into being from nothingness, but are created, operated, and overseen by people, who are responsible for those systems - and a system that has responsibility so diffuse that nobody can be identified as "guilty" if it fails is a problem in itself, because that is a system with built-in moral hazard.
    Do you not think, ibis, that responsibility is purposely diffuse in order to give the main culprits (politicians) a built-in get-out clause?
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Owl View Post
    Do you not think, ibis, that responsibility is purposely diffuse in order to give the main culprits (politicians) a built-in get-out clause?
    Sure, although it's more to give civil servants a get-out clause - Ministers, by virtue of their office, are responsible whatever the system, which is why a Minister shouldn't allow such diffuse systems in his/her Department. Unfortunately, Ministers aren't elected or re-elected on the basis of their performance as Ministers, but on the basis of their performance as local politicians.
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    Politics.ie Member Prester Jim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bactrian View Post
    Eddie Molloy wrote a very interesting Opinion Piece We must stop blaming " We must stop blaming ‘systems’ for shameful human failures " :

    "The “systems failure” explanation has been used repeatedly in recent years in Ireland as a convenient fig leaf to enable individuals who were ultimately responsible for catastrophic institutional crashes in all sectors and individual human tragedies to escape accountability. "

    I have to agree with him in the points he raises. Once the system is blamed then there is never an actual culprit.

    I recommend reading the article.
    Systems failure is undoubtedly a fig leaf, as stated previously the systems were put in place by managers, professionals or management consultants like Eddie Molloy.
    It is also a fig leaf for professional failure in the medical community, information not passed on, ct scans unexamined etc. I have not doubt the same can be said for other professions also.

    While this article is relevant I do wonder why Eddie Molloy is so popular at the moment and allowed free adverts on RTE, Indo, Irish Times etc.
    Is it because his message is the one the plutocrats want spread at this point?
    At the height of the boom, when it was obvious to many that a collapse was imminent it was in the interests of the plutocrats that property remain in a booming position for as long as possible.
    It was in the interest of the people that this inflation be revealed as soon as possible, who did the media, the guardians of society, the sentinels over the rich and powerful choose to assist?
    Why they chose to ignore the imminent collapse and ask "experts" to rebut any suggestion that collapse was on the cards.
    These experts according to the reports were: mostly directors of property developers companies, top auctioneers and MDs, directors of estate agents.

    Why do we have so much Eddie; Walsh, Hobbs and Molloy?

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    Quote Originally Posted by An oul crisp View Post
    In focussing on the fig-leaf word-bite, you're missing the main point of Molloy's excellent piece; read on past that!
    "Whenever there is a systems failure, however, it does not mean that no one is to blame because the vital question always arises: who was responsible for the design, installation, maintenance, auditing and continuous improvement of the system in question?...Boards and senior managers are responsible not just for achieving certain business outcomes, they are also responsible for the overall health of their organisation which includes ensuring it has structures fit for purpose...not least ensuring necessary skills are in place."
    Molloy doesn't mention W.E Deming (his classic book Out of the Crisis published 1982) and his 14 Points for Management & Deadly Sins which are unfortunately still acutely relevant today. Point 2: Management must lead (as opposed to administer)
    In contrast, the general standard of what passes for board and senior management, certainly in the health service today, has more of an Orwellian taint about it with senior management walking around repeating mantras akin to "2 legs good, 4 legs bad" such as "patient care will not be affected": in the words of Aidan Halligan speaking recently at Trinity College "wilful blindness"
    I agree broadly with the article, though it would be wrong to dismiss systems failure completely (eg the banking collapse - it's wrong to lay it entirely on the shoulders of one individual - the regulator. Regulatory systems were definitely lacking there)

    Also, look at the example quoted here "patient care will not be affected". What are managers to do, when this particular lie is actually coming down from the political level? Politicians, the media and the public are complicit in perpetuating that lie. It's a genuine question though. Maybe, the answer is that the managers are paid too much to not do the right thing, regardless of what politicians are saying out of one side of their face.
    Last edited by Orbit v2; 30th April 2013 at 12:08 PM.

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