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The failures of the Coop provide insights into common management problems in not for profit institutions - including Oxford University.
The test of an organisational structure is not how it handles success but how it copes when things go wrong.
British technological failures have been compounded by a political phenomenon I have come to think of as “great leap forward syndrome”. The idea is that the best way to compensate for stumbles and missteps is to move, at one bound, ahead of the field.
British law might have said that the duty of directors is simply to promote the interests of the company’s members. But it doesn’t – and that is no accident.
The argument that we need the best and latest is powerful in political decision making, even among people who would never behave that way in their everyday lives.
Casinos attract greedy people with deficient ethics: the fear this engenders frames regulation, the obligations we impose on executives and the culture we expect from operating companies. Perhaps banks should operate to standards as high as those of casinos.
By the time Stephen Byers could slip from one cabinet post to another without taking responsibility for any of the blunders that seemed to happen wherever he was in charge, ministerial accountability had been replaced by T.S. Eliot’s cat: “When a crime’s discovered, then Macavity’s not there.”