Update: December 2012 – The long term effects of dire leadership at the BBC
Original post: Not if we judge it by any conventional criteria. It employs some of the brightest, most talented people in the media industry. It makes many award winning programmes and films and you don’t do that with stupid people. But then the question is not about the people at the BBC, per se, but the way the organisation behaves as a corporate entity – a very different question and one that can only be answered by looking at some less conventional evidence. It might help to define our terms first though.
We tend to call people ‘stupid’ if they do not have much in the way of mental faculties or they do not use their innate intelligence and yet perhaps a better definition of stupidity is when someone does not learn from very clear evidence placed in front of their eyes. Based on this definition it appears that the BBC does indeed qualify as a stupid organisation. Perhaps a bit of background might help explain.
Back in 2002/3 the BBC, under the then Director General, Greg Dyke and Director People, Stephen Dando, decided to run a very costly Leadership Programme in conjunction with Ashridge management school. I was asked to advise on how this programme might be evaluated but very quickly it was obvious that no one at the BBC knew why they were running this programme. To cut a very long story short my views hit the headlines.
Jump ahead to 2010 and I obtained a copy of the ‘external’ evaluation report that was produced after the programme had been running for some time (extracts from which can be viewed here BBC Leadership Programme – Evaluation report extracts). The discerning reader does not need to have this document spelled out, it speaks loudly and clearly for itself (a full version can be obtained from the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act). However, the covering letter that came with this report BBC Final response to Leadership Evaluation request provides the most worrying evidence of all.
First, note the general resistance to measurement that still exists 4 years after the report was written and the comment that the BBC’s concern for ‘Public Value’ started in 2004 (during the leadership programme that wasn’t measured for value) and you can see how organisations refuse to learn from their own evidence. This is a disturbing feature for an organisation spending £3.5 billion a year, where the bulk of the income comes from a compulsory licence fee.
When challenged to provide evidence of value many organisations, particularly in the public sector, resort to the type of ‘auditors report’ that Robert Johnston refers to as though the National Audit Office has answers to HR questions that no one else has managed to fathom. As we shall soon see, in associated articles in this series, we cannot rely on any auditing body to produce evidence of the value of HR but if Robert Johnson has great faith in the auditing profession then maybe he should move over and let one of them become Director People at the BBC?
As a footnote, before anyone thinks this is just about the public sector, it is worth noting that Stephen Dando worked for Diageo before joining the BBC where, presumably, the Chief Executive was quite happy with this non-evidence-based approach to leadership development? Moreover, he subsequently moved to Thomson Reuters where he has probably carried on with such practices? As for Greg Dyke – his success in leadership development at the BBC has earned him a seat on the NHS’s (National Health Service) Leadership Council which is trying to lead its 1.3 million employees – a topic that we will also cover in some detail.
For personal development linked to this topic visit the Consummate Professional Series