really? honestly?

An open letter to David Williams


As Chief Executive of Portsmouth City Council you’ve been closely involved in the recent decision to ban Facebook.

I won’t expound at length about the various pros and cons of social media in relation to legitimate local government activities: Ingrid Koehler makes some excellent points here, as do many others out there.

Nor do I think there’s much point raking over some of the bizarre reporting and misuse of the word ‘average’ that I think distorted the original story. An intelligent reader can work out what the statistics really signified.

Or can they?

Because I think there might be a story behind this story. Were there other, real reasons for the ban? Because I suggest that if there were you could do a tremendous service by being open about them.

Let me explain, and speculate slightly. Planner that you are by background, I am prepared to give you a fair amount of credit for making reasoned decisions. Would “six minutes a day per employee per MONTH” really be sufficient reason for you to take a step which you must have known would create a lot of waves?

I’m thinking not. And also thinking that averages could actually be quite misleading here. Facebook isn’t for everyone. Individual tastes in viewing/idling/networking (take your pick) vary widely. I’m speculating that you had a very few staff showing extreme patterns of usage. The hardcore infojunkies checking for new stuff every few minutes. We’ve all seen them, or know of them, across most organisations.

So, this story, which hasn’t been told, would be one from that old favourite genre – managers not managing, performance systems that don’t – or can’t – do their job.

If this hypothesis is true – big ‘if’, I know – you’d come under even greater pressure than you have already to act. It wouldn’t be a general ‘stop the slackers’ message – it would be a witch-hunt of those who’d transgressed. And this in turn might lead to some very difficult questions about why your organisation hasn’t – or can’t – act as it needs to within the processes and culture that it has.

But until questions like this are faced up to we’re going to see even more misinformation in this area.

I could be wrong. As I said, I’m speculating. But I’m basing that speculation on a fair bit of behavioural observation in this area. And something in my gut tells me there’s more to this story than has so far met the eye.


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One Response

  1. paul canning says:

    He was responding to a hack piece in the local paper. That’s why he over-reacted – shut the story down is classic lgov PR tactics.

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