CALM reflections on the Post Office Scandal

Every day there seems to be a new revelation about the Post Office scandal…one of the latest being that Fujitsu staff knew of the software glitches as far back as 1999.

According to the company’s European boss, Paul Patterson, staff were aware of various bugs, errors and defects as far back as November 1999 – when the rollout had only just begun.

To do well, you need to be well: the whole scandal is another heartbreaking example of where poor culture has driven leadership behaviour resulting in terrible outcomes for people (and ultimately business too).

Bosses at the Post Office failed to find the balance between commercial outcomes, care for the individual and long-term sustainability, and the same can be said for those at Fujitsu.

It also shows the power of a false narrative. The victims of this scandal were genuinely struggling with a flawed IT system. But once the convenient narrative formed and stuck in the minds of leadership that the subpostmasters were to blame and not the technology, then the story took flight that they were in the wrong.

An effective leader in the 21st century workplace  shows empathy and listens to staff and it’s imperative to pay attention to and proactively work on the cultural narratives that are forming, developing and thriving across your organisation. Checking in on whether they are helpful or unhelpful and regularly reviewing them against a balanced set of measures, ideally through multiples lenses with a truly diverse group of leaders.

The narrative from the hierarchy was likely  that they had to protect the IT system and the associated investment. But they really should have been protecting their most valuable asset – their people.

Dominic O’Connell’s piece in The Times also points to a lack of boardroom curiosity allowing corporate scandals to take root.

He says that a ‘suspension of curiosity and common sense, sometimes a deliberate suspension motivated by greed, not wanting to look bad or simply the desire to rock the boat – crops up time and again when big organisations go wrong.’

Speaking of great leaders, I’ve long been an admirer of Gemma Edwards, who is a Partner at Cooper Parry. She is a real tour de force when it comes to leading for people in business, for better outcomes.

Gemma is an advocate for ensuring we all find ways to work for greater balance when it comes to delivering outstanding commercial success and taking care of ourselves and each other in the process.

I’m delighted that she’ll be joining me for our next CALM Leader Live on Friday 16th February.

Through times of change and growth both professionally and personally, we’ll be talking about taking care of ourselves and each other in the process; we’ll touch on the critical role of culture and leadership when it comes to self-development as well as supporting your people to help them find 1% CALMer.

Sign up to attend the live or get the recording here