I was prompted to write this article after reading the report last month on the Mid-Staffordshire Hospital Trust. I was appalled at the stories of routine patient neglect and humiliation. The Trust seemed to ignore its day job to focus on cutting costs and hitting government targets.
Some of it was really upsetting, especially when it emerged that the Trust had hit targets and achieved Elite Foundation Status, a supposed measure of real success. Putting ticks in boxes had made them forget what they were really there for - saving and improving lives.
And the education of our kids has become a tick box exercise, which has completely altered the system. My own children have passed through well, but last year I sat down with my nephew to see if I could help with his project.
He goes to a school with great exam results, but he was copying, word for word, two sides of A4 that was "suggested text" kindly provided by his teacher. In other words, a project that had been done for him. Another tick in a dubious box.
And so it is in our industry. I wanted to look at this because of the managers that I have interviewed over the past 18 months. Because to keep the manufacturer happy, many have to pursue ticks of their own - ticks in the Customer Care box.
In some organisations the focus is so extreme that without the right ticks, everyone, down to the sales staff, will not earn any bonus at all.
I understand what drives this - if you don't look after your customers, you will not be rewarded.
But here is the inconvenient truth. There is so much money at stake that the ticks are now the focus, not customer care. Every successful sales and general manager I meet has a "Customer Satisfaction" programme to get those ticks.
Most will tell you that these programmes are not about looking after their customers any better. Many will feel that it actually deflects them doing so. But what they all have is a process designed to persuade the customer to answer the survey favourably.
Manufacturers must be delighted with the results - some achieve 98% of customers who are "very satisfied". Except what they have is 98% of surveyed customers who been persuaded to put a tick in the 10 box and not in the 7. They have been educated that not getting a 10 will severely affect the dealer, could cost someone their job, could put the dealer out of business.
Some dealers will even be given the names of the customers that are going to be surveyed - so don't waste time educating (or even looking after) everyone, just the ones who are going to affect the result.
Years ago I met a very successful a Service Manager. He went from almost bottom in the UK to the top 10 in six months. He offered two bottles of champagne to all customers who returned a blank form to him to complete. I know the system is different now, but under the rules in place then he got the ticks.
You will hate me for saying it, but if you ask people to tick boxes then that tick becomes their focus, not the reason for the tick.
Is that really why we started down this road?