What’s the first thing you do if you know someone important is coming to visit, either at home or at work?
The chances are you’ll start to tidy up and put the things you’ve never got round to clearing up away in cupboards and drawers, then giving the loo a good clean and making sure the towels are spotless.
This happens in business too, whether private or public, and as a professional photographer I’ve often witnessed the frantic attempts by public service and corporate management to keep up appearances when an important dignitary or celebrity visit is announced.
The extremes to which this happens can vary from complete redecoration and replacement of toilet seats before a Royal visit or just making sure the ‘girly calendars’ have been taken down before the CEO’s wife arrives.
Probably the worst instance I witnessed was when a hospital cleaner was castigated by the trust’s Chief Executive, in front of patients and staff, for not completely removing an old stain from carpet in reception which had been ignored for years but suddenly took on vital importance, half an hour before the minister of health was due to visit.
My last week’s post about the magistrate’s court waiting room made me think about how many of the so called ‘very important people’ never get to see things as they really are and as a consequence they never get a true picture of what the public experience and have to tolerate.
When did the Minister of Justice last visit a courtroom that hadn’t been sanitised and prepared with a line up of selected guests, to replace the normal occupants of criminals, witnesses and victims of crime who are required to spend endless hours in these unsavoury surroundings?
When did the politicians and healthcare executives meet real patients who haven’t been carefully screened and selected by hospital PR managers?
When did the company president see the shop floor in its true unpolished working condition?
These visitors are all living a carefully choreographed illusion and this provides the basis for not understanding what happens every day and passes for normal.
Maybe this is why these politicos and dignitaries have such unrealistic experiences of how our public services, companies and institutions actually run and therefore fail to understand the problems.
Fly on the wall television documentaries have tried to recreate conditions with the boss working incognito on the shop floor, but whenever a film crew is present this will provoke some element of suspicion and consequently distortion will occur.
The only way a VIP or even an inspector will get to see the true picture is to arrive unannounced and unaccompanied, with absolutely no prior hint of a visit.
Transparency is the new political watch word if that is true, why do we conceal the real picture from the very people who need to see it.
If you have experience of these points please leave a comment.