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Spin does not save crap managers

  • September 6th, 2008

A time must come when this election becomes as simple as the decision shareholders make when their company is failing while competitors are thriving.

Damaging managers can be brilliant at managing "shareholder relations". They win communicator prizes. If the management team gang up effectively, even the directors will not know for years how bad they are. But finally shareholders get sick of excuses and promises for the future. They sack ‘the devil they know’ when the bottom line can’t be ignored. 

Labour has been outstanding at political management. Political journalists admire those self-preservation skills, and may assume that they signify similar skill in management. Labour’s dearth of constructive management ability has also been masked by hiring thousands of extra staff. In some areas despite the extras and despite spending 40% more overall, less is now acheived than before (e.g. health and education).

In business the lack of skill is uncovered in the end. The boss who lacks experience and simple business management skills is eventually uncovered by competitive failure.

Headlines from the last three days’ newspapers suggest the day must be getting close when Labour’s management weakness can no longer be masked by their political management skills..

Can’t sail, can’t fly, can’t fight  as a verdict on 9 years management of Defence is devastating. 

Kiwis get half the pay of Aussies in the same jobs has the same message.

Reporting on SOE’s ‘lacks transparency’ is a pathetic headline for a damning report of utter incompetence in managing the Crown’s businesses. Mark Weldon describes the disclosed return on state businesses as "an absolutely disgraceful performance". The Select Committee says mildly that the government does not know how it is performing because performance and public accountability were not considered relevant or important.

More pithily the DomPost quotes a research analyst saying the private sector could not do a worse job than CCMAU "even if we were drunk in charge". That is most unlikely to be the fault of the CCMAU officials. It will be a reflection of what they were asked to do (or more importantly not to do).

My post prompted by the DomPost editorial ‘Heart of the Mater’ covers health as another area of bad management. Over 9 years Labour has doubled spending and got less than a 5% increase in output.

Wellingtonians reminded of our health service disadvantage by the DomPost (we wait twice as long as Aucklanders for heart operations) will not be comforted by Thursday’s Herald editorial (though it explains why we’re being flown to Australia rather than Auckland)  Five years after an "efficiency reorganisation" of public cardiac services Auckland is getting 20% less done than before.

"This week, the Auckland District Health received a report that ought to put health officials to shame. The number of cardiovascular operations in Auckland has declined by a fifth in the five years since the move from Green Lane."

Businesses do get mesmerising leaders who lead into decline and failure. With careful information management, and schmoozing of their boards they often postpone being sacked until everyone outside their business can’t believe they are still in charge. Eventually they get oblivion.

Unfortunately MMP may preserve Labour’s poltical managers from oblivion. No doubt they’ll spend the next few years firing criticism at their successors, and being rehabilitated by their media mates.

The same journalists who’ve seen no evil for 9 years (barring what they see as a few minor slips and bad luck) will serve up every fault in National’s management as a headline catastrophe.

That’s the future. In the meantime this government must go for straightforward incompetence.


  • Jason
  • September 6th, 2008
  • 3:39 pm

My, my you are such a pessimist, Stephen. No wonder National placed you so low on their list. I am sure that if the media bother to write anything about you, it won’t be very nice after your crazy ramblings.


[…] Stephen Franks blogs on how spin should not save crap managers, applying it to the party that has managed NZ’s military, SOEs, and hspitals for the last nine years. A good read. Tags: Andrew Geddis, free speech, Homepaddock, Karl du Fresne, Media, Stephen Franks, Trevor Loudon […]

  • bobux
  • September 6th, 2008
  • 5:05 pm


Care to enlighten us with your views on how effectively state assets are being run?

Or whether boosting funding for no improvement in output is a sound management philosophy?

I guess making childish insults is so much easier.

  • pedro
  • September 6th, 2008
  • 5:50 pm

Hi Jason lets hope you never get parked on a trolley in Wellington Hospital wating for an heart op? and you are not one of the 35%who end up before their time in the graveyard.

  • Ian Llewellyn
  • September 6th, 2008
  • 8:41 pm

Hi Stephen
As one of those uselss political journalists who do not understand business, could I point one fact in regards to the SOE performance rate of return argument.
Some $10 billion of the $20 billion in assets is due to the $10 billion valuation of NZ Railway Corporation.
This is mainly based on a very dubious valuation of the land the corporation owns which neither reflects the actual value or even the sellable value if you were to sell all the land.
I’ve written about it in the past, but since it is quite dull no one really pays any interest.
Cullen knows the valuation is a joke, but has not done much to get it corrected. I think this is because it boosts Crown net worth and could have been a useful tool in debate with Toll about the charge they should pay to use the Govt’s tracks (of course that argument is worthless now).
Hope you are enjoying the campaign trail. Hope to catch up with you on it’
Ian Llewellyn



I hope your self-identification as a “useless political journalist…” is mock modesty.

I assumed that those I had in mind would not be offended, blithe in thinking it meant all the others.
I never thought that one I did not have in mind would think it must be him.

Your mention of the KiwiRail saga is apt though. What could be a better example of incredible business naivety than paying a big Aussie who was over a barrel, for a dud business, instead of leaving it to be picked up for nothing.

  • pedro
  • September 7th, 2008
  • 9:28 pm

The sale of the century was completed by Cullen except he could have bought it for the pittance TOLL bought it for in 2003? cULLEN TUCKED HIMSELF IN BY PAYING 4 TIMES MORE FOR IT?SMART COOKIE?Half of Australia are still laughing?The other half are in shock to see how stupid NZsFINANCE MINISTER IS?except the train fares went up in Wellington.It really is just another TAX to pay for LABOURS STUPIDITYFor the rail purchase,with our money.Think of the number of hospital ops missed out on?

  • pedro
  • September 8th, 2008
  • 5:21 pm

Yes we wonder why LABOUR has driven so manyNZ born citizens to flee to australia and beyond they have worked out they are second class citizens in the land of their birth.Thousands of new immigrants seem to get preference over the work hards. THE the work easies ,or not at all?They get the cream of the crop and the NZ borns get the crap of the cream?shame labour,KIWIS WILL RETURN WHEN THEY ARE TREATED ON A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD,as on hospital waiting lists,etc etc etc!

  • Anonymous
  • September 8th, 2008
  • 6:35 pm

My Pedro you are a bitter little puppy aint ya? People leave cos they want too…

You think that a change of Government will level the playing field you are either incredibly dumb or just plain stupid.

Franks may or may not get my vote I’m undecided still(like I suspect most of the voters)your comments however remind me that behind every normal honest right winger stands a facist like you.

Get a life or better still if you think this country is as bad as you state then kindly piss off! And let the rest of us Joe Averages just get on with living in our country….

The flight of NZers has been going on for years and I suspect has more to do with other things like family or O.E’s than anything else…Your argument is simplistic.

Go to Thailand or that wonderful democracy like the USA and check waiting lists(if you can get in to the Hospitals at all).

  • pedro
  • September 8th, 2008
  • 7:52 pm

Thank you anonymous its little man woman or is it woman manLIKE YOU who have destroyrd this great country?and as usual all done in a furtive sneaky way ,you just prove your bias ,you dont have the guts or is it entrails to give your name ?that is if you even have a BRAIN CELL!

  • Jim Maclean
  • September 9th, 2008
  • 12:11 am

These insults add nothing to the thoughtful comments and analysis the subject deserves. The entire country is not destroyed. Like all countries there are many things which could be done better, but it is not doing too badly by world standards. I know of no country where everything goes right all the time. The main reason remains that there are plonkers at every level of society, business and management, whose human flaws will let them stuff up what they are running at the time. Likewise there is just dumb luck which can protect the guilty and sabotage the innocent in all kinds of circumstances. Political and business leaders both, will always be hamstrung by these factors regardless of how astute and talented they may be personally.
I greatly admire Stephen Franks, even while believing that the ACT economic theories he ascribes to are fine in principle, but unworkable in our unenlightened society. I therefore hope that John Key truly has moved more to the centre of the economic spectrum as most successful evolving societies seem to be doing. I also firmly believe that if all our politicians are as principled and hard working as Stephen Franks then given a little luck we may yet once more become a wise and wealthy country.
Jim Maclean


Quite agree Jim!

As public by and large do indeed swim in the centre, not to the left or the right…which leads me to this, while both magor parties do indeed publicly proscribe to the middleground both point there fingers at the other and scream “Commie” or “Nazi”,

However the point is not lost that they do indeed sit in the middle.

Which brings me to my next question what is indeed the difference in these two parties?
While a supporter of MMP one concern that has grown thru the years is how minor parties on both sides of the divide, have in effect wagged the dog from the tail.

And when you look at the antic of the two minor parties mainly supporting National and Labout this quickly becomes obvious!
Winstone Peters and his antics, and of course Rodney Hide. This farce going on at the moment is a classic, Its Bread and the Circus Maximus…lose the main issues and have a public circus. Hide is as much of an attention seeker as Peters is(just not as good…)every time I see him on TV I think of him in a tight tango trousers and a open lemon shirt…dropping his partner on her head. Not really the image I want from my Politicians.

The irony is that MMP was first used I understand in the German Weimar Republic after WW1 and actually was one of the reasons for Adolphs rise to power.

Yet why cant both our magor Parties work together? From what I understand NZ in WW2 had a coalilition government?

Both parties do indeed have strengths would it not be better for the country for both the centrist parties to control parliament and work together to move our country forward together?

However I suspect this will never happen as ego and power on both sides(plus a unhealthy dislike for each other at the top)is what really drives a lot of our politicians…as well as a hefty salary, wonderful tax opportunities and perks.

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away I had a T-shirt it read “Vote for Guy Fawkes the only man to enter Parliament with true intentions!” The more I see of our Parliament the more disgusted I become little boys and girls trying to get one up on each other instead of sorting the problems of our great little country, Godzone.

When I watch the antics of our beloved leaders lately and along with I suspect many others I wonder if they really ever listen to there voters or just arrogantly set aggendas to get themselves in to a “nice little earner” of a job, and to hell with the rest of us.

My grandfather once said that we only get the chance of democracy every three years and then the politicians conveniently forget us till the next election campaign.

Finally I am sick of the issue of Tax Cuts…and comparrisons to other contries in this regard. If you want the real cause of our high taxes, look to our population compared to say Ozzie, you want lower taxes yet get the same services? Then open the doors for immigration and triple our population, ahh no not many want that eh?

While no doubt Pedro would probablyu call me a liberal because of my convictions over the welfare state, in other regards I probably am a conservative, ie Crime and Punishment.

Hence why I will probably will give my electoral vote to Stephen but not my list vote…that will go to the party that shows me a party Manifesto that will improve the lot of our less fortunate.

I am Working Class Born and Bred, proud of where I came from but equally proud of where I am now, unlike many in my country I do not feel like a victim and never was.

My country has been very good to me Pedro, so no no furtiveness, no secretness, and my friend plenty of guts…I have kept my name out of this first entry not out of fear of the likes of you but a passing aquaintance through my sport with Stephen who I admire through the work he has done to my sport which was suffering from stagnation and decay.

However I have learnt in my life that one thing that is very precious to me is my right to vote once every so often…and it is something I dont just throw away hence my regular vistits to read Stephens Blog and others.

Like Jim Maclean I also admire Stephens work in the community and his work and veiws on Law and Order. though like I said I dont nessacarily agree with all of Stephens thoughts as he would no doubt of mine. However I think he has the interests of my nation at heart.

You on the other hand ‘PEDRO’ well. Too many lonely nights I suspect. So finally your comment ‘PEDRO’ that; “…you dont have the guts or is it entrails to give your name?”

Sorry complete oversite last time, I think I didn’t fill in the boxes correctly and it defaulted, so fine more than happy to give my name, my name is Gabe Giddens.

Just can you tell me Pedro which day you intend to stick the burning cross on the lawn so I can get the buckets of water ready….Now whats your name mmmm Pedro?

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