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25 October 2011The 3 line whip

Martin Ledigo

by Martin Ledigo

"Belief not compliance" is a phrase we use frequently in our business. In short people will do wonderful things in an organisation if they doing it because they believe in it rather than being told to do it or even paid to do it. Working through belief creates authenticity which many organisations say they want to create. Sadly all too often the approach taken is one of complying with a set of rules. Who hasn't been on the phone to a call centre and had to bear the standard scripts the agents are required to say rather than allowing them and trusting them to say the right things?

I have been reflecting today on David Cameron's decision to impose a 3 line whip in the House of Commons last night on a motion to require a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU. Politics is the antithesis of a high performing organisation; belief and authenticity seem to be in short supply. The politicians would doubtless argue that you would never get decisions made if you had a more consensual approach and I am sure it would not be easy. But looking at last night's vote, MPs in the Conservative party were told that they had to vote against the amendment i.e. with the Government and there was a pretty overt threat that if they didn't then their future career prospects would be limited. If that happened in normal employment I think discrimation cases would already be underway.

What about the 80 or so Conservative MPs who decided to vote against the Government. You might think they were acting out of belief, not out of compliance. I hoped that they felt they what they were doing was right and principled and that they were representing the views of their constituents. Maybe some were but listening to Nick Robinson (the BBC political chief) on Radio 4 left you in no doubt that a good many of the MPs were concerned about the forthcoming boundary changes that threaten many of their seats and that it was really important that the were seen by the local party to be representing the members. That would curry great favour with the constituency leaders.

Maybe I am being a bit cynical but it does seem strange that Government champions business yet fails to show any kind of leadership in the way it organises its own affairs. What was it Gandhi said? – "You have to be the change you want to see in the world".

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