Less is more.

At Bromford we’re looking to build our coaching capability. We’re working with two great coaches in Clare McGregor and Liz Cross. The first time I met them Liz told a great story. She had just been at a conference where a Chief Constable was asked what he thought the police service would look like in an ideal world. As quick as a flash he said “there would be a police officer on every corner”.


Liz put her head in her hands.  Surely in an ideal world there wouldn’t be any police officers…because we wouldn’t need them.

Oh how we all laughed! What a silly Chief Constable.

But hang on. Don’t a lot of us who provide services do something very similar? We spend so much of our time looking for problems for our services to fix; social ills for us to cure; or wrongs for us to right that we can all too easily imagine that the only way to make the world a better place is to have more of what we do…more support workers, more counselors, more RNIB Sight Loss Advisors…..er what?…what is a Sight Loss Advisor?

Have a look at this tv advert from the RNIB…..

The first time I saw this I actually wondered if it was made as a spoof to send up service providers and their inexorable mission creep into more and more aspects of our lives, aspects where once we got by just fine without them.

John McKnight’s thoughtful and provocative book ‘The Careless Society’ uses powerful stories to illustrate how professionals have managed to convince us that all sorts of perfectly effective solutions and responses to life’s challenges, that have served families and communities well for generations, should be dumped in favour of a paid expert who knows better than us how we should deal with an issue or respond to a situation.

In an ideal world most ‘social services’ would not exist…because they wouldn’t be needed any more. Working towards our own obsolescence should be a central aim of all organisations  who describe their purpose in terms of putting the world to rights in some way or other.

We should concentrate on stepping back and letting the strengths that are there develop and grow.

Less really is more.


(A big thank you to my colleague Steve Barnes for the ‘delighted we’re closed sign’) 





One response to “Less is more.

  1. Really great post John. If you apply this insight to, for example Shelter (who are ‘celebrating’ their 50th anniversary with a campaign to outline how much worse things are than when they began) then by any impartial measure their purpose has failed, but they continue to exist.
    Instead of planned obsolescence, we get institutional bureau-mediocracy.


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