Stop whinging about G4S and get on with it

BLOG: Management Today's editor, Matthew Gwyther, on why parliamentary hearings and public scrutiny are only getting in the way of putting on a good show.

by Matthew Gwyther
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

We have an enduring passionate love affair with dirty washing in the UK. We wallow, roll and immerse ourselves in its folds, its special aroma. We love going into the nitty gritty of who soiled that sheet. Who fouled those boxer shorts? How, when, why. Who is going to foot the bill for the extra Persil globule? Get your nose in and leave no laundry basket unturned.  

Sitting watching G4S’s Nick Buckles and his extraordinary hairdo in parliament the other day – was it a wig borrowed from Ian Botham’s early 80s mullet collection? – I felt like yelling "enough" at the screen. He was like a punch drunk Essex not-so Raging Bull with no answers having his calves bitten by a pack of yapping and nipping Jack Russells. (When, by the way, are the Select Committees going to take a few lessons in effective collective cross-examination from a criminal silk and learn how to land effective punches and find out the truth?) 

G4S has made a gross cock-up and the reputational damage it has suffered is vast. Coming back from six months dodging incoming rounds in Afghanistan to discover that rather than a fortnight in Ibiza with your wife and kids, you are going to be stuck getting soaked on some god-forsaken, windswept part of East London checking handbags must be a bitter pill to swallow. 

But I wonder why G4S bid for a contract that had trouble written all over it from the get go. LOCOG are famous for driving hard bargains – they need to be because they have to put on the Greatest Show on Earth with a tight budget. LOCOG are no pussy cats when it comes to negotiation. G4S bid because it had to. Never mind there was far easier profit to be made doing its security and protection stuff in dark dodgy areas of the world where nobody asks any questions. If it had failed to engage with the Olympics – the blue riband event par excellence – people would have wanted to know why. But the reputational risk check list must have gone on for pages. And, what if, god forbid, some nasty terror operative does have a go? Where is the win there? It will be the Daily Mail who discovers that the G4S operative nearest the incident didn’t have proper English. Or, worse still – was born abroad.  

There is a time and a place for finding out what went wrong but surely not now with so much to do. When you plan a battle of this size, not everything goes according to plan. That is why you have contingencies. We don’t have the time or energy for endless recrimination with such a big job still to complete.  Not with the world watching us and 9787 ABC staff coming over from New York. Not with an extra- length orthopaedic mattress to find for Usain. Maybe we should just get on with it and put our best foot forward without the endless whining and snapping and whinging and moaning. Who knows - it may actually be fun.  

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