I once worked for about a month on a contract for a well-known Government vehicle licensing agency, as part of an effort to transform the HR function. Despite the huge rewards that were being paid by the agency who hired me for this I had to walk out after one month of going to Swansea for two days a week. The mind-numbing nonsense was unbelievable …

The HR transformation team sat in orderly rows like birds on a wire in an open plan office environment. An external team of IBM Consulting staff also sat in rows just a few yards opposite. Here's a kind of schematic of "The Office":

After a few days on the job, I began to wonder why nothing much was getting done. On further enquiry, I discovered that the HR transformation people badly needed some information from the IBM people sitting a few yards away. I naively asked “Shall we talk to them?”, whereupon I was told that this was not allowed, as the IBM people were "Consultants" and DVLA “Leadership” had instructed staff that these people were too important / expensive to be talked to. I decided to cross the invisible "Maginot Line" which separated the "two tribes", to find out if I would be arrested or worse. To my surprise, I found some very helpful and cheery people, a few of whom were happily playing Solitaire …. In every meeting I attended, the excuse "We are waiting for information from IBM" was trotted out as a justification for stasis, but nobody was prepared to ask IBM for this information. I was puzzled and a little shocked.

After several weeks of this nonsense I shared my feelings about quitting with a DVLA staffer and was surprised when he said to me:

"Why not say nothing and keep taking the money? You only have to come here two days a week. I have to come here five. Can you imagine what that's like?"

I decided I could not bear the climate of fear and nonsense any longer, so I politely wrote to my sponsor at the agency and told her I had to quit. I had already found out that my predecessor had also left, but he told them that it was because he needed a leg operation. Unfortunately I told them that I had to leave because I felt there was nothing I could do to make the place better. Therefore added no value and did not wish to take any more money from them – they took this as some kind of an affront, since I'd graphically pointed out that the project was of no real value by resigning in the face of serious loss of earnings. It seems that they would have preferred me to tell them that I was ill …. !

Disengaged? Have an amputation rather than tell the truth – it's kinder …

Having told the truth in what I considered a decent way, I recall that the overwhelming feelings of joy were palpable, as I washed up my coffee cup for the last time. I had been previously challenged that I had not joined the “coffee pool”, preferring to bring 6 Earl Grey teabags and my own mug every time I visited. This was seen as a sign of disloyalty or a lack of commitment to DVLA. Somehow, on reflection, I think my "Earl Grey protest" was intuitively correct!

Earl Grey – The Tea of Protest

What should we learn from this?

And finally, someone has to pay for Public Service inefficiencies. Looks like it's the end user who is the end loser: