Friday, 16 August 2013

It's Just Grief - Get Over It!

Yesterday saw Russell Webster publish the first of a promised series of posts by what he describes as 'the first probation mutual to go live', LAURUS. Somewhat condescendingly, he billed it on twitter as 'helping probation through its grieving process.'  

"In the classic 5 stages of grief model developed by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, she explains that individuals experiencing major change, such as a loss through death or divorce, go through 5 stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally, Acceptance.
The model was first published in the late sixties but it quickly became clear that this model didn’t just apply to individuals but also to organisations. This led to the development of the change curve which is a clear and graphic way to describe the stages.
5 stages of grief
When we examine what the Probation sector is experiencing at present and apply this model to Probation staff and Probation Trusts, we can see why there is so much denial, anger, depression and bargaining in our day to day business."

It generated the following comment on this blog by netnipper:-
This sophistry about how the five stages of grief, formulated to understand personal loss, is now allegedly applicable to organisational change – the 'spinning off of a mutual'. What absolute self-serving baloney. So the fault lies not in neoliberalism, not in zero-hours contracts, lower wages, not in fewer holidays and poorer protections in the event of sickness. No, none of these things matter – what matters most is the worker's ability to come to terms with the loss of all these conditions of service – getting over the anger and depression and reaching the hallowed ground of Acceptance. And those who fail to negotiate the five stages in a reasonable time frame, will be the morbid ones, pathologically unable to come to terms with change. This is Orwellian doublethink, not a process of grief – a process of self-indoctrination. By all means let those who want to climb greasy poles, climb; let those who see their future in Vichy, go there; let those who know the price of everything, pawn their birthrights...but save us from the lies and hypocrisy and crass justifications. The death of probation is not by natural causes. Reminds me of Shelley's Mask of Anarchy: 'I met murder on the way...'
Anyway the post goes on:- 
"LAURUS OD Solutions is a Joint Venture which was set up by the five North West Probation Trusts, Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside in order to develop and deliver training centrally for the Trusts. The longer term plan was for LAURUS to “spin out” and stand on its own feet as a private provider using scale and self management to make it a commercial success.
During this process and the laboured progression of the transforming rehabilitation agenda we at LAURUS have been through all five change stages but, in the last few months, have used the acceptance stage to become more focused on what we needed to do to make the new training company a commercial success that continues to serve the training requirements of staff delivering offender services.
A key part of this acceptance was the realisation that employee engagement was central to driving forward plans to transform ourselves from a service-based and passive organisation to a dynamic commercially focused one. We had to recognise that our future careers depended on us developing products, delivering great service, attracting and motivating the best staff and persuading potential customers that we are the best option for all their training needs in the sector.
It quickly became obvious that we wanted to turn ourselves into a mutual where employees have a stake in the business, where “profit” is used to grow and reinvest and where all decisions on business strategy come from “bottom-up”. This process of self renewal has helped us to speed up our progress through the change curve and has driven high levels of engagement in the process of renewal."
Over the coming months we're going to have to get used to a lot more of this upbeat motivational business-speak bollocks, so it's probably best we brace ourselves now. It all reminds me of a conversation I had once with an ACO. She said 'you know Jim, it's much easier to accept change than fight it' to which I replied 'since when did we do what was easiest, rather than what was right?'  


  1. Spot on Jim. The 'motivational business speak bollocks' is sadly a sign of the times. After 23 years in the Probation Service I'm still aghast at the way our managers talk in this way and so many of them have no idea how to engage a service user. I always sensed many of them escaped into management to avoid front line work.

  2. Going back to the movie references, I feel like I am in a scene from "Invasion of the body snatches" one day all the CEOs and the top managers were fine and the next day completely different people, I dare not fall asleep. Or "Aliens" when the Alien bursts out of John Hurt's stomach you just know the shit is going to hit the fan.

  3. I'm struck by an article in todays Humberside Daily Mail. Offenders are not completing offending behaviour courses.
    Two things interest me. Firstly a quote from Humbercare who have apparently worked with probation for 25 years which basically says its not our fault its probations. I'm left wondering how many times will hear that with privatisation.
    Secondly, if there are difficulties in delivering courses now, it surely can only get worse under privatisation.
    " It wasn't us it was them", I'm certain will be a daily mantra we will all be listening to under TR.

    1. Difficulties with delivering courses would surely show up in poor performance figures. Seeing as trusts now seem all to be scoring 3 or 4 out of possible 4 this suggests that the Humberside Daily Mail is using duff gen. Mind, I have been continually impressed by the effort, ingenuity and problem solving ability which offenders employ to avoid the requirements of court orders.

      The allocation of blame between the NEWCOS and the National Probation Service will presumably be determined by contract quality. If past behaviour is a good indicator of future behaviour then anonymous at 14.52 is correct at para 2.


      I don;t think the journalism is brilliant.

  4. Netnipper: Just picking up on your comments about change. I hate it when managers are all singing from the same old infamous song sheet. Promoting change is one thing, promoting conformity because because you are too scared to express a true opinion is something else of a lower order. But in essence managerialsm is fatuous and fickle. There would be no problem, in fact it would be a pleasure to change under the guidance of wise heads, who had carefully evaluated all the circumstances and determined that there was a real advantage to making some changes. Not just changes to satisfy some ideological craving, or to benefit an elite at the expense of the wider workforce - but changes that actually gained a progressive consensus. We know that most of the changes imposed on probation in the past decade have been ill-thought-out, we know that over 90% who responded to the Carter Report thought NOMS a bad idea. All this professional expertise was ignored. But still we get these sackcloth and ashes public servants, aka senior managers, telling us how hard they are trying, in private, to save the world – pity the poor apparatchiks, who never need to change of course: like dead fish...they go with the flow.

  5. It was reported yesterday that the government have spent £287m on redundancy and consultancy fees. This was spread over 17 departments. However well over 50% of that money came from the DWP and the MoJ, just 2 departments, and both being Chris Graylings remit.
    Those in the process of 'assisting' the TR changes may do well to note those statistics, get busy digging in and stop burning bridges. You may need them for the journey back!

  6. Jim,

    The well known work of EKR on grief reactions ( I once use a video of her work with yr 5 teenagers!!) seems as your contributors note a crude extrapolation v unsuited to the crude politically driven dismantling of probation.... fearless leadership is crucial to fighting this piracy... you may recall the wonderfully outspoken Martin Wargent- former CPO/PA Chair) flummoxing another guest speaker RH.. at a Napo AGM the calculated deceit of Noms in badmouthing probation .. RH is now one of a cadre of privateers waiting to feed off probation's carcass...

    MW has a good piece in the IMB magazine The Monitor including the following:

    Over the 40 years I spent in the probation
    service a vast array of politicians were
    involved in its oversight, with each
    succeeding one becoming more involved in
    day-to-day management. This in turn led to
    the exponential growth in civil servants who
    claimed to know something about managing
    probation work – and were inevitably found
    wanting. From around 50 in the 1980s,
    numbers rose to about 1,500 by 2005. With
    little for these people to do other than duplicate
    the work of local managers, spare time
    was available for putting to ministers a bewildering
    array of plans designed to display the
    latest business fads. Slowly but so surely,
    privatisation became the number one way for
    civil servants to win ministerial favour....

    Lets push for some Gramscian optimism because of the will....less of those organograms that used to drive JMcK to despair!



  7. Having reached the acceptance stage, little choice in the matter really considering the neoliberal drive to force the privatisation through at ANY cost! Model needs adapting for probation professionals, since experience,knowledge and evidence points to this being a train wreck of magnificent proportions and many feel ANGER at this fine service being dismantled. Acceptance and anger - (model doesn't account for that) . I would really appreciate a politician giving an honest reason for dismantling the public services- which is to get the public sector pensions off their books!

  8. how can we grieve when this is not due to natural causes but premeditated murder. What a fool.