The Curious Case of the Bad Apple

Bad apples or rotten barrel?  You decide.

Tuesday 24 April 2012, Royal Station Hotel, Newcastle Upon Tyne.

Lazy bureaucrats, uncaring nurses, greedy bankers, police officers who prefer box ticking to fighting crime, rogue reporters and incompetent social workers all blight public life.  In our own organisations, we battle with dead wood, negative people, incompetent middle managers, sycophants, poor performers and career managers. If only we could get rid of them, things would improve.  Looking for systemic causes of and solutions to problems gets you nowhere. Blaming the system absolves individuals from responsibility. The bad apples theory beats the rotten barrel theory hands down.

In this session, Lesley Cairns and Charlotte Pell put the bad apples theory on trial using classic psychological studies, recent case material, expert opinion and scientific evidence.

This was much more than an intellectual debate. It matters because what you choose to spend your budget on comes from a belief about what governs performance – individuals or system. If you are operating from false assumptions, you are wasting time and money.  If you believe in the bad apples theory of management, you will spend your time on appraisals, training, team building, revising job descriptions and doing personalities quizzes. If you believe in the rotten barrel theory of management, you will spend your time understanding and acting on the system.

Our Facilitators

Lesley Cairns is Doncaster’s biggest threat to management thinking. She works with organisations on the rotten barrel. She has 30 years of experience of working in improvement roles in service and manufacturing organisations in both the public and private sectors.

Charlotte Pell is one of NET2’s good apple convenors. Charlotte started her career in local government as a community development worker. A decade of promotions into less useful jobs with more senior titles taught her that doing the right thing for the citizen is more important than a career that rewarded her for compliance. She now works with John Seddon of Vanguard Consulting to change management thinking.


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