David Boyle: applying the ‘people principle’

The importance of human-scale institutions has been a key theme throughout David Boyle’s work. Now the former journalist has written a guide to restoring ‘the human element’ to organisations. Clare Goff meets him

‘What we require is a revolution,’ says David Boyle. ‘A revolution that takes us away from the idea that all organisations are basically factories and that all public services are assembly lines.’

His latest book The Human Element is a guide to kick-starting that revolution. It sets out ten new rules for organisations, beginning with recruiting staff for their personality rather than their qualifications.

He identifies so-called ‘super-catalysts’ like Debbie Morrison, the headteacher of a failing school in Stoke-on-Trent. When Morrison arrived at Mitchell High School, violent confrontations between teachers and parents were the norm and levels of aggression among the children so high that she was warned not to walk down the corridors alone.

Within a short period of time, however, the school had been transformed. The key to her success? Inviting the most difficult parents to come into the school and work for her in return for chocolate coins.

‘It’s not something you could write a government strategy on: how to pay people in chocolate coins,’ says Boyle. ‘It worked because of Debbie Morrison’s magnetism and her specific human skills.’

No computer programme or one-size-fits-all set of targets and processes could have achieved what Morrison did, yet government and organisations elevate those systems and processes and often fail to recognise, and even stifle, the essential human skills that make a difference.

Clare Goff

Clare Goff is editor of New Start magazine

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