Guest blog: Planet Trustee meets Planet Admin

11th April, 2012

  • We’re delighted to have experienced Trustee and MND, John Heatly, provide his take on some of the issues Trustees can face when working with Pension Administrators as well as providing some advice on how to work in harmony.

    “Why hasn’t it been done? – it was obviously important….” A frustration Trustees sometimes feel with their pension administrators. Can anything be done or is this “just the way it is?”

    All pension administrators I’ve ever come across are a particular ‘life-form’ whose major operating mode is “procedure”.  Thinking for themselves, thinking in stimulus and response terms, using imagination, exercising judgement etc is not high on the job spec – following procedures, rules, systems is.

    “The urgent always gets in the way of the important” is a management truism and, on Planet Admin, the important tends to be that with a deadline attached.  In Pension Administration culture this means the urgent and the important are the same thing.  Elements that don’t have mandated timetables attached are, by definition, less important and can be got round to as and when.

    To get the best from the beast one needs to feed it in language it understands.  Unfortunately, on Planet Trustee, the inhabitants don’t always set clear, precise briefs and deadlines.  Probably because they’re used to dealing with people who can exercise independent judgement about relative importance, its distinction from the urgent and they’ve mostly been trained to brief for outcomes and leave method to the “experts”. 

    But it’s been my experience of over 20 years dealing with Planet Admin that unless one is absolutely clear about the processes to be followed and the deadlines required, one will get drift.  Either one can continually chase them (in their eyes unreasonably ‘cos they haven’t “missed any deadlines”) or one sets a clear action plan with dates for each stage and lets the system do what it does best – follow procedure.  In my view the latter is the less exhausting course all round.

    Recently our Trustees became frustrated that an “obviously” important project was dragging on.  Yes, a bit of judgement on  priorities from the administrators would have helped – but so too would have been Trustee insistence at the outset on a clear calendar of deadlines about when we wanted the results.

    Once we laid down a “procedure” – a concept familiar to Planet Admin – we’ll get what we want ‘cos, in the words of the song, “we’ve got a system.”  If it’s got a deadline it’s important; if not, not.

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