There is an odd little story in the Times Business News today. Consultants hired by BAA to measure the waiting time for check-in were giving people timed slips of paper. The idea was that they would collect them at the end and calculate the time difference. They were however, handing out the slips half-way down the queue, so that the time would always be understated by about 50%
BAA expressed surprise on being told this and said that the consultants would be told that the slips were to be handed out at the time of joining the queue.
It doesn’t make sense does it? I mean, I don’t believe that this was just down to the stupidity of the work experience boy who actually handed out the slips. One of two things was happening here: either BAA actually wanted false results or the consultants did.
I think we can rule out BAA. If they wanted false results it would have been a great deal easier just to make them up. This way merely provided thousands of people with the ability to contradict the survey. I suspect that the consultants were either measuring their performance under their last contract or rigging the metrics for the next one.
It is a simple variant on the standard NHS waiting list ploy really. Set yourself a fixed target which looks impressive, and publish it. Then work out how far back you must set the entry point in order to meet the target. Any entrants further back than that point don’t count, so you must make sure they don’t get on the list – you have a waiting-list-for-the-waiting-list or invent an intermediate stage which allows you to say that they have been seen within the target time but which defers the moment of entry onto the real list.
The BAA queue fix provides us with a working model for this. Perhaps I have just become cynical after ten years of Blair and Brown.