Reason and Fun: Andrew Tait

An item on Radio 4’s obituary programme, Last Word, caught my interest. The description of the work of Andrew Tait showed he was a person who understood the basics of human motivation. Tait helped to stamp out Tuberculosis in the UK and put an end to the “jerry-building” of new houses. His work has made a massive impact on our lives today.  Stamp Out Tuberculosis

I’d never heard of Andrew Tait before this programme and my attention was attracted by the description of the way he worked and the notable outcomes, particularly in the way that his work affects every one of us today. Having started his working life as a journalist Tait joined the Scottish Office.

At the time, tuberculosis (TB)  was prevalent in the cities, and it was decided that one solution needed the majority of adults to have a chest X-ray so that those who needed treatment could be identified. In 1957 Tait directed the publicity campaign to encourage people to go to these mobile X-ray units.   This had never been achieved anywhere else so Tait decided to combine an appeal to reason with a dash of fun. More than 50,000 volunteers were recruited; he organised a football match between Celtic and Rangers; logos on pavements read: “Let’s stamp out TB”. Masked men gave random prizes to those wearing the “X-rayed” badge and children wore posters saying, “For my sake, please have an X-ray”.

Nobody predicted the amazing response: people queued for 2 hours to be X-rayed. In Glasgow, 715,000 were X-rayed in five weeks; the habit of spitting in public began to decline, as did the incidence of the disease.   Reason and Fun, spiced with Razzmatazz proved to be a winning recipe and was a factor in the subsequent fall in T.B.

Pride in the Job

Tait was later Director Gneral at the National House Building Council (NHBC). In 1964, the so-called “jerry-building” of new homes for sale was causing much concern. Tait always believed that good regulation depended more on common sense than over fussy adherence to rules and that most people respond well to encouragement ( a true Choice Theory manager!)

Tait’s progressive approach was to emphasis that NHBC inspectors were not enemies or “snoopers” but allies of the builder, helping to improve the industry’s reputation and, therefore, the value of new houses. Good builders would be welcome; bad builders would not. An example of this approach was Tait’s Pride in the Job campaign which used the “reason and fun” format he had earlier developed in the Scottish Office. Incentives included certificates, badges, ties and blazers for regional and national winners who were feted at a London ceremony.

Today, the Pride in the Job evening is to house building what Oscar night is to movie making Tait never resorted to coercion or threats to get people to change their behaviour. Instead, he based his plans on helping people to get what they want: Fun, Respect, Pride in their work, and gave them a new way to find these things. He appealed to the basic psychological needs and it worked.

Last year, at the age of 87, Andrew Tait wrote a book,with cartoons by Bill Tidy. The book provides seven medically approved anti-ageing steps to living a longer and happier life and enjoying your old age. One of his tips was that if you don’t want to get fat, don’t keep biscuits in the house. Andrew Tait, at the age of 87 was still playing 3 sets of tennis and 5 rounds of golf a week. Fun and Razzamatazz to the very end! Andrew Tait died on March 13th 2011 aged 88.

Reference: Tait, A. (2010) Keep Young and Zimmer-Free

Now Read: Power and Responsibility in Learning

Image Credit: Telegraph

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