On 21/12/11 14:47, Michael Lawson wrote:
"There is no fundamental reason why the public sector cannot work just as
efficiently as the private sector."
Actually Chris there are multiple reasons why the public sector cannot work
as efficiently as the private sector.
Really? It seems to me that few of those that you have identified are
actually intrinsic to the public sector.
Drag and efficiency brings to mind motion and efficiency and a Local
Administrative Authority has all of the aerodynamics of a dead
Some may resemble such. But they don't have to. Once upon a time perhaps
they all did, it is certainly the common stereotype, but I'm not
convinced that all do today.
However it is pretty universally accepted the big organisations can suffer
from all of the following (this stuff is all over the web for those
Taking that literally, you speak of *big* organisations, not public
sector organisations. Of *can*, not must. But let's look at some of your
§ Complexity - the extent to which the business goals are unclear and the
level of ambiguity in the organisation; if you start offering mixed
services this will increase
I completely agree, clear goals and focus are vital. But even a complex
LA can have clear goals. It is more tricky admittedly. LAs have an
unusually wide range of services to deliver and that complexity does
introduce challenges, but not insurmountable ones, and ones that are
being addressed. We are increasingly expected to define our goals and
purpose at every level, from the multi agency Sustainable Community
Strategy down through to individual's work plans, and to link them
together. Clearly defining purpose, and doing so in a customer focused
way, has been a major part of the changes that have been happening here.
§ Political resistance - the presence of competing interest groups with
high levels of power and influence; you are democratically driven and not
I think this is potentially the biggest of the issues for the public
sector. The clear and decisive leadership that is needed to ensure focus
has to encompass the political masters as well as management. That
partnership needs to be skilfully forged. But the private sector is not
free of these difficulties, particularly larger organisations. Nor is it
impossible to work with these tensions.
§ Cultural resistance - how much a proposed change runs counter to the
shared assumptions which prevail in the organisation; this is a major drag
For all, not just public sector organisations. Smaller organisations
probably have an advantage here. But the reality is that in order to
continue to function and deliver in the current climate the public
sector *has* to embrace change, and will have to overcome this drag
whether or not they choose to engage in working in the private arena.
§ Size and Scope - the extent to which the change affects lots of people
and crosses organisational and national boundaries; this certainly applies
Well, most local authorities don't cross national boundaries, so I'm not
sure about the relevance of this.
§ Lack of change experience - the extent to which managers have led
similar change programmes in the past, you lack experience in these
commercial disciplines, honestly you do
Yes and no. Local authorities are no strangers to change. It is an
almost constant feature of life within them. To suggest that LA managers
lack experience of managing change is a nonsense. To suggest that
historically they haven't done it all that well has rather more mileage.
But again, things are changing. LAs are becoming increasingly commercial
and are increasingly looking to the private sector as a recruiting
ground for senior managers. The days of the 'Peter Principal' - of
rising to your level of incompetence - are happily slipping away. LAs
are looking for managers who can lead and manage, rather than for
managers who are good at doing the job of those who they are engaged to
manage. There is cross-fertilisation between the sectors, and LAs are
not afraid to recognise when the challenge is one with which they need
extra help and buy it in. The transformation is far from complete, but
it is happening.
And of course, it is not only the public sector who lack the skills of
change management. The literature is full of case studies of failed
change in the private sector too. The difference is perhaps that in the
public sector an organisation can fail dismally at change and yet still
exist five years down the line.
These are all valid concerns, but none is exclusive to the public
sector, and none is insurmountable in a well led LA.
I have a feeling that as with the Euro the market is going to decide.
Providing LAs compete on an equal footing, with the private part of
their service not subsidised at all it would seem the obvious answer -
let those LAs who think they can do it have a go. In these days if it
doesn't work out financially no manager or politician is going to let it
continue for long.
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