Managerialism

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The Inland Revenue recently informed me that they were moving my tax office to assure me of a better level of customer service. The Chancellor announced more spending as “investment” in the future. The Health Service never stops talking about how it is improving on its delivery against targets.

We are suffering from rampant public sector managerialism.

The wise men in Whitehall and Westminster have learned the language of management the same way a parrot learns English. The Inland Revenue may have victims: it does not have customers. If I am a customer, then can I go elsewhere? Or can I exchange the grief and hassle they give me for something better? The NHS has targets and deliverables for everything. They should leave delivery to the pizza boy: at least he does not change the targets after the event.

Public sector managerialism misses the point about leadership and capitalism completely. They go back to the days of the communism and Gosplan when the great men in the Kremlin or Whitehall would pull the levers of the economy and society and produce a centrally planned utopia.

Leaders and capitalism recognise the world is messy and dynamic. We have to allow people to fail, fall flat on their face, pick themselves up and try something different. Leaders have to trust their followers to be professional and do their best. We have to let go: we can not control everything in our own organisation, let alone plan everything for the nation.

The public sector lives in terminal fear of failure. As a result hordes of bright public servants try to control an uncontrollable world. Capitalist leaders manage differently: when things work; we do more of it. When it fails, we fix it or stop it. Compared to the public sector, this is a pretty dumb approach. The difference is, it works.


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