Radical Reform Public Sector – Opinion – Reforming Leviathan: Mandarin lessons | The Economist

The legislative triangle of the European Union

The legislative triangle of the European Union (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This lead article in the Economist is well worth a read. Check it out!

via Reforming Leviathan: Mandarin lessons | The Economist.

Whilst, I agree with the broad thrust of the article, I feel that it understates the political complexity of the challenge. However, I particularly share the Economist’s conclusion that a long-term strategy is required, rather than one dependent upon incumbent political leadership.

Personally, I have extensive, direct, first-hand experience of delivering strategic change in public sector organizations, including international agencies (UNESCO), central and local government, so let me suggest a few pointers.

Firstly, from the standpoint of the tax-payer or unemployed millennial, there is vast inefficiency and waste in the bureaucracies of the public sector. There are multiple layers to the challenge:

  1. Central Government
  2. Local Government
  3. Public Services like Police, Fire etc.
  4. International Government, like the European Union, and
  5. International Agencies, like UNESCO, the IMF, and the World Bank

Secondly, there is an enormous stakeholder problem, creating inertia and supporting vested interests, for example politicians, professional Mandarins, and powerful labour unions protecting junior employees who might struggle to hold a comparable job in the Private Sector.

Thirdly, there is a political challenge, in that politicians meddle in day-to-day administration, with frequent knee-jerk reactions that are disruptive and incredibly inefficient. There is also the issue of the political color of the Mandarins. I agree with the Economist that political appointments, like in the US are dysfunctional. But overall, the public sector struggles to secure and retain top quality employees.

Fourthly, it is important to recognize the competence issue. Let me state, that in my dealings with the Public Sector, I have met many outstanding and capable leaders, who frequently have their hands tied behind their back by bureaucracy and political meddling.

Fifthly, the popular alternative to “big government” is outsourcing but unfortunately the outsourcing firms  often tend to be more powerful than the Mandarins and their political masters.

Sixthly, there is the enormous inefficiency of dependency on major consulting firms to supplement expertise. The major consulting firms seem to be very close to the Mandarins and their political masters – this often precludes the procurement of more cost effective independent professional services.

To put the above six challenges in context, take a look at a popular earlier blog, entitled UK Local Authorities and Shared Service: Cost-Cutting – Myth or Reality?

Any thoughts on radical reform of the public sector?

English: Structure of the Public Sector

English: Structure of the Public Sector (Photo credit: Wikipedia)