what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Crafting effective public management - why so few practitioner perspectives?

If you want to understand a subject, would you rather have one written from a theoretical standpoint – or from a practitioner’s? Most people, I suspect, would choose the latter….and yet, in reality, land up with the former. Who, for example, trusts political memoirs? For an understanding of politics we look to academics – or at least to those few who write clearly and coherently. And I have to say these rarities tend to be found in history departments rather than departments of politics (or of social sciences such as economics, geography). Although there are honourable exceptions such as David Runciman, Mark Blyth and Danny Dorling)

Management literature is slightly different – despite its pretensions, it is hardly a social “science”, offering an inter-disciplinary approach. Which means a highly selective one which uses case-studies to weave plausible narratives and “theories” (ie tell stories). And that’s before we encounter the large number of autobiographies by - and hagiographies - about the business elite.

Tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of books have been produced in recent decades about efforts to reform state structures globally. When I started my own reform efforts in the early 1970s we had only Peter Drucker (and perhaps Machiavelli) to guide us – there were literally no books available on the question of managing government bodies…..Now we are swamped by the literature – which I tried to summarise recently in a booklet Reforming the State” (which is actually a trailer for a couple of books I am putting together to try to give a practitioner’s view of reform).

For every thousand of academics writing about public management reform, there will be at most one with practical experience. I actually know of only a handful of consultants who have written about their craft – Michael Barber, John Seddon and Ed Straw – all of whom are strongly selling their particular version of the truth Why is this?…..Are we consultants just too busy? Or perhaps too overwhelmed by the complexity of everyday events to feel able to offer theories? Or perhaps lacking the necessary discipline in writing and language???

Crafting Effective Public Administration – reflections from central europe (2018) is my attempt to meet this huge gap in the literature. It’s been almost a decade in the making and opens with an account of the circumstances which led me to develop this strange passion for organizational interventions…..It then moves to an overview of the writing about reforming government systems before outlining how reform got underway in the UK and US from 1965-1995. Then follow some 60 pages of “Notes on key readings” which can be skimmed or skipped for a first reading…
“State Building in “impervious regimes” 1995-2015” is the paper I presented to  a NISPAcee Conference at the Black Sea in 2011. “Back to the Balkans - Why are the new EU member states so impervious to public concerns?” are some more recent thoughts I had on training and Structural Funds in the Lower Danube area.
…It is in fact one of two texts I'm writing on the subject - the next one summarises my various reform efforts of the past 50 years and tries to draw the lessons from them....

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