Monday, 12 July 2010

Managerialism isn't dead yet

You'd have thought that one of the most discredited driving forces behind Labour's disastrous term in office, the Managerialism cult, would have gone into hiding by now. A vast pyramid of pointless bureaucracy that earned billions in fees for Crapita, KPMG and the rest of the City leeches who somehow managed to convince Labour that what the public sector really wanted was many thousands of performance indicators and every manager an MBA. But not a bit of it.

You can bet your last dollar that the corporate directors of the big five are now schmoozing all those newly appointed Tory ministers in an effort to keep the milch-cow in production and their six figure salary and bonus packages intact. Oh, and keeping the grass roots alive by continuing to peddle the specious myth of Performance Management in the public sector.

The argument goes like this. You need to set an interlocking pyramid of performance objectives as part of an annual review process for every individual in the organisation; the individual's objectives are therefore those of the organisation. To reinforce this, you need a system of rewards and disbenefits. Since you can't without great difficulty change the salary and contracts of millions of public sector staff to make pay partially dependent on performance, you need to pay a bonus on top of their contractual salary as a reward and, er, only pay most of it as a disbenefit if they fail to meet their targets.

Of course, this private sector model is almost wholly artificial when translated into the public sector; without any relationship to a P&L account or balance sheet, the 'targets' become ever more ingenious and ever more meaningless. What meaningful annual performance target can you invent for a town planner? For a building control inspector? For a fireman? Or for a police officer, come to that? For much of the success of the public sector is determined not by outputs but by outcomes. A low rate of crime is an outcome, an individual plod's arrest rate is an output. The latter does not necessarily lead to the former.

But of course the Big 5 have got a lot invested in keeping this fatuous delusion going. And so 'Reform', a think tank that could be so much better if it had an ounce of real reformism in its make-up, hosted its latest conference last week, including:
Reforming public services will involve reshaping the front line. Management is the key to a new era of greater productivity. A culture of poor performance management presents a barrier to those effective managers who do want to bring about change. What is needed is to transform the structure of our public services to support these leaders and to change the behaviour of the rest of the public service workforce. The key problems with current performance management structures and the changes needed to improve them will be discussed.
· John McTernan, former Political Secretary to Tony Blair
· Michael Izza, Chief Executive, ICAEW
· Tony McGuirk, Chief Fire Officer, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service
· Julie Spence OBE QPM, Chief Constable, Cambridgeshire Constabulary
The shindig was sponsored by, er, the ICA, Crapita, PA Consulting and Sodexo.

You'd need a heart of stone not to weep.

3 comments:

Henry Crun said...

I have the misfortune of working with some of these target-driven process monkeys. To a man, they hide behind the "process" - if the "process" is adhered to, the project will be successful. What they fail to take into account is that sometimes shit happens and it needs some creative, non-process driven thinking to resolve.

But step outside the "process" and you would think that Armageddon was upon us. They do have one thing in common, these managerialists - they are all over-promoted incompetent fuckwits.

I hate them all with a passion

Hild said...

The idiots obviously don't get it... they are Armageddon.

That pyramid's the same shape as the marxist dialectic - wot's the work of AntiChrist.

Demetrius said...

If you look back at the period 1945 to say 1985 and see how much was done in local authorities by much smaller numbers of people and without all the financial and other oncosts now occurring it seems quite incredible.