Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Cost of 'Modernisation' will be borne by us all

The programme of 'Modernisation' across the public sector implemented as a consequence of a now discredited management fad termed 'The New Public Management' - a thing based on targets, benchmarks, performance indicators and all the dross manufactured by the deservedly dead Audit Commission - is itself a thing of the nineties, highly Blairite, Statist, centralist and freakish. One telling feature is the architecture of the office. Across the public sector, cellular managers' offices, senior management suites, boardrooms and haphazard team clusters have been remodelled into a single, standard, homogeneous office and organisational layout that you will find everywhere from Transport for London's offices at Waterloo to Pickles' Victoria HQ to the council offices in Leeds. 


Large, open floors are equipped with ranks of desks perpendicular to the external glazing. There are 'break out areas', 'touch down areas', 'hot desking' and little glass pods in which staff undergoing disciplinary action may be viewed by their colleagues. Senior managers must pretend they're happy using the same impermanent 'workstation' as their lowliest clerks. No-one is permitted to accumulate more than a square foot of paper, and as no-one 'owns' their own desk, the photo of the kids and the potted cactus together with the tray of papers must be set up anew each day at a different workstation. Staff designated 'back office' by the Gershon rules have become a sort of leper, shunned by 'front office' staff in case their redundancy is contagious. Of course, the senior managers have had to be heavily bribed with disproportionate salary increases to endure such conditions, the cost in many cases far outweighing any efficiencies that may have been achieved. 


The aim, of course, is to turn the public sector into the sort of effective, responsive, front-facing organisations we have become used to in eBay, Amazon, ISPs, banks and utility companies; in other words, uncontactable, impersonal, anonymous and loathed, whilst pumping out a relentless propaganda about what a splendid job they're doing. If you're amongst the 95% whose transactions run smoothly, fine; if you're the one in twenty who has a problem, be prepared for call centre Hell.  


And if the result isn't wholly in the interests of the public, neither is it appreciated by staff. The most recent available staff poll at HMRC shows that 90% of staff think it's now a lousy place to work, with 25% wanting to leave within a year; 91%  think Modernisation is a crock of shit, 88% think they're not well managed and over 7,000 report being bullied or harassed. 


The management consultants responsible for all this - yes, the PwCs and  KPMGs, Ernst & Youngs and Deloittes, who had such a cosy meeting of minds with the Audit Commission - will no doubt be throwing eachother high-fives with skinny lattes on the firm at the news. Just a few more years and they will have succeeded in subjecting the entire population to the sort of homogeneous corporate Hell until now reserved for customers of private sector corporations. Welcome to the future. 

8 comments:

Blue Eyes said...

A friend of mine used to worked at the TFL building in Blackfriars Road. I remarked to her that it looked like a smart modern building. She said well yes at first it seems impressive but after a while the environment crushes you. The building is so shoddily-built that the floors vibrate from pedestrian traffic causing the cheap desks to vibrate causing computer monitors to vibrate.

My employer is sensible enough to go for a space in an 18th century building. No "break out" area, but a pleasantly irregular area and the top people get their own offices so there is a modicum of privacy.

View from the Solent said...

"25% wanting to leave within a year"

So it's not all bad news then. (assuming that they do quit)

Demetrius said...

The most efficient and effective office I worked in was the General Staff of an Armoured Division in the field. We had a wagon, an awning, some signals kit and basic office stuff. A dozen of us, officers and rankers, ran a complex organisation of around 17.OOO men, not just functioning but feeding watering and transporting them as well.

Furor Teutonicus said...

XX There are 'break out areas', 'touch down areas',XX

Whaqt?

Do non of these arseholes speak ENGLISH?

Stupid twats.

WTF ARE those things???

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Furor - they used to be called Meeting Rooms.

Demetrius - I take it you weren't there long enough for The Iron Law (h/t Jerry Pournelle) to start to work?

Demetrius said...

Weekend Yachtsman. In truth it was a very long time ago, around the time that Jerry was in Korea.

JuliaM said...

"...90% of staff think it's now a lousy place to work, with 25% wanting to leave within a year; 91%  think Modernisation is a crock of shit, 88% think they're not well managed and over 7,000 report being bullied or harassed."

Ah, but how much of this is down to them being shaken out of their cosy, public-sector complacency?

Say what you like about Amazon or British Gas, but when they work, they work well....

marksany said...

There are some other views active in management consultants. Have you read "Systems thinking in the public sector" by John Seddon, which is a different method to target, targets, targets. He has also campaigned to end the Audit Commission. He's also anti ISO9000.