what you get here

This is not a blog which opinionates on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers to muse about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

The Bucegi mountains - the range I see from the front balcony of my mountain house - are almost 120 kms from Bucharest and cannot normally be seen from the capital but some extraordinary weather conditions allowed this pic to be taken from the top of the Intercontinental Hotel in late Feb 2020

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

intellectual shamans

Words have suddenly become sterile for me…..significantly, perhaps, after a series of posts about the writing on public administration…..and an earlier series this year on the global crisis.
Strangely, contemplation of such complexities doesn’t seem to bring either understanding or resolution - but rather a world-weariness….Activism is more exciting – but its closed focus, lack of cooperation and proper links to the world of rational analysis are but several deficiencies which always seems to bring it down.
Are we therefore forced to choose between technocratic rationality on the one hand… and strident activism on the other?

What other ways are there to pass the “autumn of one’s days”??? Music? Family and Friendship? Wine?
I had imagined that composing an open (and extended) letter to my daughters with reflections about the understandings I feel I’ve developed since 2000 might have wider interest…..simply because I consider myself a typical baby-boomer - if one with wider inter-disciplinary and nomadic experiences than normal…..Hence the draft Dispatches to the post-capitalist generation.  I had always regretted that my father (and a couple of other father figures) had not left me with such reflections……
But the present draft is no more than a pseudo-intellectual’s reading notes….a modern commonplace book. It doesn’t move the soul….

The one “issue” that has tempted me into a post this past month has been the ongoing Brexit saga in Britain (Ireland and Gibraltar) but that very fact reminds me of a quotation from a great book Breakdown of Nations;by Leopold Kohr which I read some years back - 
the chief blessing of a small-state system is ...its gift of a freedom which hardly ever registers if it is pronounced.....freedom from issues....ninety percent of our intellectual miseries are due to the fact that almost everything in our life has become an ism, an issue... our life’s efforts seem to be committed exclusively to the task of discovering where we stand in some battle raging about some abstract issue...The blessing of a small state returns us from the misty sombreness of an existence in which we are nothing but ghostly shadows of meaningless issues to the reality which we can only find in our neighbours and neighbourhoods

I hope still to write soon about Brexit – since it is something currently devouring and destroying a nation I once belonged to……

But if I cannot, at the moment, easily write or read about “issues”, I find that I can still devour material about individuals……and was very taken this morning with a book about 28 people who clearly had “made a difference” ….eg to someone who had the grace to write about the contribution she felt these people had made not only to her own profession but to the world - Intellectual Shamans – management academics making a difference; by Sandra Waddock (2015). Such books – which profile key figures in intellectual disciplines – are quite rare but always worthwhile (available also, to my knowledge, for political scientists; development economists; and sociologists).

I know only 4 of the 28 figures included in the book - Henry Mintzberg, Robert Quinn, Ed Schein and Otto Scharmer - but all seem to have this “inner light” which allows them to inspire an alternative vision. More excerpts from the book are available here
I came across the book thanks to a post by the author in this month’s Great Transition Initiative (GTI) . Waddock’s article on “large systems change” is also well worth a read…..It's one of many articles you can read in the interesting Journal of Corporate Citizenship - most of whose content can be accessed freely.

It may not be an emotional response we need these days but it is certainly something more than ratiocination - more on the spiritual/humanistic dimension?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Words and metaphors

Thanks to Maria Popova of Brain Pickings, I found myself this morning enjoying the company of dead men… specifically George Orwell and Andre Gide.
Her website is a superb personal endeavour which offers extended excerpts from classic texts about the writing and creativity process – and also striking illustrations. In all the noise and hubbub that passes for civilisation, her site is a haven of tranquillity.

I don’t know why the novels of Andre Gide (1869-1951) appealed to me when I first read them (in French) in the 1960s. He certainly lived life to the full and was well-travelled - and must have written clear, taut French to make an appeal to me in the original. He was a great diarist and, reading, for the first time this morning, the volume of his journals starting (in Turkey) in 1914 made a powerful impression on me.

George Orwell is an even older friend whose Politics and the English Language ranks with the best of Shakespeare in its humanism and wisdom. The article lists the most prevalent of the “bad habits” responsible for what he argued (in 1946) was the “mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence” poisoning the English language: 
- Dying metaphors: A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically “dead” (e.g., iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves.
Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgels for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, Achilles’ heel, swan song, hotbed.  
Verbal false limbs: These save the trouble of picking out appropriate verbs and nouns, and at the same time pad each sentence with extra syllables which give it an appearance of symmetry.
Characteristic phrases are: render inoperative, militate against, prove unacceptable, make contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for, have the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt, serve the purpose of, etc., etc. The keynote is the elimination of simple verbs.
 Instead of being a single word, such as break, stop, spoil, mend, kill, a verb becomes a phrase, made up of a noun or adjective tacked on to some general-purposes verb such as prove, serve, form, play, render. In addition, the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun constructions are used instead of gerunds (by examination of instead of by examining). The range of verbs is further cut down by means of the -ize and de-formations, and banal statements are given an appearance of profundity by means of the not un- formation.
Simple conjunctions and prepositions are replaced by such phrases as with respect to, the fact that, in view of, in the interests of, on the hypothesis that; and the ends of sentences are saved from anti-climax by such refunding commonplaces as greatly to be desired, cannot be left out of account, a development to be expected in the near future, deserving of serious consideration, brought to a satisfactory conclusion, etc. 
Pretentious diction: Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual basic, primary, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate, are used to dress up simple statements and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgments.
Adjectives like epoch-making, epic, historic, unforgettable, triumphant, inevitable, inexorable, veritable, are used to dignify the sordid processes of international politics, while writing that aims at glorifying war usually takes on anarchaic color, its characteristic words being: realm, throne, chariot, trident, sword, shield, banner, jackboot, clarion. Foreign words and expressions such as cul de sac, ancien regime, deus ex machina, status quo, gleichschaltung, Weltanschauung, are used to give an air of culture and elegance.
 Except for the useful abbreviations i.e., e.g. and etc., there is no real need for any of the hundreds of foreign phrases now current in English. Bad writers, and especially scientific, political and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict, extraneous, clandestine, subaqueous and hundreds of others constantly gain ground from their Anglo-Saxon opposite numbers.
The jargon peculiar to Marxist writing (hyena, hangman, cannibal, petty bourgeois, lackeys, flunkey, mad dog. White Guard, etc.) consists largely of words and phrases translated from Russian, German or French; but the normal way of coining a new word is to use a Latin or Greek root with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, the -ize formation. It is often easier to make up words of this kind (deregionalize, impermissible, extramarital, non-fragmentatory) than to think up the English words that will cover one’s meaning. The result, in general, is an increase in slovenliness and vagueness. 
Meaningless words: In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning. Words like romantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality, as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly even expected to do so by the reader. When one critic writes, “The outstanding feature of Mr. X’s work is its living quality,” while another writes, “The immediately striking thing about Mr. X’s work is its peculiar deadness,” the reader accepts this as a simple difference of opinion.
If words like black and white were involved, instead of the jargon words dead and living, he would see at once that language was being used in an improper way. Many political words are similarly abused. The word fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies “something not desirable.” The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another.

Orwell’s most important point, however, is a vivid testament to what modern psychology now knows about metaphorical thinking. By using stale metaphors, similes and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself. This is the significance of mixed metaphors. The sole aim of a metaphor is to call up a visual image. When these images clash … it can be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking.
Orwell concludes with a practical checklist of strategies for avoiding such mindless momentum of thought and the stale writing it produces: 
A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:
What am I trying to say?
What words will express it?
What image or idiom will make it clearer?
Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even yourself.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Self-Management - an idea whose time has come?

The language of these books and articles about public management is utterly soul-destroying! The series of posts I’ve just done required me to pull out and flick through more than a hundred books in my libraries (real and virtual) - and I had assumed that the next stage would be some selective, in-depth reading – to extract some nuggets.
But the baroque language and dead imagery of the books – even the best of them - have my eyes (and very soul) glazing over.

So I turned instead to a book whose title and sub-title rather put me off - Reinventing Organisations – a guide to creating organisations inspired by the next stage of human consciousness (2014) by one Frederic Laloux whom you can see in action here.
In fact it was just what my jaded soul needed – highly readable and with many inspiring stories.

You can read the book for yourself here – but you can get the gist in the summary given in the hyperlink in the title above; and some good slides here
The book starts well with a strong critique of the alienating nature of so much work in large organisations and a question about why it has so be so, It then suggests that our collective history is not unlike that of our own personal growth, with key points of our development when we became more aware of our relationships with others….Laloux leans apparently for his approach on what is known as “integral theory” - associated with someone called Ken Wilbur.  The book suggests that organisations, until now, can be classified into four types - Red, Amber, Orange and Green – with the guiding metaphors for these types (p 36 of the book) being “wolf pack”, “army”, “machine” and “family”. Reminds me of the four “Gods of management” of Charles Handy and Roger Harrison – who are, however, not credited,
The core of the book consists of his attempt to find organisations which had broken out of the limits of this typology and were giving both customers and staff satisfaction. Twelve organisations are identified and their history structure and processes detailed. They are both profit and non-profit but have one basic feature in common – they are all managed by the workforce with senior executives (such as are left in a streamlined structure) playing essentially a coaching role…..The most famous of these is probably the Dutch nursing cooperative Buurtzorg

There’s a lot of thought-provoking material in the book which, after an initial splash 3 years ago, has not been much heard of – despite it being the first management book or a long time to focus on worker control (in a  totally non-ideological way). Perhaps he offended too many people? First the theorists – for attributing so little to them. And, secondly, the ideologues – who would have preferred some slogans…..

A good time, however, for the Labour party to issue this report (in June) on Alternative Models of Ownership – basically about coops, social enterprise and worker-controlled organisations,
I mentioned a few posts back that even the last UK Coalition government was supporting mutual structures for public services – although I haven’t yet seen a report on the subsequent experience.

critical comment on Laloux book

sympathetic comment

main website

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Plain text; and the 21st Century Public Manager

Readers will have noticed my growing impatience with the academic output about public services in the past 30-40 years. About the only writer I exempted was Chris Pollitt whose The Essential Public Manager (2003) is, by far and away, the best book to help the intelligent citizen make sense of this field. It’s friendly; brings in individuals to play roles illustrating contemporary debates; clearly summarises different schools of thought on the key issues; and leaves the reader with guidance for further reading….
Most authors in this field, however, are writing for other academics (to impress them), for students (to give them copy for passing exams); or for potential customers in senior government positions (to persuade them to offer contracts) – they are never writing for citizens. As a result, they develop some very bad habits in writing – which is why this new book should be in their family’s Xmas stocking this year. It offers priceless advice, including -   
1." Bait the hook“ When you go fishing, you bait the hook with what the fish likes, not with what you like.” An obvious principle, easily lost sight of. Putting yourself in the audience’s shoes governs everything from the shape of your argument to the choice of vocabulary. Ask what they do and don’t know about the subject, and what they need to; not what you know about it.
Ask what they are likely to find funny, rather than what you do. What are the shared references that will bring them on board? Where do you need to pitch your language? How much attention are they likely to be paying?
This is what Aristotle, talking about rhetoric, called ethos, or the question of how your audience sees you. And the best way for them to see you is either as one of them, or someone on their side. As the speech theorist Kenneth Burke wrote – another line I never tire of quoting – “You persuade a man only insofar as you can talk his language by speech, gesture, tonality, order, image, attitude, identifying your ways with his.” 
2. Be clear A lot of style guides, with good reason, tell their readers to write Plain English. There’s even a Plain English Campaign that does its nut, year-round and vocationally, about examples of baffling officialese, pompous lawyer-speak and soul-shrivelling business jargon.Plain English (the simplest word that does the job; straightforward sentences; nice active verbs etc) is far from the only style you should have at your command. But if you depart from it, you should have a reason, be it aesthetic or professional.
The plainer the language, the easier the reader finds it; and the easier the reader finds it, the more likely they’ll take in what you’re saying and continue reading. Surveys of the average reading age of British adults routinely put it between nine and 13. Trim your style accordingly. Steven Pinker talks about “classic style” (he borrows the notion from the literary critics Francis-Noël Thomas and Mark Turner). This, as he sees it, is a variation on Plain English that compliments the reader’s intelligence and talks to him or her as an equal.
He gives a cute example. “The early bird gets the worm” is plain style, he says. “The second mouse gets the cheese” is classic. I half-buy the distinction; though much of what Pinker credits to the classic style is exactly what’s asked of any good instance of the plain. And the examples he offers convey quite different thoughts, and (a bit unfairly) attribute a cliche to the plain style and a good joke to the classic. 
3. Prefer right-branching sentences Standard-issue sentences, in English, have subject-verb-object order: dog (subject) bites (verb) man (object). There are any number of elaborations on this, but the spine of your sentence, no matter how many limbs it grows, consists of those three things.
If you have a huge series of modifying clauses before you reach the subject of the sentence, the reader’s brain is working harder; likewise, if you have a vast parenthesis between subject and verb or even verb and object. The reader’s brain has registered the subject (dog) and it is waiting for a verb so it can make sense of the sentence. Meanwhile, you’re distracting it by cramming ever more material into its working memory. “My dog, which I got last week because I’ve always wanted a dog and I heard from Fred – you know, Fred who works in the chip shop and had that injury last year three days after coming home from his holidays – that he was getting rid of his because his hours had changed and he couldn’t walk it as much as it wanted (very thoughtful, is Fred), bit me ...” 
4. Read it aloud Reading something aloud is a good way of stress-testing it: you’ll notice very abruptly if your sentences are tangled up: that overfilling-the-working-memory thing can be heard in your voice. The American speechwriter Peggy Noonan advises that once you have a draft, “Stand up and speak it aloud. Where you falter, alter.”

I was about to write to Chris Pollitt to encourage him to produce a new edition of his book (which is 14 years old) but, magically, came across The Twenty First Century Public Manager - – a rare book which, like Pollitt’s, looks at the complex world facing an individual public manager these days and the skills and outlook they need to help it survive.

Which took me in turn to The Twenty First Century Public Servant - a short report which came out in 2014……and reminded me of a book which has been lying on my shelves for all too long – Public Value – theory and practice ed John Benington and Mark Moore (2011) which is put in context by a very useful article Appraising public value 
In fact, the concept of “public value” was first produced by Moore in 1995 in Creating Public Value – strategic management in government. This celebrated the role of strategic leaders in the public sector and tried to explore how, in a climate which required strong verification of performance, the public sector might be able better to demonstrate its legitimacy…. Here is how one british agency understood the challenge in 2007 and a short summary of the debate there has been about the concept. As you can imagine there’s at least one dissertation on the subject….. ’

I can’t say I’m greatly convinced that all the “sound and fury” has produced anything all that substantial…but, if I can keep my eyes open long enough, I will go back to the 2011 book by Benington and Moore (which does include chapters by interesting characters such as Colin Crouch and Gerry Stoker) and let my readers know…..

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What If???

As I suspected, I’m still worrying away at some of the issues raised by the series of posts about the massive changes to our public services in recent decades – and how they have been covered in “the literature”. I realize that I left out an important strand of thinking – and that the series leaves the impression of inevitability….
The last post paid tribute to some of the people who, in the 1960s, most clearly articulated the demand for a major shake-up of Britain’s public institutions – the “modernization” agenda which initially brought us huge local authorities and merged Ministries with well-paid managers operating with performance targets.
Scale and management were key words – and I readily confess to being one of the cheerleaders for this. The small municipalities I knew were “parochial” and lacked any strategic sense but – of course – they could easily have developed it……

Were the changes inevitable?
I have a feeling that quite a few of the early voices who argued for “reform” might now have major reservations about where their institutional critique has taken us all – although it was a global discontent which was being channeled in those days…..
However not all voices sang from the same hymn sheet……The main complaint may then have been that of “amateurism” but it was by no means accepted that “managerialism” was the answer.
1968, after all, had been an expression of people power. And the writings of Paolo Freire and Ivan Illich – let alone British activists Colin Ward and Tony Gibson; and sociologists such as Jon Davies and Norman Dennis – were, in the 70s, celebrating citizen voices against bureaucratic power.
The therapist Carl Rogers was at the height of his global influence. And voices such as Alain Touraine’s were also giving hope in France…..

The managerialism which started to infect the public sector from the 70s expressed hierarchical values which sat badly with the egalitarian spirit which had been released the previous decade….
But, somehow, all that energy and optimism seemed to evaporate fairly quickly – certainly in the British “winter of discontent” and Thatcher rule of the 80s. What started as a simple expression of the need for some (private) “managerial discipline” in the public sector was quickly absorbed into a wider and more malevolent agenda of privatization and contracting out…..And, somehow, in the UK at any rate, progressive forces just rolled over….  Our constitutional system, as Lord Hailsham once starkly put it, is an “elective dictatorship”.
The core European systems were, however, different – with legal and constitutional safeguards, PR systems and coalition governments – although the EC technocracy has been chipping away at much of this.

Just why and how the British adopted what came to be called New Public Management is a story which is usually told in a fatalistic way – as if there were no human agency involved. The story is superbly told here - as the fatal combination of Ministerial frustration with civil service “dynamic conservatism” with a theory (enshrined in Public Choice economics) for that inertia….  A politico-organisational problem was redefined as an economic one and, heh presto, NPM went global 

In the approach to the New Labour victory of 1997, there was a brief period when elements of the party seemed to remember that centralist “Morrisonian” bureaucracy had not been the only option – that British socialism had in the 1930s been open to things such as cooperatives and “guild socialism”. For just a year or so there was (thanks to people such as Paul Hirst and Will Hutton) talk of “stakeholding”. But the bitter memories of the party infighting in the early 80s over the left-wing’s alternative economic strategy were perhaps too close to make that a serious option – and the window quickly closed…..Thatcher’s spirit of “dog eat dog” lived on – despite the talk of “Joined Up Government” (JUG), words like “trust” and “cooperation”  were suspect to New Labour ears.
Holistic Governance made a brief appearance at the start of the New Labour reign in 1997 but was quickly shown the door a few years later.…

“What if?,,,,,”
The trouble with the massive literature on public management reform (which touches the separate literatures of political science, public administration, development, organizational sociology, management….even philosophy) is that it is so compllcated that only a handful of experts can hope to understand it all – and few of them can or want to explain it to us in simple terms.
I’ve hinted in this post at what I regard as a couple of junctures when it might have been possible to stop the momentum….I know the notion of counterfactual history is treated with some disdain but the victors do sometimes lose and we ignore the discussion about “junctures” at our peril.

The UNDP recently published a good summary of what it called the three types of public management we have seen in the past half century. There are different ways of describing the final column but this one gives a sense of how we have been moving..

Old Public Admin
New Public Service
Theoretical foundation
Political theory
Economic theory
Democratic theory

Model of behaviour
Public interest
Citizen interest
Concept of public interest
Political, enshrined in law
Aggregation of individual interests
Dialogue about shared values
To whom civil servants responsive
Role of government
Serving, negotiating
Mechanism for achieving policy
Building coalitions
Approach to accountability
Public servants within law, professional ethics, values
Admin discretion
Assumed organisational structure
Top down
Assumed motivation of officials
Conditions of service
Entrepreneurial, drive to reduce scope of government
Public service, desire to contribute

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Those who Went Before

For the past 3 weeks I’ve been trying to compress the thoughts I (and many others!!) have had over the past few decades about administrative reform into a table whose columns list core questions; narratives; and key texts …..
It was all sparked off by the book published earlier this year on Dismembering (the State) – although the subject has been a lot in my thoughts this year

There may now be hundreds of thousands of academics and consultants in this field but, when I started to challenge the local bureaucracy in Scotland in the late 60s there were, astonishingly, only a handful of people challenging public bureaucracies – basically in the UK and the US.
In the US they were following (or part of) Johnston’s Anti-Poverty programmes and included people such as Peter Marris and Martin Rein whose Dilemmas of Social Reform (1967) was one of the first narratives to make an impact on me. 
In the UK it was those associated with the 1964-66 Fulton Royal Commission on the Civil Service; with the Redcliffe-Maud and Wheatley Royal Commissions on Local Government; and. those such as Kay Carmichael who, as a member of the Kilbrandon Committee, was the inspiration for the Scottish Social Work system set up in 1969.
In the 70s, people like John Stewart of INLOGOV inspired a new vision of local government…my ex-tutor John MacIntosh focused on devolution; even the conservative politician Michael Heseltine had a vision of a new metropolitan politics…..

It was people like this that set the ball of organizational change rolling in the public sector…. tracked by such British academics as Chris Hood, Chris Pollitt and Rod Rhodes – and who have supplied a living first for thousands of European academics who started to follow the various reforms of the 1970s in the civil service and local government; and then the privatization and agencification of the 1980s. Consultants then got on the bandwagon when british administrative reform took off globally in the 1990s.

Working on the tables incorporated in the past few posts has involved a lot of googling - and shuffling of books from the shelves of my glorious oak bookcase here in the mountains to the generous oak table which looks out on the snow which now caps those mountains……
Hundreds of books on public management reform (if you count the virtual ones in the library) – but, for me, there are only a handful of names whose writing makes the effort worthwhile. They are the 2 Chris’s – Chris Hood and Chris Pollitt; Guy Peters; and Rod Rhodes. With Chris Pollitt way out in front……Here’s a sense of how he has been writing in recent years - 
There have been many failures in the history of public management reform – even in what might be thought of as the bestequipped countries.
 Six of the most common seems to have been:
 · Prescription before diagnosis.  No good doctor would ever do this, but politicians, civil servants and management consultants do it frequently.  A proper diagnosis means much more than just having a general impression of inefficiency or ineffectiveness (or whatever).  It means a thorough analysis of what mechanisms, processes and attitudes are producing the undesirable features of the status quo and an identification of how these mechanisms can be altered or replaced.  Such an analysis constitutes a model of the problem.  This kind of modelling is probably far more useful to practical reformers than the highly abstract discussions of alternative models of governance with which some academics have been more concerned (e.g. Osborne, 2010).   [For a full exposition of this realist approach to programme logic, see Pawson, 2013.  For an explanation of why very general models of governance, are of limited value in practical analysis see Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011, pp1125 and 208221]
 · Failure to build a sufficient coalition for reform, so that the reform is seen as just the project of a small elite.  This is particularly dangerous in countries where governments change rapidly, as in some parts of the CEE.  Once a government falls or an elite is ousted, the reform has no roots and dies.
 · Launching reforms without ensuring sufficient implementation capacity.  For example, it is very risky to launch a programme of contracting out public services unless and until there exists a cadre of civil servants who are trained and skilled in contract design, negotiation and monitoring. Equally, it is dangerous to impose a sophisticated performance management regime upon an organization which has little or no previous experience of performance measurement.   And it is also hazardous to run down the government’s inhouse IT capacity 6 and rely too much on external expertise (Dunleavy et al, 2006).  In each of these cases in house capacity can be improved, but not overnight.
 · Haste and lack of sustained application.  Most major management reforms take years fully to be implemented. Laws must be passed, regulations rewritten, staff retrained, new organizational structures set up, appointments made, new procedures run and refined, and so on.  This extended implementation may seem frustrating to politicians who want action (or at least announcements) now, but without proper preparation reforms will more likely fail.  Endless reforms or ’continuous revolution’ is not a recipe for a wellfunctioning administration
 · Overreliance on external experts rather than experienced locals.  As management reform has become an international business, international bodies such as the OECD or the major management consultancies have become major players.  A fashion has developed in some countries to ’call in the external experts’, as both a badge of legitimacy and a quick way of accessing international ’best practice’  Equally, there is perhaps a tendency to ignore local, less clearly articulated knowledge and experience.  Yet the locals usually know much more about contextual factors than the visiting (and temporary) experts.  .
 · Ignoring local cultural factors. For example, a reform that will work in a relatively high trust and low corruption culture such as, say, Denmark’s, is far less likely to succeed in a low trust/higher corruption environment such as prevails in, say, some parts of the Italian public sector.  In the EU there are quite large cultural variations between different countries and sectors……………
I would suggest a number of ‘lessons’ which could be drawn from the foregoing analysis:
1.      Big models, such as NPM or ‘good governance’ or ‘partnership working’, often do not take one very far.  The art of reform lies in their adaptation (often very extensive) to fit local contexts.  And anyway, these models are seldom entirely well-defined or consistent in themselves.  Applying the big models or even standardized techniques (benchmarking, business process re-engineering, lean) in a formulaic, tick-box manner can be highly counterproductive.
2.     As many scholars and some practitioners have been observing for decades, there is no ‘one best way’.  The whole exercise of reform should begin with a careful diagnosis of the local situation, not with the proclamation of a model (or technique) which is to be applied, top down.  ‘No prescription without careful diagnosis’ is not a bad motto for reformers.
3.     Another, related point is that task differences really do matter.  A market-type mechanism may work quite well when applied to refuse collection but not when applied to hospital care.  Sectoral and task differences are important, and reformers should be wary of situations where their advisory team lacks substantial expertise in the particular tasks and activities that are the targets for reform.
4.     Public Management Reform (PMR) is always political as well as managerial/organizational.  Any prescription or diagnosis which does not take into account the ‘way politics works around here’ is inadequate and incomplete.  Some kernel of active support from among the political elite is usually indispensable.
5.     PMR is usually saturated with vested interests, including those of the consultants/advisors, and the existing public service staff.  To conceptualise it as a purely technical exercise would be naïve. 
6.     Successful PMR is frequently an iterative exercise, over considerable periods of time.  Reformers must adapt and also take advantage of ‘windows of opportunity’.  This implies a locally knowledgable presence over time, not a one-shot ‘quick fix’ by visiting consultants.
7.     It does work sometimes!  But, as indicated at the outset, humility is not a bad starting point.