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

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Rogue Prorogues Parliament

My readers will be expecting me to throw some light for them on the suspension of the British Parliament – and I never like to disappoint. At this time of the year there is normally what is called a “parliamentary recess” (approved by the House) and the current one started only a day or so after Johnson was elected the Leader of the Conservative party and went to kiss the Queen’s hand – at the end of July. According to the House of Commons website, the recess was due to end next week (September 3) – at which point a variety of parliamentary games will be deployed – including a possible “vote of confidence”
On Wednesday, however, the Prime Minister asked and received from the Queen a “prorogation” (ie suspension) of Parliament from 9 September until 14 Octoberleaving only 2 weeks before the country is scheduled to leave the European Union.
The reaction has been outrage – even from Conservative MPs and ex-Ministers. MPs are given only four days next week to hold the government to account…Although I grant you that MPs have not been able to do much with the additional power they have had for the past 2 years (since we got what is called a "hung parliament" ie one without a clear government majority)

The historian, Richard Evans, has an article in the current issue of Prospect Magazine which puts this action in a useful historical context -

It was to Hitler’s advantage that nobody apart from his own followers took him seriously. An upstart from Austria with a comical moustache and a funny accent, he didn’t fit the image of a normal politician.
Trump and Boris Johnson may not be upstarts in the same way—far from it—but it is striking that neither possesses the gravitas the electorate used to expect of its leaders. Many voters are amused by these showmen. And in Britain, many lend Johnson (and perhaps the equally convention-defying Nigel Farage) support because they imagine, as many German voters did in the early 1930s, that they will do whatever is necessary—including breaking the rules of politics—to resolve the crisis into which the nation has got itself, in Johnson’s case bypassing the elected representatives of the people.

But if Hitler’s rise teaches us anything, it’s that the establishment trivialises demagogues at its peril. One disturbing aspect of the present crisis is the extent to which mainstream parties, including US Republicans and British Conservatives, tolerate leaders with tawdry rhetoric and simplistic ideas, just as Papen, Hindenburg, Schleicher and the rest of the later Weimar establishment tolerated first Hitler and then his dismantling of the German constitution. He could not have done it in the way he did without their acquiescence. Republicans know Trump is a charlatan, just as Conservatives know Johnson is lazy, chaotic and superficial, but if these men can get them votes, they’ll lend them support.

Weimar’s democracy did not exactly commit suicide. Most voters never voted for a dicatorship: the most the Nazis ever won in a free election was 37.4 per cent of the vote. But too many conservative politicians lacked the will to defend democracy, either because they didn’t really believe in it or because other matters seemed more pressing. 

On a lighter note, Fin O’Toole has an excellent piece in “The New York Review of Books” which catches an important aspect of the Etonian public school fool who is now UK PM

The anthropologist Kate Fox, in her classic study “Watching the English”, suggested that a crucial rule of the national discourse is what she called The Importance of Not Being Earnest:

 At the most basic level, an underlying rule in all English conversation is the proscription (banning) of ‘earnestness.’

Johnson has played on this to perfection—he knows that millions of his compatriots would rather go along with his outrageous fabrications than be accused of the ultimate sin of taking things too seriously.
“Boris being Boris” (the phrase that has long been used to excuse him) is an act, a turn, a traveling show. Johnson’s father, Stanley, was fired from his job at the World Bank in 1968 when he submitted a satiric proposal for a $100 million loan to Egypt to build three new pyramids and a sphinx.

But the son cultivated in England an audience more receptive to the half-comic, half-convincing notion that the EU might be just such an absurdist enterprise.
What he honed in his Brussels years is the practice of political journalism (and then of politics itself) as a Monty Python sketch. He invented a version of the EU as a gigantic Ministry of Silly Walks, in which crazed bureaucrats with huge budgets develop ever more pointlessly complicated gaits. (In the original sketch, the British bureaucrats are trying to keep up with “Le Marché Commun,” the Common Market.)

Johnson’s Brussels is a warren of bureaucratic redoubts in which lurk a Ministry of Dangerous Balloons, a Ministry of Tiny Condoms, and a Ministry of Flavourless Crisps. In this theatre of the absurd, it never matters whether the stories are true; what matters is that they are ludicrous enough to fly under the radar of credibility and hit the sweet spot where preexisting prejudices are confirmed.

This running joke made Johnson not just highly popular as a comic anti-politician but, for many of his compatriots, the embodiment of that patriotic treasure, the English eccentric. There is a long tradition of embracing the eccentric (though in reality only the upper-class male eccentric) as proof of the English love of liberty and individualism in contrast to the supposed slavishness of the European continentals. No less a figure than John Stuart Mill wrote in “On Liberty” (1859) that

“precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric.”

Mill associated eccentricity with “strength of character,” but Johnson has been able to turn it upside down—his very weakness of character (the chaos, the fecklessness, the mendacity) provides for his admirers a patriotically heartening proof that the true English spirit has not yet been chewed up in the homogenizing maw of a humourless and excessively organized EU.

For those who want to know more about the constitutional issues involved, the same magazine has this useful note on the issue

For the political junkies who want to know the full story behind the plot to suspend parliament, it’s here
Will Hutton is a respected economics writer who has analysed and mapped the choices open to the British people to bring it into the 21st Century in a variety of books – starting with The State We’re In” (1995), He also has a useful article in today’s Guardian on the constitutional issues behind the suspension.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Chris Pollitt RIP

I live what might be called a peripheral life – remote from friends and professional communities. That was brought home to me when I discovered that the scholar, whose work I was summarising in yesterday’s post, had died a full year earlier.

Chris Pollitt was one of two Christophers whose writings about public administration so impressed me that I had opened some time ago a special folder for their articles - the other being Chris Hood. Both were my age and wrote, in wry and elegant English, articles to which they would give provocative and exciting titles.    
I remember an early book of his Managerialism and the Public Services – cuts or cultural change in the 1990s? (1993) which clearly and critically analysed the ideas and practice shaping the public sector revolution in Britain and America in the 1980s and explored possible alternatives to this new orthodoxy. Even better was “The Essential Public Manager” (2003) which had some friends role-play and discuss some common dilemmas facing contemporary public services..

And his various articles were a constant delight to anyone looking for clear expositions of what was going in the reform industry. Here’s how he summarised things on one occasion – “I would suggest a number of ‘lessons’ which could be drawn from the experience:
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.

One of his colleagues put up a full tribute to his work which mentions many of his key books – you can find it in full here here. I’ve taken the liberty of editing it down a bit-

Christopher Pollitt was one of the most productive researchers ever in the field of public administration and management. He wrote, coauthored and edited nearly 30 books and countless articles and reports. In “Public Administration”, a journal he edited between 1982 and 1989, he published 15 articles.
Christopher's books show the enormous width and depth of his knowledge. First, he produced seminal textbooks like “The Essential Manager” (2003) or “Advanced Introduction to Public Management” (2016) that display his ability to synthesize, make central concepts understandable to students/practitioners and illustrate their applications.
In his most cited work, “Public Management Reforms”, with Geert Bouckaert, he combines two of his main research interests, studying public sector reforms in a comparative context. This book is very useful both for its unambiguous analytic framework and its very impressive overview of reforms in so many countries. It is not surprising that the book has gone through several editions and updates.

Christopher's many research interests were reflected in his key book publications. He was interested in public services, as reflected in his early “Management and the Public Services: Cuts or Cultural Change in the 1990s” (published in 1993) and “New Perspectives on Public Services: Place and Technology”, published in 2001. He was interested in quality assessment and this led, for example, to the publication, in 1995, of “Quality Improvements in European Public Services”.
Looking at Christopher's articles over the past decade, one can distinguish three broad lines of interest. One is an emphasis on taking stock and reviewing the comparative experiences in public sector reform. These publications, most of them with Sorin Dan, include ‘30 Years of Public Management Reform: Has there been a Pattern?’, for the World Bank from 2011; ‘The Impact of NPM in Europe: A MetaAnalysis’ (2011); ‘Search for Impact in PerformanceOriented Management Reform: A Review of the European Literature’ (2014); ‘The Evolving Narrative of Public Management Reform: 40 years of Reform White Papers in the UK’, from 2013; and ‘NPM Can Work: An Optimistic Review of the Impact of NPM Reforms in Central and Eastern Europe’ (2015).
Christopher also took aim at new reform fashions and institutions; typical examples include ‘Bureaucracies Remember, PostBureaucratic Organizations Forget?’ (from 2009) and ‘Talking about Government: The Role of Magic Concepts’ (from 2011).
Christopher was always interested in and concerned with developing public administration as a field of study, and this led to some highly influential papers. Some of these critical contributions are ‘Envision Public Administration as a Scholarly Field in 2020’ (published in 2010) and ‘Future Trends in Public Administration and Management: An OutsideIn Perspective’, a 2014 paper for the international COCOPS research project.

Overall, then, what characterized Christopher's profile as a researcher and scholar? Unlike many of his colleagues, he had a background as a civil servant, which influenced him considerably. This outlook is pretty well summed up in the following sentence from the preface of his 2011 New Perspective book: ‘What I hope to offer, at least on my optimistic mornings, is a new way of thinking about public service organizations – more concrete and practical than long analyses of abstract management tools and concepts, and more rooted in locational specificities of everyday life.’ He really succeeded in this endeavour by combining wellgrounded and clear concepts with close attention to empirical data.

Christopher was a great communicator who really enjoyed telling stories. He brightened up conferences and workshops with wellconstructed presentations that often involved surprising twists and turns. But he even more liked to entertain his colleagues and friends with, at times, endless, but never boring stories. His stories always included an edge that one could learn from, especially as they pointed to the shortcomings of human nature, something that he had a relaxed attitude towards.

Let Chris’s own challenging words end this tribute –

“what we see in academic PA is too often a retreat into scholasticism or, at the other extreme, a kind of highbrow management consultancy. Of course we need both these types, but we also need a solid core of PA scholars who practice independent, high-quality critical analysis of big things which are happening now and will happen in future (climate change, demographic change, migration). Scholars who will build and find funding for ambitious projects aimed at those issues, simultaneously growing networks of concerned scholars across disciplines and fields. And – most importantly – who communicate, not only in learned journals, but also on websites and blogs, radio and TV and the press. Many citizens really are interested in why their schools are failing or their police are corrupt, and far less so in what celebrity politicians said to each other yesterday. We should be a respected voice addressed to that appetite”

One of the journals he edited, “Public Administration” has put created a “virtual edition” which allows access to several of his articles. Coincidentally I had already collected a few hyperlinks for sharing….

A Pollitt Resource

Sunday, August 25, 2019

"Not with a bang, but a whimper" - part VI

The previous post ended – as did my little book In Transit – notes on good governance – in 1999, when New Labour’s programme of “modernising” government was just getting underway……I’m still proud of its 20 page summary of the reform experience to that point - which you can read for yourself in chapter 4, pp 70-90 simply by clicking on the hyperlink above….
For some reason, it’s not easy to find much on the internet about the decade that followed – although I remember the Cabinet Unit being fairly prolific in its production of strategy papers. “The Meaning of Modernisation; new labour and public sector reform” gives a good flavour of those frenetic years.

Not forgetting that the point of this series is to explore how on earth we have been persuaded to surrender so much power to managers, I want in this post simply to pose the blunt question of what 40 years of reform experience has given us….A lot of words certainly…but what, as the Americans would ask, has been the “bottom line”?

Chris Pollitt was one of the most respected of European public management scholars and did a fascinating presentation in 2012 of “40 years of public management reform” which you can watch here.  It focuses on the UK experience of national government reform and is quite withering, revealing
·       an absence of clear statements of reform objectives
·       Prescription before diagnosis. 
·       Failure to build a sufficient coalition for reform, so that the reform is seen as just the project of a small elite
·       Launching reforms without ensuring sufficient implementation capacity
·       Lack of interest in evaluation
·       Haste and lack of sustained application

For more on this, see page 34 of the current version of my How did Admin Reform get to be so sexy? This leads back to the article on the administrative reform industry I’ve mentioned previously -

Pollitt noted that there was massive reform action in some (not all) other UK governance sectors, and noted also that, for constitutional reasons, UK governments have more freedom to move than most comparable democratic government systems. For this reason, the UK experience taught some valuable lessons. He attributed the great volume of reform action in part to ‘the rise of the managerial reform community’, with ‘change management experts’ everywhere, in the public service, in the big consultancy firms, and so on. And, compared with other things they might be doing, they and the political leaders they advised saw that ‘reorganization can be undertaken rather quickly’; doing it conferred on them ‘a badge of modernity’, and was a kind of ‘virility symbol’. But it was also a ‘beautifully clear example’ of the lack of any stable, scientific basis ‘for the long-term organizational redesign of complex public services’ 

What the reform designers did not do anywhere near adequately was to consider the consequences of what they were doing. The rate of change – the state of ‘permanent revolution’ – made it impossible to find out which designs worked well and which did not. And the transition costs were minimized if not neglected altogether: as well as the costs of office redesign and so on, they included the disruption of staffing and relationship patterns and routine housekeeping systems that had worked well enough in the past, the loss of organizational memory, and ‘a general loss of faith in stability and an accompanying diminution of willingness fully to commit oneself to a particular organization’.

A few years back, Dutch-Australian academic Paul ‘t Hart compiled his own set of rules for reformers - proposers of reform activity are more likely to achieve some success if they take note of these rules and seek, as far as possible, to follow them. 
What follows paraphrases ‘t Hart’s treatment (you can find the piece on pages 203–210 of Delivering Policy Reform – anchoring significant reforms in turbulent times; ed E Lindquist, S Vincent and J Wanna (2011)

_ Don’t overdo the rhetoric of reform, and concentrate on areas of greatest need.
_ Don’t let a ‘good crisis’ go to waste, for it may provide the best opportunity for serious change.
_ ‘Keep the bottom drawer well stocked’ with developed reform proposals, so that you are ready to run when an opportunity presents itself.
_ You should invest in an ongoing ‘brains trust’ to be constantly thinking about such matters, and don’t ignore knowledge available outside government circles.
_ Be prepared for ‘push-backs’, and find ways of talking meaningfully to reform opponents.
_ Impeccable analysis is crucial to the power to persuade.
_ Know the system you propose to change inside out, so that you are prepared to cope with resistance from within.
_ Give careful attention to implementation and long-term management.
_ Create behavioural incentives to encourage those operating the new or changed system to conform.
_ Be sure to incorporate mechanisms that make the reforms self-sustaining.

Amazing that 40 years can produce such anodyne lessons as this!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Managerial Turn - part V

I started this series wanting to explore 3 basic questions –
-       Why and how, all of 30 years ago, did the “managerial turn” get underway, contaminating our everyday experiences and discourse?
-       How have we allowed managers to gain such unaccountable power?
-       What we can now do to bring them to heel?

Some of you may not remember the days when managers hardly existed in the public sector - so I therefore used extracts from the intro to the little book I wrote in the 1990s In Transit – notes on good governance to convey a sense of the strength of institutional inertia as I experienced it in the 1970s (even as some major reforms were taking place)…
It was at that point I realised how amazingly prescient Gerald Caiden’s “Administrative Reform” had been. It came out (in the US) in 1969, just after some of the UK Royal Commissions presaging major reforms (in fields such as the civil service, trade unions, local government, broadcasting) had published. But, for all the buzz there was then about “future shock”, few organisations (public and private) showed any sign of changing and the excerpts of Caiden’s book I can access don’t really explain what experiences moved him to select reform as his theme....

I also noticed that my references to the 1970s said more about professionalism than managerialism….hardly surprising since, under the influence of Illich and Alinsky, I had made a bit of a reputation for myself in the early 70s for my critique of professionals…

The Scottish professional class (of teachers, social workers, planners etc) had strong prejudices and myths about the people who lived in the disadvantaged housing estates. “Born to Fail?” was a national document which appeared in 1973 revealing the scandal of the concentration of “multiple deprivation” in a few such urban areas (including the Region covering half of Scotland which came into being a year later). This gave a few of us who were working on that issue a unique opportunity to forge for the Region a rare social strategy of empowerment.
This involved building – through pamphlets and training - what was almost a “counter culture” not only amongst the community workers but amongst younger managers in the various Departments.

It was only in the early 90s, after I had left the Region, that I recognised that we had perhaps been missing a bit of managerial discipline in the strategic work we did in the West of Scotland from 1975. This was the third of 5 messages I left with the urban committee of the OECD in a paper about the Strathclyde experience I presented in 1993 (see para 4.2 of the hyperlink) viz
- Resource social inclusion work with mainline money – not the marginal pennies
- give “change agents” proper support
- Set detailed targets for departments
- Establish free-standing community development agencies
- Be realistic about the timescale of change

So let me be more precise in my charge against managerialism. And let me start by pointing to the fact that Public Administration is the name of the study of the management of the public sector – reflected in the titles of the two flagship journals of the relevant US and UK academic communities – Public Administration and Public Administration Review, respectively.
I have vivid memories of discussions in the mid 1980s about the difference between management in the public and private sectors. My notes from those days show that - Some authors suggested the following distinctive features for public administration bodies -
·       accountability to politicians
·       difficulty in establishing goals and priorities
·       rarity of competition
·       relationship between provision, demand, need and revenue
·       processing people
·       professionalism and line management
·       the legal framework.

But, when you think about it, these features (apart from the first) are true of very many large private companies – where competition can be minimal or “fixed” (ie manipulated).
The definitive book on the subject - Bureaucracy - what Government Agencies do and why they do it  was written by JQ Wilson in 1989 and points out that MacDonald’s – the burger makers - is a bureaucracy par excellence – a uniform product produced in a uniform way.
So what makes a government bureaucracy behave so differently and be seen so differently? Three reasons - according to Wilson. Government agencies –
- can’t lawfully retain monies earned;
- can’t allocate resources according to the preferences of its managers;
- must serve goals not of the organisation’s choosing, particularly relating to probity and equity.
They therefore become constraint-oriented rather than task-oriented. He goes on to suggest that agencies differ managerially depending on whether their activities and outputs can be observed; and divides them into four categories (“production”; “procedural”;  “craft”; and “coping agencies”).

It was Chris Hood who popularised (in spring 1991 in the first of the journals mentioned above) the term “New Public Management” (NPM) when he presented A Public Management for all Seasons. This article stressed just how ruthless and relentless the attack of commercial management practice was on the hallowed turf of the public sector…No activity – even in the universities - was off limits to the managers
This was also the period when the term “the audit explosion” was coined
Those interested in trying to identify where the inspiration for NPM came from are invited to dip into this short intellectual history of its origins and theoretical basis

1992 saw the publication of Reinventing Government; Clinton’s election; and, in 1993, Gore being given the task to “reinvent American government”!! The term was so laughable – but no one was laughing!!
At this point, the floodgates of writing on the subject opened….New Labour’s programme of modernising British government (1999 – 2010) was just the icing on the cake….

Friday, August 23, 2019

Machiavelli warned us – being Part IV of the series on managerialism

“It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.” Machiavelli “The Prince” (16th century)

The huge literature on the reform of public services rarely asks why and how “reform” was suddenly transformed from a topic of marginal interest to a veritable fixation…. The Machiavelli quote exposes the basic conundrum on which I hope this series of posts will throw some light…. the excerpts are from the intro of my little book In Transit – notes on good governance

“Increasingly in the 1980s, leaders knew that something was wrong - although the nature of the problem and solution eluded them. To some it was poor quality advice - or management. To others it was lack of inter-Ministerial co-operation: or over-centralisation.
In Britain a variety of reforms got underway from the early 1970s; and were accelerated when it became clear that no new resources were available for government spending and, indeed, that there would have to be significant cutbacks”.

But, even before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the mood of caution suddenly changed dramatically. Encouraged by the examples set by countries such as Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Finland, government reform become all the rage throughout the world in the late 1980s and 1990s. Initially this involved governments selling off industries such as Steel, Gas and Telecommunications but reform spread deep into the thinking about how the basic system of government and of social services should be managed - and what that meant for the role of government.

“Thanks to the global influence of bodies (such as the OECD and World Bank) the talk in the 1990s was of the "ENABLING" state - of government no longer trying itself to produce things and to run services but rather focussing on strategic purposes and trying to achieve them by giving independent public agencies - national and local - budgets and guidelines in contractual form. Then relying on a mixture of independent regulation, audit, quasi-market forces and arm-twisting to keep them on target.

Now (2000) no self-respecting politician - left or right - wants to be left behind from something that is variously seen as the "march of managerialism" or the "march of the market".
And the changed climate gives more courage to challenge staff interests and traditions of public service - although legal and constitutional constraints have been stronger on continental Europe. The inevitability of global change, the OECD or the European Union can, however, always be blamed! “

Bill Clinton won his Presidential victory in 1992 – the same year the book “Reinventing Government” was published – and soon had Al Gore heading up a major “Reinventing Government” programme of change which lasted a decade.

Even as I type the words, the outline of an answer to my question about the reasons for the sudden enthusiasm for reform is already emerging
-       The disappearance of the threat of communism confirmed the apparent legitimacy of the Thatcher/Reagan agenda
-       Clinton and Gore’s espousal of the need for government bodies to be “reinvented” gave the notion of reform a global visibility and credibility
-       The UK had been quietly consolidating the case for innovation in the  delivery of public services with John Major’s various Citizen Charters
-       Global bodies such as The World Bank and the OECD were spreading the message of “lean government” with tracts such as the State in a Changing World (1997) which preached the doctrine of the minimum state; and Modernising Government (OECD 2005).The Canadian academic, Leslie Pal gave us the best expose in Inversions without End (2007)
-       In 1997, New Labour inherited the missionary zeal and launched in 1999 what they called the “modernisation of government” programme which lasted until Gordon Brown’s demise in 2010

If Protherough and Pick are to be believed, the first signs in the UK of the mangling of managerial language were in the 1980s – with “customer” becoming the fashionable word for “member of the public! I mocked this managerial invasion in Just Words – a sceptic’s glossary

Books on Managerialism
It’s curious how few books there seem to be about such a big issue!
I begin with what I consider to be the two best – and it’s significant that they go back at least a decade….  I suggest you go to the articles

Management and the Dominance of Managers – an inquiry into why and how managers rule our organisations; Thomas Diefenbach (2009) Great start to this book which I can read only in google excerpts  It suggests that the question of how managers have gained their excessive power has not been sufficiently explored…..This article of his is in “academese” but you can still sense his concerns - NPM – the dark side of managerial enlightenment

Managing Britannia – culture and management in modern Britain; Robert Protherough and John Pick (2003) 

Managerialism  a critique of an ideology; T Klikauer (2013) is a more recent book but received a devastating critique from one of the subject’s doyens

Rethinking Management – radical insights from the complexity sciences; Chris Mowles (2011) A delightful and very thoughtful book from an experienced consultant trying to rethink his profession from first principles….

The Puritan Gift; Hooper and Hooper (2009) A marvellous book which one of America’s greatest thinkers on strategy called “one of the best books I have ever read in my long life”

Against Management – organisation in the age of managerialism; Martin Parker (2002) A disappointing book from the “critical management school”

As is often the case, the articles will give you more (bangs per buck) 
Burnham’s political thought; c 1980 review in US journal

Thursday, August 22, 2019

a rare voice of clarity and sanity

Let’s keep the clock in the late 1960s for a moment longer in this exploration of the possible reasons for the demonic restructuring of public services which has been such a feature of government (and academic) activity over the past 40 years.
And let’s make it personal - the 1968 student protests had just shaken the staid citizens of the US, France, Germany and even the UK; I  had been appointed to a Polytechnic; elected to represent the citizens of a low-income part of a shipbuilding town; and was engaged in community activism – inspired by the work of Saul Alinsky and books such as Dilemmas of Social Reform

And then, in complete contrast, a book with a simple title appeared Administrative Reform by Gerald Caiden. I remember reading it – with some curiosity – at the time. Change was definitely in the air – I’ve blogged before about the powerful impression Donald Schon’s Reith Lectures “Beyond the Stable State” made on me at the time - but none of us in Britain had actually experienced “reform” (the huge reorganisation of local government, which did so much to shape my future life, took place a few years later, in 1975)

Caiden’s subject was more the experience of developing countries and his tools those of comparative development – but I could relate to the dilemmas about the resistance to change he expressed so well. He returned to the subject in 1991 with a book entitled “Administrative Reform comes of Age”.

He may be an academic but he has worked with governments the world over and is able to express himself in language we can all understand. Just look at the opening section of the google extract you can read by clicking on “Administrative Reform” above. And the books he lists in the bibliography give a marvellous sense both of what was available in those days.....and of his eclectic interests.....How different from the reading lists you get now in the the thoroughly technocratic literature of reform  

I was delighted to discover a tribute to him (he is still active) in this 2013 article A Critique of the administrative reform industry

The idea of reform drives so many conferences, inquiries, research projects, reports and legislation today that it is not too much to suggest that administrative reform has become the dominating concern of the discipline and the practice of modern public administration. There is, indeed, an implication that, if we are not engaged in administrative reform, we are deficient in some way
Gerald Caiden probably did more than any other scholar to register that administrative reform had become a central and commanding concept in our discipline. 
In his pathbreaking book with the simple title “Administrative Reform” published as far back as 1969, he charted and assessed the various movements that led to this outcome – as well as offering nine propositions………

1. Administrative reform ‘has existed ever since men conceived better ways of organizing their social activities’ – but (up to the time Caiden was writing) it had ‘not received any systematic analysis’ (Caiden, 1969: 1).
2. The need for it ‘arises from the malfunctioning of the natural processes of administrative change’ (p. 65).
3. It rests on the belief ‘that there is always a better alternative to the status quo’ (p. 23).
4. ‘No aspect of administration is incapable of reform or has not been reformed at some time’. BUT this does not mean that reform is necessarily ‘good, desirable, preferable, successful, workable or necessary’ (p. 36).
5. Serious interest in administrative reform as a topic in its own right was stimulated by developments of the early post–World War II period (reconstruction, decolonization, et cetera), and especially the rise, within the discipline of public administration, of the sub-disciplines of development administration and comparative administration (pp. 37, 40).
6. Indiscriminate use of the term was leading to ‘confusion and to difficulties in setting parameters for research and theorizing’, and the absence of a universally accepted definition was handicapping the study (p. 43).
7. Caiden proposed his own definition: ‘administrative reform is the artificial inducement of administrative transformation, against resistance’ (p. 65).
8. When resistance is generated but overcome, ’change gives way to reform’ (p. 59).
9. BUT – and it is a big BUT – ‘resistance to change is indispensable for stability’ and, if ‘people were willing to change whenever an alternative presented itself, there would be chaos’ (p. 60).

Gerald Caiden has written a lot of books but his presence on the internet is a bit elusive. The last title in the short list below is actually a broad-sweep socio-economic analysis of the post-war period with a depth which borders on the philosophical. His is indeed a rare voice of clarity !

A Caiden resource
Administrative Reform; G Caiden (1969)
Administrative Reform comes of Age; Gerald Caiden (1991)
What Really is Public Maladministration?; article in PAR by G Caiden (1991)
“Toward more democratic governance – modernising the administrative state in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US “ – chapter in Public administration – an interdisciplinary critical analysis; ed Vigoda 2002