Books about management are big business. The Management section of any bookshop is therefore a big one – with what used to be a clear divide between textbooks (for the many students of the subject) and the more practical no-nonsense books written by business leaders/heroes That line began to blur a bit in the 1990s – with academics such as Rosabeth Kanter and Peter Senge, for example, producing best-sellers about the latest "best practice".
At about the same time, the field of New Public Management (NPM) began to make its mark – building on the success of David Osborne’s “Reinventing Government” (1992). By the new millennium, the shelves were groaning under the weight of the academic books appearing on the subject.
What, however, was most curious was the absence of titles from those with the practical experience of managing state bodies. And this despite the best intentions of someone like Mark Moore whose “Creating Public Value” (1995) celebrated the energy and creativity which good public managers brought to state bodies at both the national and local levels.
Perhaps such people are simply too busy – or contractually prevented from sharing their insights? Only one other academic, as far as I’m aware, has tried to encourage public managers to speak out – and that is the late lamented Chris Pollitt whose The Essential Public Manager” was published in 2003.
It’s this imbalance in the literature which has encouraged me these past few years to try to put a book together about my fairly unusual experience of administrative reform in some dozen countries - which I had been calling “How did Admin Reform get to be so Sexy?” but which is currently running with a new title “Change for the Better? - a life in reform”. I've been working on it fairly feverishly for the past week - and hope to put it up shortly on this site.....
It has an unusual structure - in that the two opening chapters were actually penned some 20 and 10 years ago respectively; and most of the others are based on posts from this blog – each prefaced by a short introduction. In this I follow the example of two writers I’ve long admired – Robert Chambers, whose Ideas for Development consists of essays he has written over a 30 years period – each with an introduction indicating the circumstances in which it was penned and how his thinking has changed. Roger Harrison, an organisational consultant who developed with Charles Handy the famous idea of ”Gods of Management”, did the same,
For me, too many books pretend to an authority and precision which life simply doesn’t have .....