In Australia management in the public sector has an unhealthy managerialist bent. In a nutshell, a one size fits all approach coupled with the inherently arrogant notion that ‘more management’ is the solution to everything. In the main, this sad state of affairs has been peddled in the public sector by strategic human resources or organisational development areas. Call them what you will.
And you just have to adore how these ‘people areas’ sometimes appropriate internal communications areas. Of course, this is all about perpetuating hierarchical approaches to running organisations. All brand, no substance and out of step with the world we live in is my take. If the whole dynamic was not so dangerous if would probably be a bleak satire on the BBC. A Yes Minister meets Blackadder sort of thing.
Am I being harsh here? You bet. Innovation, Gov 2.0, Australian Public Service Reform. Despite some of the great stuff that is going on the constant hum is about the cultural characteristics that impede progress. Well, it is the very areas that I’ve mentioned that are the prime carriers of those cultural characteristics that impede progress. They’ve erected vast tracts of red tape and unnecessary bureaucracy to ensure that the whole show continues by everyone having to get on their treadmill.
How many government agencies do you know that look like this?
Problem is, most of the fundamental breakthroughs in management were made decades ago. Workflow design, project management, variance analysis, budgeting, financial reporting, performance appraisal, divisionalization, brand management — these and a host of other notable inventions trace their origins back to the early years of the 20th century. Truth is, much of what passes for “modern” management was invented by individuals who were born in the middle of the 19th century.
Those early management pioneers were obsessed with two problems: First, how to get semi-skilled employees to do the same things over and over again with near-perfect replicability and ever-increasing productivity? And second, how to coordinate those efforts in ways that facilitated the large-scale production of complex goods and services?
The first question was answered by de-skilling and routinizing work; and the second by developing reporting and accountability relationships that maximized control and minimized deviations from plan. Thus was born the modern bureaucratic organization — Management 1.0.
Management 1.0 rapidly became a global standard — and remains so to this day. The tools and processes of management are remarkably similar, whether you work for a global manufacturing company, a high-tech start-up, or a government department, and whether you work in Tokyo, Frankfurt or New York.
The above account of management is taken from the Management Innovation eXchange (MIX). You might like to take a look at the MIX Manifesto to get a feel for the direction they believe management should take. I believe it is very telling when you see something from the management domain couched in terms of human accomplishment. People.
From my professional perspective some good questions to start with in the public sector would be:
How much management do we really need?
How do we dismantle the ’empires’ that no longer have a real purpose?
How to we guard against the pervasive growth of management in the future?
So what should management 2.0 look like?