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As the public service changes and let’s not doubt it is changing quite a bit, the need for a new management style emerges due to a much different set of employees to manage. I’ve argued before about the evolving public service from the point of view of an employee. Today, I’d like to address how a leader has to evolve in the public service to meet the new bureaucracy.
The following quote from Office Space represents the old system albeit a bit exaggerated but nonetheless one that resonates with many cubicle workers. It represents several age old problems that are stereotypical at this point including: pointless bureaucracy, micromanagement and a command and control management structure.
Bill Lumbergh: Hello, Peter. What’s happening? Uh…we have sort of a problem here. Yeah. You apparently didn’t put one of the new coversheets on your TPS reports.
Peter Gibbons: Oh, yeah. I’m sorry about that. I, I forgot.
Bill Lumbergh: Mmmm…yeah. You see, we’re putting the coversheets on all TPS reports now before they go out. Did you see the memo about this?
Peter Gibbons: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I have the memo right here. I just uh…forgot. But, uh, it’s not shipping out till tomorrow, so there’s no problem.
Bill Lumbergh: Yeah. If you could just go ahead and make sure you do that from now on, that will be great. And uh, I’ll go ahead and make sure you get another copy of that memo. Mmmkay? Bye bye, Peter.
Peter Gibbons: No, I…I have the memo. I’ve got it. It’s right…
[Lumbergh isn’t listening and walks away from Peter’s cubicle]
In the old management system, the top down “command and control” structure used a paycheck and continued employment as motivation and incentive to do your work. Command and control management was derived from military style management, where orders were given and orders were followed and the only motivator was to serve. This management style was extremely popular and to this day is still prominent in many organizations if I am to believe the articles and blog posts I’ve read.
Tides are changing on what is considered the best management style. According to Harvard Business School,
Incorporating a command-and-control style is a sure-fire path to demotivation.
Similarly, Harvard Business Review, suggests a movement from control of processes and environment to one where people are free to share what they know. They go on to suggest:
“Command and control” is top-down, mean and nasty, and headed for extinction; “sharing” is bottom-up, nice and friendly, and the wave of the future.
So where does that leave the public service? The new bureaucrat manager needs to change to meet the new bureaucrat entering the public service. With the adoption of more open “social” tools, generation Y public servants expect more freedom, flexibility and openness than any generation before. To manage and motivate these employees, managers will need to adopt a bottom-up method of managing that recognizes the creativity and intelligence of their employees. If you are worried about giving freedom to your employees, then I suggest that you consider a new way of hiring your employees to make sure you get the best talent that instill the confidence you need to give the freedom they need to produce results and perform exceptionally.
Scott McNaughton, http://thenewbureaucrat.ca