It is slowly dawning on the public sector that we need to do more for less. Spending and borrowing are out of control.
I have found going into various parts of the public sector and into various companies that there are common themes to make something work better, and some common rules on how you can turn round an underperforming organisation. The similarities in the leadership challenge are often more striking than the differences or special problems.
Stressing that we need to improve quality and control costs is not demanding the impossible. It’s what good private sector organisations do all the time. Nor is it just saying the obvious. Good leadership requires setting out what can be achieved, and the creating the conditions in which it is achieved. That requires knowing how far the organisation has got, how much better other organisations are, and how much to expect of your team,.
Good management is about using the minimum of resource to deliver the best of service or product. It is about continuously striving for improvement. It is about getting the morale of your workforce up and keeping it up. A strong leader defines what success is, makes sure that success is stretching, but then helps his or her team reach it. Higher efficiency comes from the full engagement of the whole team in achieving that success.
Parts of the public sector have too many spin doctors, managers, bogus consultations, management consultancy projects and partnerships. They need to slim down. The elected and official heads of each institution need to simplify, and set out a vision of higher quality core services to which they dedicate their organisations. You need a can do culture, a culture where the senior managers steps in only when things are going badly wrong to rescue them, or to praise and reward and demand more when they are going well.
The check list of areas to improve and the issues where costs can be cut and quality raised is the easy bit. If your senior managers do not know that already then you have the wrong senior managers. There are too many noises off, chasing too many peripheral issues, and padding too many organisations with words that complicate and distract. It is time for change.