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Monday, 22 December 2008

What Westminster and Whitehall don’t want to know

In his novel “High Profile” the brilliantly laconic American author Robert B Parker mentions, quite in passing, “Tax-and-spend big government liberals” and “Spend-and-no-tax big government conservatives. 

In Europe we would call this the choice between “Tax-and-spend big government social democrats” and “Spend-and-no-tax big government conservatives”.  I suppose that there might be an alternative such as “No-spend-and-no-tax big government”, but that option could only be for the economically reckless.

Following Parker’s logic, there is an another alternative –

No-spend-no-tax-and-not-big government.

“Not-Big-Government?”   This is so radical an idea that it is regularly declared impossible. 

Why?  There are three major factors -

Vested interests – tens of thousands of managerial jobs depend on the unnecessary complexity of big government – thousands of bureaucrats don’t want to give up their  power – millions of public employees benefit from the make-work activities that keep them occupied, pay their wages and promise their unaffordable pensions. 

Inability to innovate – the prevailing managerial ethic in the public sector, whether national or local, is to operate by precedent – they always do what they have always done (and when faced with a new challenge, they search for the nearest similarity to apply so that, once again, they can do what they have done before) – and they get what they always got – inefficiency selectively breeding even greater inefficiency.

Overwhelming arrogance of leadership – the public sector is systemised to the ultimate degree to  try to ensure that the outcome of every decision is pre-determined – it demonstrates micro-management to an absurd level – there is no trust by their leadership in the competence and judgement of public sector workers – they are led by a politicians who genuinely believe they know how people should lead their lives and do their jobs better than they do – with all this exacerbated by a media that constantly seeks to allocate blame and demand infallibility.

Given these three drivers of perception – change really is inconceivable – it has become unthinkable.

These three drivers helped kill the UK‘s Motor Industry, Shipbuilding, Steelmaking, Mining, Textiles, Chemicals and Electronics industries – and others.   The bulk of these have gone to other countries – nevertheless in the UK tiny pockets of Excellence do survive where they Think Different.  There is no “other country” to take away our Public Sector – although they have even tried to give it away.

Our Public Sector as it currently exists, and is developing, is no longer sustainable in our economy.  If it does not change, it will totally destroy our nation’s wealth.

We all know it is a problem, but the real PROBLEM is HUGE –

The alternative is so unthinkable that NOTHING is being thought!

So let’s try Thinking Different about Government. 

Let’s apply the Competitive Strength point of view to the Public Sector and see what it might tell us.

The high numbers of public reports of administrative incompetence tell us, in general, the public sector can barely control its Cost of Quality.  We know that, in the private sector, those companies with outstanding comparative Competitive Strength have moved way beyond Cost of Quality control by massively reducing their Cost of Behaviour.  We know that difficulty in managing the Cost of Quality is exhibited in the Competitive Strength condition we call Constrained  and we know that those outstanding businesses define the level we call Free.  The Comparative Strength Report tells us that the economic difference between Free and Constrained is between 75% and 85%.  It is a huge gap of enormous significance.

The significance is that it means –

If the Public Sector were to operate at the Free level of comparative Competitive Strength, it could deliver all current services for between 20% and 33% of the current cost.

Financially, that really is Not-Big-Government. And, as it happens, the cultural imperatives that drive the transformation of performance to the Free level would ensure that organisationally it could not be “Big-Government” and that the service experience would be massively better all round.

A Solution Is Possible

“Not-Big-Government” is not inconceivable.  But it won’t be easy to get there.

It will be massively different from our current doomed state. It will need political leadership of the highest order. It will require a total regeneration of ethos in the Civil Service leading to substantial changes in internal leadership and organisation.  It will demand a complete transformation of operational managerial competence in the Public Sector, national and local. It must be matched with a vigorous programme to re-distribute a high proportion of the nation’s employed base from non-productive public sector activity into nationally (and personally) enriching economic output.  There will need to be continuous change for many years but it needs to be fast, sustained and self generating - that will require the acquisition of high Changeability by thousands.  That has been demonstrated, it is not impossible.

This will need Different Thinking to get Different Actions to deliver Different Results.

Different Thinking?

The first step to be effective in the Transformation of Performance is to Decide to Act.  This decision must be unconditional – there is no need for any feasibility study, process of consensus, strategy mapping, or any of the other techniques that can be used to avoid decision. 

The first step is to decide that Something needs to Be Different, what that Difference needs to look like, why alternative outcomes must be rejected and how you will Know when the Difference is achieved.  That is all that is necessary.

The present state of our State is not sustainable.  

If nothing changes, then nothing will change.

Can we Decide to Act? 

Is there a sufficient will to survive left in our over-regulated, over-spun, over-manipulated, demoralised, dispirited, and newly impoverished population?

We don’t know.  We do know that individuals and businesses can Decide to Act.  They can elect to Transform their Performance up to the level of comparative Competitive Strength that we call Free – and they will, like those existing pockets of Excellence we mentioned before, win themselves the maximum probability of continued survival, freedom of choice, and prosperity.

You can Decide to Act, before it is too late.  

Have a look at our web site and then contact us to find out how we can help you to help yourself.