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The Forum > Article Comments > Lessons from Blair's years of delivery > Comments

Lessons from Blair's years of delivery : Comments

By John Seddon, published 24/8/2011

What makes us think that industrial scale delivers efficiency?

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Thanks John I think the point you make is very important and quite fundamental. Bureaucracy can't handle complexity well (and people and their problems tend to complexity).

I do think you make one error - confusing scale with values. Smaller scale doesn't mean happier people necessarily - the local can be rigid, short-sighted and ineffective; this may be less likely but it is quite possible. Villages, even ones that are largely self-sufficient can be awfully rigid and conservative. Local government can be incredibly hide bound.

Toyota is pretty big and industrial too.

More power to your arm, this is a majorly important discussion I think!
Posted by Evan Hadkins, Wednesday, 24 August 2011 9:03:39 AM
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I suspect that when we finally have the luxury of time to reflect on these shenanigans, one aspect will become crystal clear: we are trying to solve problems using the wrong toolset.

It is down to the structure of government. Government departments are not designed to produce results, they are designed to produce career-paths for public servants.

If results were the objective, managers and employees would be measured on performance against specific outcomes - not some "targets" that are easily manipulated. They would be fired for non-performance. They would have the same tax system as the rest of us - FBT, for example - and the same pension schemes.

Government departments typically have neither the focus, nor the will, to achieve anything specific. Permanent employment is the first goal for management. The second is to build the largest possible organization beneath them - this is reflected (thanks to the Hay System) in their salaries, and also serves to insulate them from any blame, should anything go wrong.

Blair had the misguided notion - shared by governments around the world, unfortunately - that change can be effected through central planning, and government action. One day we will all come to the unavoidable conclusion that this is the absolute most entirely wrong mechanism for change that could be devised.

With luck, that realization will come soon. But I'm not holding my breath. Mainly because the government's response to any conundrum such as this is to ask the Public Service to investigate.

Which will require more Public Servants to be employed. And so the wheels keep on turning.
Posted by Pericles, Wednesday, 24 August 2011 9:49:49 AM
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There are a couple management maxims that immediately come to mind here. 1) you can frequently solve technical problems with management solutions but you can never solve management problems with technical solutions. And secondly you can not reduce the time of a pregnancy from 9 to 3 months by putting 3 women on the job. Both of these fundamentals are frequently ignored in government administrations and failing businesses.

The first maxim deals with not having the necessary or sufficient tools to do the job. The solution may be as simple as changing the process – a management decision. But if on the other hand the workers can not do their job because the management process does not fit or allow the required solution no amount of tools (PCs, Copiers, trucks, dispatching centres, operating theaters) will help until management figures out their mandated solution does not address the problem. In this last scenario the Japanese manufacturing management system rightly determined the best people to define the proper solution are those in the middle of the problem. Allowing these people on the ground ( or on the manufacturing line) to make the right decisions and fix the problems requires an act of faith on the part of management that the “right thing” will be done. And then the impoverished management structure will begin to rightfully doubt their value in the process.

The second maxim is more to the point of the author where many politicians and career bureaucrats are of the opinion that you can smash together two similar groups doing similar jobs and get some economies of scale. This only works if one or both of the groups is underutilized which no self-serving bureaucrats will ever admit.
Posted by Bruce, Wednesday, 24 August 2011 5:05:46 PM
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