administrative reform


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back on line

Posted by publicadminreform on December 6, 2009 at 7:46 AM Comments comments (0)

Isolation and rural air is best for creativity! Since I left the montains 3 weeks ago, I haven't really read or blogged (see separate blog). Now I;m back, I can continue my effort to update and prepare. I think what I shall do is upload useful papers. First a very useful balancing act on performance measurement -


And I also found various papers on China - the new issue of PAR and a 2004 issue of Chinese public admin review


making sense of the modernisation efforts

Posted by publicadminreform on November 6, 2009 at 7:37 AM Comments comments (0)

A decade ago, I had a few months to prepare for a major new assignment in central Asia – which turned into a 7 year spell in that part of the world. I used those few months to write a small book about what I thought I knew about my discipline. Some of the chapters of that book are “key papers” one, six and thirteen on my website. And what I think I learned from those 7 years is reflected in key paper 3.

Now I face another new continent – and am trying to do the same thing. Perhaps not a book – but a series of reflections. When you’re in the middle of an assignment working with a beneficiary, you have to be very practical. The last thing you want is an academic article. But – between assignments – academic journals can give you perspective; help you catch up with changing fashions (“skirt lines are falling this year”); and brief you on development in countries about which you know little.

My language and background is English/UK – so US and Commonwealth developments in public management have been easier to follow in the international journals than French and German. Low country and Scandinavian writers are more comfortable in English and their developments have, therefore, been easier to follow.

Even so, it’s obvious from looking at the back numbers of Public Administration, for example, that I’ve missed a lot of useful writing about European developments recently. A particularly useful issue was one on traditions of government – and how they’ve changed recently under the onslaught of NPM.

The UK authors I’ve found useful are Hood, Pollitt, Stoker and Talbot (academic) and Mulgan and Peri6 (think-tanks) Today I found another - Martin Evans whose Policy transfer in a global age is at;


Basically the UK is exceptional in the ease (speed and extent) with which it changes its systems. It is so centralised – has no effective political, ethical, social or intellectual force left to challenge the foibles of the executive. Charter 88 recognised this truth long before the rest of us – and it still seems too intellectual a point. And its individualism has perhaps given post-modernist relativism its strength. Is it being too idealistic to imagine that countries such as China still have Confucian strengths to draw on?

lack of trust

Posted by publicadminreform on November 5, 2009 at 3:18 AM Comments comments (0)

I hear that Uzbekistan cannot access my new blog -

I'm therefore repeating some of its recent blogs here.


For example -

I’m now trying to explore the wider “professional” implications of the case study I described on Oct 28 – both on the blog and on the Guardian’s article comments pages. By “professional” I mean the life-long focus I’ve had on getting government systems to deliver better value to their citizens.

The issue the Guardian article confronted was how society (not just teachers) can best deal with disruptive pupils – and, surely, parental satisfaction with the schooling system is a reasonable test for how well a governance system is operating. (In Azerbaijan, I suggested the basic test was how easily people could cross the street!) Those who study and write about government and public administration over-complicate things - we need some simple tests like these!

So let’s explore what this example of the tools available for disruptive pupil behaviour tells us about the British “governance” system.


The British political, professional and legal systems have made a lot of interventions over the past 30 years into the affairs of the school. Laws, targets, national curricula, guidelines, procedures and outside groups (such as police, social workers and a new breed of auditors) now constrain what teachers can and cannot do. Schools cannot easily get rid of unruly pupils – and have to deal with them in normal classes.

And yet the results of all this effort appear to have made the situation worse. This is ironic – since the NewLabour government boasted in its early years of having found a wider range of policy tools which could be used to fine-tune social behaviour.

I remember so well some of the chapters in Geoff Mulgan’s significantly-entitled “Life after Politics – new thinking for the twenty-first century” (1997). In particular Perri 6’s “Governing by cultures” – which classified the various tools government had to change social behaviour.

Douglas Hague’s title was also interesting – “Transforming the Dinosaurs”. That was strong language to use about schools and universities!

And, in 1999, we had the Modernising Government programme – with the Cabinet Office (under Geoff Mulgan) producing several fascinating papers. Part of the new weaponry was “evidence-based policy-making”. The tools of (central) government seemed so clear! This was social engineering with a vengeance!

I realise that this does not appear to be very helpful to the parent whose child’s education is suffering from the disruptive behaviour. But bear with me......


Knowing Labour as well as I do (having been a paid-up member since 1959 and a leading regional councillor since 1974), I was disappointed but not surprised that local government did not appear as one of the possible mechanisms of change. New Labour had already absorbed that power ethos which was revealed when Hartley Shawcross spoke in 1946 the famous words - “Now WE are the masters”. This gave the game away – what called “the circulation of the elites”. That’s what passes for democracy in Britain – and, as long as it does, there will be no solution to its (growing) social problems.


Basically, New Labour (despite all the brave words) is no different – it simply does not trust people. And let there be no bones about it – this is an issue of trust. The delivery of public services involves different groups of people – political, administrative, professional and citizen (at national, regional and local level) - who can and do play different roles in different countries as the level of trust they inspire rises and falls. Different countries have different ideas of those roles. In some cases (Scandinavia) it has been the local professionals and local politicians who have bee trusted with additional responsibilities in the past few decades.

In other countries it has been public managers.

In other countries again managers in the private sector have been the beneficiaries – as functions such as water, transport, health and social policy have been transferred to the private sector.

And, in some countries, citizens themselves are seen as having important an important role.


In my other blog I’ve talked about Britain’s “command and control” model – which Seddon, amongst others, has criticised. He’s right - and yet the aggressive and exclusive manner in which he conducts his work is yet another example of the counter-productive way so many professionals seem to work in Britain.

spirituality for PA?

Posted by publicadminreform on November 5, 2009 at 2:53 AM Comments comments (0)

Friday was the day I was closing the mountain house for the winter. During the night I noticed what I thought was fog outside. It turned out to be snow – and, by morning, was a good 7 cms. Fortunately it was soft – so no problems with the side road connecting the village to the main road after I had disconnected the water and placed the booby traps. Then an enjoyable drive to Bucharest – although not the last hour negotiating the traffic into the gridlocked city.

I didn’t therefore have much time for the internet – but enough to surf for “managerialism” and find an interesting short paper “In Praise of Managerialism”$file/InPraiseOfManagerialism.pdf


This morning I read Colin Talbot’s all too rare blog Whitehall Watch – which had a reference to one of my old favourites – the development economist AO Hirschman of “Exit, Voice and Loyalty”. He was a real original (still alive at 94) – a rare interdisciplinarian who celebrated the “trespassing” across disciplinary boundaries. “A Propensity to self-subversion” is a good example -


That, in turn, led me to “Government and Opposition” - one of the Wiley publications to which I have a month’s free access – and several hours downloading articles from others in their stable such as Public Administration and Development. I generally don’t have much time for this journal – but was impressed to find a couple of articles in a 2006 issue on the theme of spiritual values in the workplace. “Growing numbers across many sectors feel an unprecedented crisis of identity and integrity. In international development, institutions often find themselves subordinated to the military in ever increasing conflict situations (the ‘development-security complex’. Locally, the global tendency is for public administration to be ‘re-engineered’ on the basis of so-called ‘market’ values (the ‘New Public Administration’. Private sector management models are, nevertheless, hardly exemplary. Corporate greed and scandals proliferate in a world featuring increasing poverty extremes, resurgence of old or advent in new diseases (e.g. HIV/Aids), environmental degradation and racism. This article takes, as its starting point, the fact that the workplace has become an insecure and alienating environment. In pursuing the relationship between spirituality and religion, the article next distinguishes between, the dogmatic, institutionalised and potentially dangerous characteristics of many religions and the more intuitively contemplative character of spirituality with its stress on awareness of self, impact on others and feeling of universal connectedness. Bearing in mind the often extremism as well as variety of religions (as distinct from spirituality), the second section examines the interrelationship between the two. A number of models are advanced concerning relationships between belief, belonging, salvation and ritual. It is argued that attention needs to be given to the inner side of religion, which requires individuals to embark on a spiritual journey through contemplation and reflection, rather than the more visible side of religion expressed in ritual. In sum, spiritual dialogue is offered as a way forward and as a mechanism for building spiritual community through engagement. The final part of the article focuses on a trans-Atlantic spiritual engagement initiative. Faith-based discussion groups have been formed amongst business executives and professionals in USA (theWoodstock Business Conference promoted out of Georgetown University) and more recently in the City of London at the St Paul’s Cathedral Institute (the Paternoster Pilot Group). These aim to develop more meaningful work orientation: rediscovery of higher purpose and its relevance to restoration of ethical business and public service values, as well as better integration of personal and social domains


Tell you later what I think of it...

Can Britain save itself?

Posted by publicadminreform on October 29, 2009 at 12:32 AM Comments comments (0)

Quite astonishingly and unforgivably I have just discovered that I have been unaware for the past 3 years of the publication in March 2006 (!!) of the incredible PoWEr Report which assesses the state of British democracy. I only picked it up this evening as a result of reference a few weeks back on the Open Democracy website to the Power 2010 campaign which, 3 years on, aims to confront the parties now preparing for the 2010 election with the.

OK I was, in early 2006, in the middle of a 2 year stint leading a difficult project in Azerbaijan - but I am a diligent reader and internet surfer and this blindness on my part has also to reflect on a certain failure of progressive writers in Britain to make much of a reference to it. Perhaps they want to plough their own furrow – and don’t properly give credit where it is due...????


The process used and the analysis produced by the Commission headed by Helena Kennedy and supported by the Rowntree Trust both look great. However, a bit of a mouse seemed to emerge in the way of hard recommendations from the thousands of pages of evidence. They are often a bit vague and, somehow, don't give confidence that they would actually help change the centralised undemocratic system that operates from Whitehall.

Little wonder that, last month, the team assembled again to invite the public to come up with its concrete proposals and a promise that the best 5 would be incorporated. You can see some of the ideas which are emerging at.

The 2006 report and the evidence they received can be accessed at -.


Change, of course, never comes from an internally-driven rational process. It comes from explosive external sources. And there has never been such visceral hatred of politicians and the political system in the UK than at the moment. However, with an election less than 5 months away, the electoral system remains unchanged and with only the British National Party to turn to, don't hold your breath!!!



customer satisfaction and quality management...yawn...yawn...

Posted by publicadminreform on October 28, 2009 at 12:55 PM Comments comments (0)

So that you don't think I have given up on this site - here are two papers which clearly represent all that's best in official EU public admin thinking....

The first is on quality management -

The other on customer satisfaction (what else??)


I've only skimmed the documents - because today I have been too busy exploring the implications for public admin of the "disruptive pupil" issue. On the basis of that unfair appraisal, all I can say is "Bring back George Orwell"! I hope to be proved wrong.....

a case study

Posted by publicadminreform on October 28, 2009 at 3:21 AM Comments comments (0)

What is the line between public administration and politics. Where does one start and finish? A short article

on the experience of 2 teachers who were recently charged in England with assault for manhandling in class an aggressive and persistently disruptive child sparked off some interesting thoughts on that theme today.


The whole force of the system was arrayed against them – one was cleared (after a year of suspension), the other found guilty and has lost his job. The article had appeared last night – and people had been scribbling furiously throughout the night! As I scrolled through the comments, I was appalled at how emotional and polarised they were. Guardian readers, after all, are supposed to be reasonable people! Was this, I wondered, the evening wine and whisky talking? One contributor put it well – “just because you were abused at school (by a bullying teacher) doesn’t mean that teachers deserve anything that comes to them!”

The usual culprits were called into action –lack of discipline; the emphasis on rights; end of streaming; social workers; teaching methods; the culture of selfishness; television etc. Only 2 contributors mentioned that other European countries did not seem to experiencing this scale of problem. I then realised that the shallow and emotional tenor of the “discussion” was not just an annoying triviality – but was the clue to the problem under discussion and a pointer to the real answer.

For the first time, I was moved to draft a contribution of my own – here it is (number 147)

Interesting that the more thoughtful comments should come from those with experience of other countries eg France, Germany and Sweden. This is a very serious issue – which goes far beyond the issue of school behaviour – and does deserve more than cabby-driver rants. Britain does have a different culture of power from other countries. Those at the very top have never been held properly accountable; and the power has become more and more centralised. Our politics are conducted in more and more of an adversarial (and childish) manner – and the rhetoric of consumer-friendliness conceals the fact that our organisations are run in autocratic style. We do not talk to one another in a civilised manner because there is no civilised or thoughtful discourse at the highest level – only the exercise (and abuse) of power.

Other European countries have constitutions, legal (and sometimes even company) structures which have forced those at the top to justify and often to negotiate their actions. That, too, has been the Japanese way.

I’m afraid that, until we sort out that fundamental issue, our schools will continue to be the political football they are.

Things can change – the new Scottish parliament was given an electoral base which gave those supporting small parties a voice and required coalitions. And the Parliament gave itself a more inclusive and accountable structure – and has tried to reach out and involve the population.

There are no easy answers or quick fixes – the school issue is a classic example of the need for the stakeholder approach which requires, at all levels, responsibilities and rights to be properly recognised and balanced (and that very much includes the parents).

When people feel powerless and angry – they look for victims – and I’m not talking here about pupils. The country is angry because they have no voice – and those in power have been exposed (yet again) for the abusive and greedy people the structures they inhabit allow them to be.

The implication of these comments of mine is that those who offer policy advice to Ministers (who are generally civil servants) should, if they wish to be effective(a large qualification!), look at the broad picture. Who is involved? How are they currently operating? How might they operate differently? And this involves looking not just at policy tools and structures of administration - but at structures of power.....Rather fudges the traditional kline between politics and public admin!!

switch to new blog

Posted by publicadminreform on October 26, 2009 at 7:49 AM Comments comments (0)

I'm now posting daily on the other site - - since it is aesthetically more pleasing. I will keep this site for its key papers - which I will try to update every month or so.....


a politician - and argument - worth supporting

Posted by publicadminreform on October 18, 2009 at 4:13 AM Comments comments (0)

In July I wrote about the scandal which had broken in the UK about MP expenses. I made the point that the money is question was small beer - a few thousand euros - particularly in relation to Euro MP expenses let alone the money gambled recklessly by bankers for which public money has now to be paid. More to the point the expenses were (with a very few exceptions) entirely legal - they had been submitted to a parliamentary office, often adjusted down and approved. For the details, see

But no - the british press know who are the unpopular groups and love to kick them....And they had a few loony claims for castle moats (and quotes) to allow the story to play...and play. At least 100 MPs have declared they will not fight another election - some embarrassed at their claims (however legal) being made public; others with no such reasons for guilt because they feel tarred with the same brush.


In my July blog I said I suspected a plot - the reputation of capitalism and the financial class had slumped. The state is making an ideological comeback - but needs credible political leaders. The logic seemed clear - remove what shreds of credibility the political class has - and thereby minimise the threat to the commercial elites!

Gordon Brown thought he was being clever in first promising major political reforms - then referring the matter to a retired civil servant (Sir Thomas Legg). Usually by the time a report comes back, media interest has moved on and the matter is forgotten. But not this time. Legg has torn up the previous rulebook - and has recommended ceilings for claims, for example, for house-keeping which are plain unrealistic for a place like London. And it is retrospective - so pay back the difference!

Most MPs are keeping their heads down and paying up - but one highly respected backbencher (yes they do exist) has today come out fighting against the breathtaking breach of natural justice involved. See his comments as -

As he says, its as if you had observed all the speed limits - and then been hit with 5 years of fines because a law retrospectively lowered the speed limit to 20 miles. 

the other blog

Posted by publicadminreform on October 17, 2009 at 2:21 AM Comments comments (0)

I mentioned that I was experimenting with another blog - which was more aesthetically pleasing (eg allowing photos as part of the blog). I am currently using it to serialise (and edit) the paper I started to draft some months ago about the lessons I felt I had learned from my 40 years of trying to reform bureaucratic systems. It's at - and represents a more personal approach (even with some poetry - not mine!)


I will continue to use this blog for more technical references - and of course for the "key papers" facility which does not exist on the other blog.

Today's yahoo gives some interesting responses to yesterday's damning report on the primary education system which NewLabour has created in England.

Scotland has a separate system - now controlled by the Scottish Parliament. We used to be very proud of the democratic traditions of that system - but it has recently also taken a bit of a bashing.