114 – Classic paper: ‘Forget your people – real leaders act on the system’. John Seddon.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                         2200 words

john seddon

John Seddon won the first Harvard Business Review/ McKinsey Management Innovation Prize for ‘Reinventing Leadership’ in 2010 for this paper. The prize was awarded for:

“ … the best story (a real-world case study of management innovation) or hack (a bold idea for tackling a critical management challenge) around … redefining the work of leadership, increasing trust (reducing fear), and taking the work out of work.”

As the title suggests it is a provocative paper. In his usual way, Seddon provides challenging ideas supported by practical evidence.

The context for the story is Owen Buckwell, the head of housing at Portsmouth City Council in England. Over 40,000 people rely on him for warm, safe and comfortable homes. Each year he is responsible for dealing with 17,000 blocked toilets and 100,000 dripping taps in the 17,000 council houses.

Owen has been managing housing for 6 years. Seddon describes him as a curious man who likes to get to the bottom of things.

What does Owen do?

103 – Classic paper – ‘Managing Government, Governing Management’. Henry Mintzberg.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                         1850 words

In 1996 Henry Mintzberg published a paper in the Harvard Business Review entitled ‘Managing Government, Governing Management’. In the paper Mintzberg covers four broad topics relevant to local government:

  1. Private, public, cooperative and non-owned organisations.
  2. The roles of people in society as customer, client, citizen and subject.
  3. The management myths that activities can be isolated, performance can be fully evaluated using objective measures, and activities can be entrusted to autonomous managers responsible for performance.
  4. The machine model, network model, performance-control model, virtual model and normative-control model available to organise government.

What relevance does it have for local government today?

88 – Classic paper – ‘Managing the public service institution’. Peter F. Drucker.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                         Long read 1900 words

Editors Note: This is the first of a new type of post – the long read. Rather than split long pieces or edit out important ideas they will be a run as a long read. It is only recommended for those scoring more than 7/10 in the local government reading test!

In this insightful paper published in 1973, Peter F Drucker looks at why public service organisations are less efficient than business enterprises. In it he reaffirms public services as being ‘load-bearing members of the main structure’ of modern society – a provider of services that are essential to society. Despite this importance, he says the performance of public service organisations is unimpressive. They have large budgets and require ‘ever-growing subsidies’ but are providing poorer service. Citizens are complaining about ‘bureaucracy and mismanagement’ in the institutions that are supposed to serve them.

Why was that the case in 1973 and is it still the case in local government today?