A Comment On McKinsey’s “Government by design: Four principles for a better public sector.”

LegaleseDouglas O’Loughlin shared this on Facebook, and I thought I’d pen some of my thoughts about this, since effective, practical leadership development is central to the topic. The McKinsey article may be found herehttp://bit.ly/JqlnGE

The article lists four principles for a better public sector:

  1. Better evidence for decision making.
  2. Greater engagement and empowerment of citizens.
  3. Investments in expertise and skill building. (Public sector employees).
  4. Closer collaboration with the private and social sectors.

Before detailing what the four principles are, the article describes current real-world situations, environments in which governments are expected to not only survive but actually deliver the promised goods. It goes on to say that governments need to be willing to forsake ideology-driven rule and embrace what actually works. A very telling summary of the state of governments today. Yes, it is indeed time to change. Change as in going back to homeostatic principles of government.

Let’s discuss the four principles, as described by McKinsey, briefly.

1. Better Evidence for Decision-Making.

“Data-driven” is gaining in traction. If you allow me to indulge in some calibration, governments had better be certain that they are reading what is actually in the data and not seeing ghosts, shadows, or worse, fantasizing that the data actually supports their whims and fancies. Data is just that – data. How it is collected, how it is collated and how it is presented will always lead decisions. Do NOT just look at the data. Look inside the data, outside and around the data. Ask constantly if it is really saying what you THINK it is saying. It’s hard work, but you’re paid for it.

2. Greater Engagement and Empowerment of Citizens.

If a government is not there to serve the common good, what is it there for? Also, all government is a reflection of the state of robustness and morality of the citizenry in the nation it serves. If citizens have been raised to be apathetic where government is concerned, and I’m talking about Civil Administration as much as I am politics, then of course this needs to be reversed and citizens brought out of their comfortable couches by government engaging them in all sorts of ways. Had the citizens been raised to be responsible people of discipline and initiative, this would not have been necessary.

3. Investments in Expertise and Skill Building. (Public Sector Employees).

“Training” has been devalued because it has been conducted in isolation instead of being part of total people development. You cannot “draw out” from someone what does not exist there in the first place! There has also got to be a willingness to develop all staff “Two levels up“. This has been notoriously missing because of the misapplication of “Just-in-time” and more, I suspect, due to fears of people in leadership positions being “replaced” by their direct reports. Which would you rather have, a leadership pipeline always in danger of being cut, or having a vast reservoir of people who are capable of taking higher posts but disciplined and generous enough to function extremely well in their current positions? You decide!

4. Closer Collaboration with the Private and Social Sectors.

The best government apparatus is derived from experienced people from the “private” and “social” sectors. Indeed, were this so, I wonder whether we would even require the existence of a “social” sector! It is because of the “private” sector madly pursuing their misguided goal of profits that this principle even needs to be suggested. Any business which does not deliver genuine value to all stakeholders, in that it increases the wealth of all citizens in its sphere of actions and influence, has no business being in business. It would serve us well to remember that.

The public sector certainly needs overhaul. It needs practical, effective leadership, and it needs them yesterday. Pockets of Renaissance have certainly been observed, but Renaissance is not enough. We do need to recover much ancient wisdom that has been lost through negligence. Then we will see a true Resurgence of a Renaissance, perhaps. Why not? We can hope, can’t we?

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