8 March 2013

 A contributor to yesterday’s Guardian Public Leaders network responded to comments made by New Zealand’s Minister of State Services when visiting Britain. The Minister claimed that agencies can be made more efficient by reducing the number of middle managers and back office employees.  A column  titled “Don’t pick on public sector middle managers, Dr Colman” suggests that the Minister is misguided.  We don’t need a bonfire of managers.

One well -crafted observation is  “It is not tiers of management that should go, but poorly-performing staff at all levels and in all jobs, including those on the frontline. . It is hard to identify and confront poor performance, so it’s often not done. But it has to be done. Poor performance is the real barrier to innovation, the real waste of public money. Too many public servants are doing two people’s jobs, because too many are doing no job at all. There are no non-jobs in the public sector, just too many people making their useful jobs useless.”

And probably many would agree.  I suspect that there are few managers who would claim competence, let alone effectiveness, in confronting poor performance.  And the consequence of more than 15 years focus on working in teams has been  to undermine the willingness of most to draw attention to their poor performing peers.

A Te Kawa and Guerin paper on “…What does the Performance Improvement Framework encourage us to be…”  may well give credence to that view.