Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Public Service Innovation: A Contradiction in Terms?

A few months ago I was facilitating the closure session on a leadership program for experienced public service managers and something weird happened during a serious conversation about public service innovation within the context of the recession.

This cohort of experienced managers were beginning to see themselves as leaders and not managers, and the facilitated conversation upon powerful lessons that could be drawn into future programmes and from their time together as a cohort, led to some unusual candour within the context of likely cuts in public service expenditure.
They concluded:

1. We need a new paradigm for leadership within the context of the recession. We don’t have enough leaders, but we have lots of managers and backwoodsmen strumming old banjos and busily riding rocking-chairs.

2. Public service investments have tended to institutionalise social problems , when the real issue is about having the courage to face and address the social behaviours within families (or lack of them) that are root causes of problems.

3. If we really want innovation in public services, then we need big cuts to destroy the old models embedded in “modernised” services. Nothing innovative will happen unless we face targets of at least 30% cuts.

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