This is a cautionary note for all those people taking Michael Gove’s speech about “The Privilege of Public Service” seriously.
One of my favourite books on organizations is by the Nils Brunsson, the Swedish organization theorist. My late friend and colleague Christopher Pollitt and I used to spend many pleasant sessions, drink in hand, discussing how it applied to public policy.
And although it was written 30 years ago but its argument was never more relevant than when listening to Michael Gove talking about public and civil service reform.
The book is called “The Organization of Hypocrisy” and the subtitle is “talk, decisions and actions in organizations.”
It’s argument, in a nutshell, is that organizations are subject to contradictory pressures resulting in inconsistent talk, decisions and actions. But they like to tell rational stories about themselves so they invent an “organizational hypocrisy” – a story everyone knows is not true but that everyone pretends is.
A classic example Christopher and I used to discuss was a policy initiative which was launched, coincidentally, in the same year Brunsson’s book appeared (1989).
I am writing to ask your Committee to investigate one very specific aspect of the way in which the Corona-19 outbreak is being managed: the protection of the most vulnerable to the disease.
I have to declare an interest as I am one of the 1.9m who have, apparently, been designated as being in the most “at risk” group.
But I am writing primarily as an expert with experience in the scientific, engineering and social science fields – mostly the latter and particularly the study of government and public agencies, including health for over three decades.Continue reading “Letter to Jeremy Hunt MP”→
The nearest (only?) parallel to the Sir Philip Rutnam affair was the sacking of Derek Lewis as Director General (DG) of the Prison Service in 1995.
This was another case of a Home Secretary and a senior Home Office civil servant falling out, and the latter ending up without a job.
The Prison Service (of England and Wales) was, back then, part of the Home Office. It has since moved to the Ministry of Justice.
Derek Lewis was brought in, an executive in Granada TV, by Ken Clarke, then Home Secretary. He was tasked with running the Prison Service which had newly been established as an ‘Executive Agency’ within the Home Office.