The Better Government Initiative report

January 09, 2008 10:06 AM

Today the Better Government Initiative, a group of establishment figures with no relation to our campaign, have published their report (PDF) today and have noted the problem of inexperienced political management:

"Ministers are increasingly drawn from a specialist political background with little experience of the management and operation of large organisations, but they are in a position of great influence in relation both to their own Departments and to deliverers of public services. They need appropriate training. Such training should also be available to potential Ministers within the governing party and to members of the Opposition and Select Committees."

It is great that they have acknowledged the problem but their conclusion, that training is needed, is a mistake.  There is a reason why big, private sector, firms wouldn't dare to hope than an inexperienced candidate can be prepared for the role of chief executive - an analagous role to that of a minister - with training alone.  Managing large organisations is not a skill that has ever been effectively taught through formal training alone.


Beyond that, even if a Minister knows how to do manage large organisations they will also need to know their subject.  Few have an in-depth knowledge of the area in which they'll be working so can be, at best, informed laymen.  They rarely stay in a department for long so they won't be able to build up that knowledge over time or build up a close working relationship with their staff.


All these weaknesses make it harder for Ministers to attempt the already close to impossible task of managing big government departments - huge, monopolistic conglomerates.  Training will not improve the situation.  Instead, we need politicians to get out of management and hand services over to professionals - held accountable either by the politicians or, in most cases, the competitive market.

Today the Better Government Initiative, a group of establishment figures with no relation to our campaign, have published their report (PDF) today and have noted the problem of inexperienced political management:

"Ministers are increasingly drawn from a specialist political background with little experience of the management and operation of large organisations, but they are in a position of great influence in relation both to their own Departments and to deliverers of public services. They need appropriate training. Such training should also be available to potential Ministers within the governing party and to members of the Opposition and Select Committees."

It is great that they have acknowledged the problem but their conclusion, that training is needed, is a mistake.  There is a reason why big, private sector, firms wouldn't dare to hope than an inexperienced candidate can be prepared for the role of chief executive - an analagous role to that of a minister - with training alone.  Managing large organisations is not a skill that has ever been effectively taught through formal training alone.


Beyond that, even if a Minister knows how to do manage large organisations they will also need to know their subject.  Few have an in-depth knowledge of the area in which they'll be working so can be, at best, informed laymen.  They rarely stay in a department for long so they won't be able to build up that knowledge over time or build up a close working relationship with their staff.


All these weaknesses make it harder for Ministers to attempt the already close to impossible task of managing big government departments - huge, monopolistic conglomerates.  Training will not improve the situation.  Instead, we need politicians to get out of management and hand services over to professionals - held accountable either by the politicians or, in most cases, the competitive market.

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