Michael Gove and Civil Service Reform – Talk, Decisions, Actions …. and Consequences

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).

It was called “Working for Patients”. Continue reading

Have Virus, Will Travel?

Colin Talbot

After Dominic Cumming’s Rose Garden press conference I tweeted this.

I was astonished it went so (semi) viral with over 2 million views.

But I have since realised I hadn’t really thought properly why, and crucially how, travel is so important in the current crisis. It just seemed obvious it was a bad idea.

Then I remembered something that happened nearly 2 decades ago – the foot and mouth crisis in 2001. Continue reading

The Covid-19 Shield Wall has been ripped away by the Government

I’ve been shielding since before we started calling it that.

By the start of March it was obvious to me that people with conditions like mine are highly vulnerable to C-19.

So from 4 Mar I started taking measures to isolate myself, as much as possible.

Suddenly, this weekend (May 30/31), we have been told we are free to go out like everyone else, just maintain social distancing. No warning, no explanation of why, or how.

Continue reading