Continuing on from my post yesterday, I find that Henry Mintzberg has been up to his good, outraged trickster self, and has published a redux of what is wrong with Public Management as a whole:
There is no one best way to manage everything. These practices have done their share of damage to many government departments, and beyond. Many corporations and NGOs have also suffered from what can reduce to a contemporary form of bureaucracy that discourages innovation, damages cultures, and disengages employees.
In essence, the New Public Management seeks to (a) isolate public services, so that (b) each can be run by an individual manager, who is (c) held accountable for quantitate measures of performance, while (d) treating the recipient of these services as “customers.” Let’s take a look at all this.
Am I a customer of my government, or a citizen and a subject? I am no customer of my government, thank you, buying services at arm’s length in the marketplace of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware). Do I really need to be called a “customer” to be treated decently?
I worked in government for three years, doing third party consultations on the British Columbia Treaty Process. It was coalface level democracy. I was talking to citizens – some of them with truly odious opinions – about a historic public policy initiative that had the possibility to permanently change their way of life. They were not customers, but citizens, with every right to expect that we would treat them the way citizens should be treated in a democracy. It was not about getting them to “buy in” to what we were doing; it was about operating from the fundamental premise that, collectively, they required a place to express their ownership of their country. That doesn’t mean that everyone gets what he or she wants, because in a democracy you have to balance rights and interests. But anyone who thinks that treating citizens is basically just providing good customer service has been sold a bill of goods. Yes, even in the provision of services.