MT Masterclass: Working with the public sector

With the election over and the true extent of our problems becoming clear, one thing is obvious: the public sector needs help.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

What is it? Yes, we have had PFI/PPP projects. And yes, outsourcing has grown in the past decade or so. But now the cry is going up for a substantial injection of private sector expertise for the massive task of reforming public services at minimal cost. This will call for patience, tact, skill and decisiveness from private (and public) sector managers. The public sector offers a very different working environment and culture, and presents a different management challenge. Are you up for it?

Where did it come from? In the good old days, government was a lot smaller. In fact, the 'public sector' is to a great extent a 20th century invention. Yes, governments have taxed their citizens for some time. But income tax was introduced as a 'temporary measure' to the UK in preparation for the Napoleonic wars. And after World War Two, with the NHS and the nationalisation of many industries, Attlee's Labour government established a public sector framework. Ever since, there has been a certain tension between the public and private sectors.

Where is it going? Jeff Immelt, CEO of US conglomerate General Electric, described the new reality very well last year. 'Let's face it,' he said, 'the government has moved in next door and it isn't going to go away any time soon.' Business has often sneered at 'big government' and decried public sector activity 'crowding out' the private sector.

But if it is true that 'we are all in this together', then public and private sectors are going to have to get better at working in sync. This has to become a win-win story, not the old lose-lose one.

Fad quotient (out of 10): Eight and rising.

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