Morrissey and other members of the band the Smiths told journalists they were very unhappy that the Prime Minister had chosen one of their songs for his desert island disks. You can see their point they consider themselves to be critics of the system so they don’t want such a pillar of the establishment saying he’s a big fan. I assume they just think he doesn’t get it. That’s what I thought the other day when I read an email congratulating me on my accurate, well informed criticism of public sector managers. This it happens chimed with the experience of the writer who had suffered for years at the hands of ill informed, obstructive and meddling bureaucrats. What I had in fact been writing about was the erosion of personal and professional values as senior managers in the public sector struggle against over whelming odds to meet performance targets, deliver budget cuts and make their organisations competitive. How did this get heard as support for small private nursing homes against oppressive local public sector staff?
This type of thing happens a lot in big organisations where the audience is very diverse, the conversation to often one way and the opportunities for interaction limited. As a senior manager you expect some people to disagree with what you have written or said, you are prepared for it, and you recognise you probably won’t be able to say anything to change their views. But nothing throws you like a favourable review only to discover your audience has totally got the wrong end of the stick.
I don’t want to be on the side of those who think public sector managers wouldn’t last five minutes in the private sector or the Mr Angry who complains about tax payers’ money being wasted on the undeserving. I think teachers, nurses, social workers and care assistance are in general well intentioned, capable people trying to do a difficult job and not always getting the help and support they have a right to expect. But I also know that there are some people who have to be weeded out for the good of the patient/service user. I reserve the right to criticise, to note the difference between rhetoric and reality, to say this style of management isn’t helping or that to deny the impact of budget cuts is dishonest and as in this case to say public sector managers have been caught covering up mistakes, fiddling performance figures and misleading inspectors.
What Mr Angry didn’t appreciate was that far from seeing this as evidence to dismantle and privatise public services I see it as reason to stop messing about with it.
Blair McPherson author of Equipping managers for an uncertain future published by Russell House www.blairmcpherson.co.uk