Thursday, February 04, 2010

Lift that sticklebrick, tote that... other sticklebrick

Of course, work as a civil servant isn't all tea drinking and paper shuffling. Sometimes, we get exposed to the latest in management consultancy. I say latest, although these fads only tend to reach us just as they become totally discredited in the all-seeing, all-knowing private sector.

Today is a case in point. The latest 'this will be our future' concept is something called Pacesetter, which introduces the production line ethos into our activities. As part of its introduction, I will undergo training in 'the Pacesetter Way', which sounds a bit like a bureaucratic version of Eastern martial philosophy, designed to improve efficiency and ensure consistency. Unfortunately, it does not appear to allow for a shred of humanity, discretion or judgement. We will, it appears, have 'ordnung'.

The training today revolves around the simulation of a production line, where we will build, on instruction, a widget made out of different coloured sticklebricks. The comments of my colleagues who experienced this yesterday do not inspire confidence in the value of the exercise, one of them suggesting that this was the biggest waste of time he had encountered in his career. We'll see about that...

There is a sense that management consultants can do what managers can't, i.e. change things, which saddens me somewhat. Good management does not need the support of consultants, and one might almost suspect that senior management have given up on their local subordinates. Introduce rigid, process-mapped procedures, and you create a structure where managers merely gather data and report back, rather than inspire, lead and develop their staff.

As a short term fix, it will doubtless work, at least until the next crisis. In terms of building the Civil Service of the future, I have a sense of dread and foreboding...

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