Lessons to learn from the public sector
It used to be a one way street. A public sector anxious to learn would look to the private sector to know how to do things better. From the public sector reforms of the 80s where ‘private = good, public = bad’, to the Blair reforms with an increasingly mixed market, the public sector has always had a slight inferiority complex about the private sector. (This perpetuated the myth that there was one homogenous thing called the ‘private sector’ which was uniformly excellent in all that it did…)
But there are distinct signs of the tables turning. There are some real lessons of excellence that the private sector can now learn from the public sector. Let’s start by remembering that government runs some really big businesses… and well (look how Job Centre has responded to a very rapid rise in unemployment in the last year as an example). But it goes deeper than just running big businesses well.
Most big businesses nowadays work in a global context and have a multiplicity of shareholders, customers and business partners to manage. Yet look at the complexity of the delivery of public services. ‘Managing stakeholders’ has become a very sophisticated business in government. For example, the Department of Health is actively working with industry to develop coordinated action on the obesity, alcohol and wider public health agendas. The Foreign Office is in many ways a world leader at stakeholder management. Local government manages complex local partnership arrangements across health, police, education, business and the communities they serve…