Tag Archives: governance

Public Services Governance Graduates 2014

On Monday I was in Cardiff for a celebratory lunch, hosted by Academi Wales, to recognise the achievement of graduates from the PgCert Public Services Governance programme. Below is a copy of my talk:

 

Public Services Governance – Graduation

Thank you to Academi Wales for inviting me to give this short talk. It’s great to be in Cardiff again and once again the sun is shining. And what a terrific venue for this celebratory lunch. It really is wonderful to see you all again. You should be really proud of what you have all achieved – seriously, well done!

I have been asked to give a short talk on how the partnership was established, how students progressed through the programme and then finish by discussing what happens next.

When I started to think about this talk and what I would say one thing came to my mind immediately – that the more things change the more they stay the same.

On 19th September it looks increasingly likely that the UK Government will be entering into negotiations with the Scottish Government about the progress of establishing an independent Scotland. This may seem like a revolutionary moment. Yet many things will remain the same. The EU will still exist, the UN, the World Bank and the global money markets. And the Scottish Government and rest of UK Government will continue to operate within this global context.

But of course there will be some change. And it is at times of change that I believe the need for good governance becomes even more critical.

I feel that Academi Wales have shown great foresight, and indeed courage, in investing in public service workers from across Wales to undertake this programme. And you are very fortunate to have had that opportunity.

It was back in July 2012 that I got the first call from Academi Wales that they were interested in sponsoring some students on the programme. Following that a value for money exercise was conducted from which we were, I believe, 3rd out of a possible 90 suppliers. But more than that, Academi Wales felt that our programme, the first of its kind in the UK, was the most contemporary and relevant to public services workers in Wales.

So in December that year I came to Cardiff to the Welsh Government offices where we, along with Prof Catherine Farrell from the then University of Glamorgan, jointly discussed and agreed the detailed structure and content of the programme. This was to include four modules: public services governance themes and issues, public finance, leading change and internal communications. These were seen to be most relevant to those working in a post-Williams Review Wales.

Then, in April 2013, I came to deliver the two days of module delivery on the first module. On meeting the students I was immediately struck by their enthusiasm and commitment to the programme. That said I can’t say I was surprised, as we’ve always had excellent students on our public services programmes. This is, more than anything, what makes my job so worthwhile. Sharing ideas and practice with experienced and skilled public service workers. It really is an absolute joy.

Since then the university have established a new masters level programme in public services leadership. This programme draws on many of the aspects of governance within the PgCert but with a focus on coaching as a form of leadership. It is a collaborative programme with City of Edinburgh Council, Dundee City Council and Orkney Islands Council and we currently have over 50 students on this programme. Unfortunately Academi Wales are no longer in a position to support any bursaries, due to budget cuts, but students should continue to nurture the relationships that were established in this programme and build new relationships with students and graduates from all of our public services programmes.

I would like to thank Paula James and Jo Carruthers from Academi Wales, Prof Catherine Farrell from University of South Wales, and my colleagues from QMU for having made this programme work. But most of all I would like to thank you, the former students, for having made this such a positive and fulfilling experience for me.

Much of the nature of education is about change. It’s about personal change. About challenging your own assumptions and values. About challenging your practice. You may indeed feel that at the end of this programme you’re a different person. Now you are entering a new beginning. Having successfully completed the programme it is now up to you to implement what you have learned and apply those critical thinking skills to inform your practice: to deliver better governance and delivery of public services in Wales.

But I would also like to remind you that some things won’t change. First and foremost you will always be part of the QMU family. This doesn’t just mean that you’ll get mail from time to time asking you to donate to the university. But you will also get mail from me asking for your views on governance and public services. Your views still matter. At the same time I will still be there. I and the other academics from the public services programmes will always be available to continue sharing ideas and learning. That does not stop just because you have graduated. The learning continues.

I would encourage you all to maintain and continue to build the relationships that have been built as a result of this programme. Continue to share ideas and learn from each other. Whatever changes the future brings the need for good governance remains constant. As a graduate of this programme you are ideally suited to meet those challenges. I will continue to provide any support I can and will continue to work with Academi Wales and Prof Catherine Farrell as they see fit. I wish you all the very best.

Thank you.

 

Graduates and staff

Graduates and staff

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Lean Public Services

I was recently asked by a student to provide a brief account of the advantages and disadvantages of applying lean management systems in the delivery of public services. This is my quick attempt at a brief answer!

First of all, what is Lean Management? This is actually a rather difficult question as terms such as continuous flow manufacture; stockless production; lean manufacturing; Lean thinking; Toyota production system and systems thinking have all become associated to a greater or lesser extent with ‘Lean Management’. However, for me, this short advert for Honda (a key proponent of lean management) encapsulates the essence of lean management:

Key points from this clip:
  • there is no waste;
  • every part of the process has a purpose;
  • everything happens in a fluid sequence;
  • everything happens ‘just-in-time’;
  • everything ‘adds value’ to the process.

First of all I think there is a lot to be said for a Lean Management way of thinking. Within public services perhaps the key text in this area is John Seddon’s Systems Thinking in the Public Sector. Now, there are probably some who would automatically switch off at the very mention of Lean Management. It could be dismissed as ‘just another management fad’. But actually there is something to it and it is worth considering the positive aspects of Lean.

In my view, Lean is predominately about creating a learning organisation with empowered and autonomous workers. This is encapsulated in Mr Ohno, the Toyota executive who has been credited with the development of lean management, refused to have any of the lean management approach written down as then it would become crystallised and difficult to change – and would then stifle innovation. For Mr Ohno it was important that lean management continuously change and development. Consequently one should always be wary of any text or consultant who claims to be prescribing a lean approach (NB: that’s not to say that some books or consultants may have interesting things to say on the subject).

Nonetheless, there are some basic principles which can help with understanding a lean management way of thinking. The main focus of lean is on finding efficiencies in production through the elimination of all waste. Importantly the definition of waste is very broad in this area and has nothing to do with bins or recycling. Waste, in a lean management perspective, is any activity that does not directly contribute to satisfying customer needs. That is a quite radical way of thinking. Take a moment to consider the tasks you perform in an average week and ask yourself how many directly contribute to the satisfaction of your ‘customers’?

This is a useful way of thinking. So, for example, how is attendance at any one particular meeting going to directly enhance your customer’s satisfaction? Also, how does your organisation reward attendance at meetings vs delivery at the front line? However, this line of thinking when applied indiscriminately can be completely inappropriate; for example, empty hospital beds could be viewed as waste under this approach. Overall though there are undoubtedly many things that all businesses and organisations do that do not directly serve the needs of customers. As such this is a valuable mind-set to have.

It is workers at the front line of operations who are best placed to identify areas of waste and so the Toyota approach to lean management was to empower workers to identify areas of waste and to take responsibility for the inspection and quality control of their own work. A key argument being that failure, in the form of defective goods, represents a form of waste. Therefore a lean approach requires a commitment to ‘zero defects’.

In the public services John Seddon argues for the abolition of the Audit Commission, stating,

People’s work should not be inspected; people should be their own inspector.

Seddon (2008: 63-64).

However, this seems like a rather unrealistic goal within public services, even where the current UK Government may be working towards abolishing the Audit Commission there will always be a need for auditing and scrutiny of public services – hence the development of a new auditing regime. This is due to the demand (what John Seddon would describe as ‘failure demand’ for accountability in public services when things go wrong). This is heightened by the extent to which public services are often dealing with life-or-death situations with highly vulnerable groups. As the case of Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust shows, where failure does occur in public services it is important that lessons are learned and there is some accountability for the mistakes that have happened.

At this point it would be wrong to conclude that Lean is something that can only work within a manufacturing setting. As this article from the Harvard Business Review illustrates there is some relevance to the service sector. However, public services, which have their own distinct challenges, have particular characteristics that make a lean approach more difficult to achieve.

To some extent a lean management way of thinking is important in public services today. Public services are increasingly expected to be responsive to ‘customer’ needs and continuous improvement (and efficiency savings) have become an accepted part of how we plan and deliver our public services. However,  we are still accountable to the public and therefore good governance mechanisms are key. To an extent, when things go wrong in public services, we (the public) tend to fall back on bureaucracy – what policies and procedures were in place?; how was the service audited and inspected?; where does accountability lie?

There are in fact some positive aspects of bureaucracy which are important not to forget. As the former Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell, has put it,

In this country you can renew your car tax if you can prove you own the vehicle, it is roadworthy and it is insured. In other parts of the world all it takes is knowing which palms to grease. Bureaucratic systems are colour-blind, gender-neutral and they don’t care what you sound like. That brings fairness in a way more discretionary systems can never match.

Sir Gus O’Donnell, ‘There is no shame in being a bureaucrat’, Financial Times, 2013.

Finally, what I have found in speaking to those who have experienced the ‘implementation’ of lean management in public services is that there is a fairly piecemeal approach. Those aspects that are seen to deliver cost savings are pushed through with some gusto whilst aspects of empowering and developing staff (where investment may be required) are quietly forgotten. Yet the successful delivery of a lean management approach is totally dependent on a committed and empowered workforce. It is, in many respects (as highlighted by John Seddon) the very opposite of a traditional command and control form of management. So as soon as someone tells you to implement lean management – and dictates how it is to be done – you should consider what they are actually meaning.

There is lots more I could say on this topic but I was trying to keep this short so I’ll leave it for now. If you have any further questions please use the comments box below.

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Guest post – Ministers vs Civil Servants

Due to annual leave, sick leave and teaching prep over the last few weeks my blog has taken something of a backseat. I’ve drafted a number of posts but haven’t yet got them finished. So while I try to get my head above water again I am pleased to have another guest post from Professor Eddie Frizzell, Visiting Professor in Public Service Management at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh.

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Ministers vs Civil Servants: Time for more FOI?

The West Coast Rail franchise fiasco raises again the question of accountability when things go badly wrong in public service delivery.  In central government the debate is about whether Ministers or civil servants should carry the can, and in the case of the cancelled contract with First Group Ministers were quick to blame their officials for alleged errors in the calculations.  Meanwhile, Opposition politicians are keen to ensure that Ministers do not pass the buck, while the Chair of the Westminster Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the Margaret Hodge MP, appeared to conclude before hearing any evidence that the civil service was definitely at fault. Writing in the Times on 9 October 2012, she also called for civil servants to be accountable to Parliament, and for Committees to be able to summon civil servants to explain their actions. 

Mrs Hodge has been on something of a campaign to hold individual civil servants to account ever since her appointment as Chair of the PAC in July 2010, and has previously complained about obfuscation by officials and lack of frankness in evidence given to her Committee.  However, to extend to a range of officials the longstanding Westminster convention that Permanent Secretaries, may – as Accounting Officers – be called before the PAC to account for, mainly, financial management, and to make all civil servants answerable to Parliament, would be a major constitutional change unlikely to find favour among Ministers or officials.  In the UK the position is that civil servants answer to Ministers and that Ministers are accountable to Parliament, subject to the convention noted above.

On the face of it, there could be advantages in terms of accountability, and transparency, if the net of Accounting Officers (or “Accountable Officers” as in Scotland) were widened.  It may be fair to argue that Ministers should not be expected to delve into, far less understand, the minutiae of major procurements like the rail franchise, which rely on multiple complex assumptions, calculations, and financial assessments reliant on the work of Departmental economists, legal advisers, Treasury  wonks, and well paid private sector consultants.  But, it might also be contended that Permanent Secretaries, with large, complex organisations to manage, should likewise not be expected to know every fine detail of Departmental business – though the PAC has never been sympathetic to that proposition.

There are, nevertheless, downsides. One is that individual civil servants are constitutionally indivisible from their Ministers (and vice versa, though it seems Minsters no longer see things that way) and cannot publicly disagree with their political masters.  Even Permanent Secretaries are restricted in what they can say, within the confines of their Accounting Officer responsibilities. Another downside would be the temptation for some Committee members to grandstand and pursue cheap headlines, and there is a question mark over whether enough of them have the skills and competences for forensic examination. Committee questioning of James Murdoch of News International over phone hacking by the News of the World justifies such doubt.

However, despite civil service reforms over the past 25 years, the issue of accountability remains unresolved.  The gold standard insight into how knotty the problem is remains the famous BBC interview in the 1990s by Jeremy Paxman of the then Home Secretary, Michael Howard MP, over the respective roles of the latter and of the Chief Executive of HM Prison Service in the dismissal of the Governor of Parkhurst prison.

Whatever the doubts, the Scottish Parliament has since 1999 been able to call a range of civil servants before its Committees.  As in Westminster, Accountable Officers – the Permanent Secretary, Agency and Quango chiefs and other top brass – may be required to appear before the Scottish Parliament’s own PAC (Public Audit Committee), but they and other officials may also be called to explain legislation and policies to a variety of other Committees. For the most part these are polite encounters, with sensitivity shown to what civil servants are allowed to divulge, though on occasion former Ministers serving on Committees seem to have succumbed to the temptation to settle scores with officials dating back to when they were previously in office.

Whatever the position in Scotland, blaming officials for setbacks risks becoming the norm in Westminster. Civil servants have even been blamed for what went wrong in the 2012 Budget, so the odds on being scapegoated if you are unfortunate enough to work for the Coalition seem to be shortening.  Perhaps the time has come to reconsider the sacred “no go” area in Freedom of Information (FOI) and start bringing advice to Ministers into the public domain. This is of course anathema to most senior civil servants and to the Whitehall mandarinate, whose objections are that extending FOI to advice to Ministers would undermine the trust between Ministers and officials, and constrain the latter’s willingness to “speak truth to power”.

These are important considerations, but they reflect a view of the relationship between Ministers and civil servants more in tune with the middle of the 20th Century than the second decade of the 21st. Mutual trust between Ministers and civil servants has been ebbing away in Whitehall for years, with the result that Ministers nowadays mostly prefer the enthusiastic advice of ambitious special advisers, some fresh from university political activism, to that of experienced officials.

By the same token “speaking truth to power” is regarded as obstructionism and has been withering away since the Thatcher years when not “being one of us” was distinctly career limiting. In fact, opening up advice to public view may revive the practice – and raise the game of officials and Ministers alike. If the public were to know who advised what to whom, and who decided what, there would be no hiding place for anyone – which is precisely why Ministers would not like it any more than the mandarins. But accountability would be sharpened, and that would presumably be welcomed by everyone else, including Mrs Hodge.

Eddie Frizzell

October 2012

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What are Public ‘Services’

In a previous post I highlighted some of the challenges that are inherent in managing public services due to the nature of being ‘public’. However, there are also challenges that come with managing a ‘service’. These challenges apply across private and public services, and whether delivered by public, private or Third sectors.

These issues are quite important to recognise for all managers given the continuing rise of the service sector across the world. In fact services account for 62.9% of global GDP

The key characteristics of services are intangible, heterogeneous, inseparable, and perishable as defined by Zeithaml, Parasuraman and Berry 1990 (although some, notably Lovelock and Gummesson, 2004, have questioned this classification).

Intangibility

Services are largely intangible. They are about having an experience. Of course there are some physical characteristics associated with most services, such as the quality of chairs in a fine dining restaurant, but what makes services unique from goods is the extent to which perceptions of service quality are impacted by environmental factors and customer-provider interactions. These intangible factors are very difficult to control or manage.

Take, for example, a business offering guided bus tours of the Scottish highlands. There are a number of physical features of this service such as the comfort of the seats on the bus. But ultimately much of the service experience will be influenced by factors entirely outside of the control of the business – weather, the interaction with staff, the behaviour of other customers on the bus (to name but a few). These intangible factors make service interactions very unpredictable and difficult to control.

Creative Commons license: by Pedro Szekely

Perishability

The fact that services are intangible also means that they are not easily stored for future use. So if there is excess capacity this cannot be stored to be sold at another time. In other words, services are perishable.

Take, for example, a street performer. If they do not attract a significant audience for their performance that equates to lost income. They cannot get that time back. Hence the pressure within many services to get ‘bums on seats’. Consequently, pricing is key – particularly with services that have high fixed costs and a fixed capacity such as with cinemas, restaurants and bus tour companies.

Creative Commons license: by Trey Ratcliff

Inseparability of production and consumption

Most services are produced at the same time as they are consumed. So the street performance will be consumed at the same time as it is ‘produced’. This means that quality control is much more difficult than with goods. It also places significant pressure of service staff to always ‘perform’ at a consistent level. This requirement of service workers to perform is best described by the Hochschild (1983) concept of emotional labour. Numerous studies have shown that the strain of constantly having to perform can lead to stress-related illnesses. This blogpost by Flip Chart Fairy Tales highlights a number of other reasons why people in service occupations tend to have more sickness absence that in other occupations.

As an example of the inseparability of production and consumption take transplant surgery. The medical staff must perform consistently under the most extreme pressure with every single patient. Mistakes can cost lives and, unlike with manufacturing, are often not easily rectified. Yet quality inspection and control can only happen at the same time that the ‘customer’ is receiving the service. Furthermore the speed of service delivery is critical. Under these circumstances it is truly impressive what our health workers do on a daily basis. Hence those who use a service, such as the NHS are likely to be more satisfied with the service than those who do not as outlined in this Ipsos Mori report.

Creative Commons license: by Army Medicine

Heterogeneity

The intangibility and the fact that production and consumption take place at the same time means that the service provided may be slightly different every time. This has significant advantages in terms of customisation and innovation. But it is also costly and can lead to dissatisfaction if a minimum service level is not met.

So a service experience, like a rock concert, may be different every time. Take for example Bruce Springstein’s recent Hyde Park gig where he sung the song, Take Em As They Come, especially for one of his fans in the crowd. The flexibility of many services allows for this sort of innovation and customisation. However, this may be experienced by different people in different ways – even at the same time. The need for some control is also highlighted by the fact that the same Hyde Park gig ran over time to such an extent the organisers were forced to turn off the speakers in order to comply with the terms of their licence.

Nonetheless, the more a service is standardised (which improves efficiency) the less personalisation can be achieved (potentially affecting effectiveness). Imagine if a barber gave every customer the same hair cut. It might be very cheap and efficient but would almost certainly affect customer satisfaction. Given the increasing focus on efficiency over effectiveness it is perhaps not surprising that public attitudes towards the NHS are falling.

Creative Commons license: by Christian Holmér

Conclusion

These factors, when taken together, mean that services are very difficult to manage. When you include the publicness of public services, as well as the complex problems many such services have to deal with, it is perhaps not surprising that they are not always perfectly efficient. Indeed it has been pointed out on this excellent set of posts by Flip Chart Fairy Tales (Part 1; Part 2) just how difficult efficiency gains are in service industries. 

This is not to say that we shouldn’t even try to create efficiencies – but it might help to start with realistic expectations.

References:

Hochschild, A. (1983) The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling. California: University of California Press.

Lovelock, C. and Gummesson, E. (2004) “Whither services marketing?”, Journal of Services Research, Vol. 7 No.1, pp.20-41.

Zeithaml, V.A., Parasuraman, A. and  Berry, L.L. (1990) Delivering Quality Service. New York: Free Press.

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What are ‘Public’ Services

Public service organisations are highly complex for many reasons. As such it is important that any education or training for public service workers is tailored to the public service context. One particular aspect of this complexity is the nature of the ‘public’ who they serve.

I was (along with others) really sorry when the excellent We Love Local Government blog was brought to a close. This blog was I think exemplary in its content and analysis of all things public service. It will remain a valuable resource to my students on the MPA programme and indeed also my PhD students.

One of my particular favourite posts on the blog was about the three publics. This highlights just one aspect of what it is that makes public services so complex and difficult to manage. What this blog post highlights is that private sector organisations deal with two publics – those who use their product / service and those who don’t but might in the future. However, public sector organisations have to serve the needs of three publics – users, potential future users, and non-users.

‘Private’ services

Take for example a builders. They will be responsible for ensuring that any building work is compliant with building regulations and as a business they must meet other statutory requirements. However, ultimately they are accountable to one public – their customers.

The builders might also offer free estimates for those who might use their service in the future. They might do some other targeted marketing such as putting flyers through doors. So they may engage with another public – those who may use their products / services in the future. But ultimately the builders only have to deal with one public – their customers.

‘Public’ services

In contrast, the public sector have to serve, and are accountable to, three publics. There are those who use the services, those who may use the service in the future, and those who will never use the service. Hence, the three publics. All three publics are important stakeholders and are not limited by voting patterns or payment of taxes. The public sector is there to serve everyone.

What does this mean for managers?

Well, one distinct feature of the public sector is that they cannot choose their customer in the same way that the private sector can.

For example, in the case of the builder, they have autonomy to choose their customer. They may, for example, provide an overly-inflated quote if they do not want or need the business. They may choose to work within a particular geographical area or indeed may choose not to do certain types of work or choose not to work for certain types of people.

This choice has significant benefits. It enables the private sector organisation to specialise in offering a particular type of good or service to a particular type of person. So, M&S will design their stores and select their products based on a very different rationale to say, Lidl. Both are very successful businesses but both are significantly enabled by this ability to discriminate. In particular the ability to discriminate helps to reduce costs by enabling the development of standardised systems which can help reduce errors and system failures.

On the other hand public services are there to serve the entire public. No matter who ‘walks through the door’ they must be served and their needs addressed as best as is possible. This means public service providers need to be highly flexible and adaptable to different user needs. Any attempt to develop standardised systems in public service environments restricts street-level innovation, often does not work and leads to failure demand. See this excellent blog post by Flip Chart Fairy Tales.

Implications for training and development

The need to be flexible and inclusive is difficult and expensive. Imagine, for example, a restaurant that tried to offer both fine dining and budget fast food at the same time – chances are that it wouldn’t work and all three publics would be left unsatisfied. Attempting to meet the needs of all of the people all of the time demands a particular skill set from public service workers. And with increasing change in society comes increasing change in public expectations and so public service requirements. This is why I believe the recent Christie Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services was right to point to the need for better and more training and development. What is perhaps more questionable is the desire for a “single cross public service development programme” (Christie, 2011: 39) when there is so much variance in development needs.

On a traditional MBA course you would undoubtedly learn about the efficiency savings that can be gained from standardisation and removing variation from your business systems. This mantra fails to take account of the three publics and the complexity of public services. Hence training and development for public service professionals must be context-driven in order to be relevant to their needs. Public service professionals should be involved in the design of such training and development. Most of all, public service providers should not shy away from investment in training and development at a time when service improvements are so sought after.

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What is Public Governance?

Focus and purpose

Queen Margaret University has recently developed the first ever Postgraduate Certificate in Public Services Governance. This is due to commence in September 2012. But what is Public Services Governance?

In later posts I want to look at the question of why public services rather than, say, public sector governance. But right now I am going to look at the question of governance.

Why governance and not administration or management? And what does this mean for the philosophy and content of our programme?

The purpose of this blogpost is to outline how our Public Services Governance programme differs from the more commonplace Masters in Public Administration (MPA) or Public Management courses.

Definitions of Public Governance

One of the challenges in developing a programme in Public Services Governance is that there are a number of differing definitions and even a number of different labels such as Public Governance / Responsive Governance / Network Governance / Public Services Governance. I’m not going to try to provide a comprehensive overview of Public Governance within this blogpost. There are many excellent academic texts, some of which are listed at the end of this post, that are worth reading for a more comprehensive understanding of the subject.

In terms of policy the term started to gain prominence in the 1990’s within a number of World Bank reports (1989; 1992; 1994). In this context the term was used to refer to the importance of good governance in international development. The World Bank defined the term as “the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development” (World Bank, 1992). What is interesting here is that the term is not specific to government or the public sector but involves all those with a role to play in international development.

From Public Management to Public Governance

The term public management, or New Public Management (NPM), is now a familiar term across academia and the public services. This term came to prominence within academia and policy-circles in the 1980’s and 1990’s. This period saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, publication of Francis Fukuyama’s (1989) End of History thesis, and the rise of a neo-liberal consensus across many western States. It was within this context that New Public Management emerged as a set of management tools (largely borrowed from the private sector) to improve efficiencies. Typically this consisted of:

  • emphasis on performance management
  • more flexible and devolved financial management;
  • more devolved personnel management with increasing use of performance-related pay and personalized contracts;
  • more responsiveness to users and other customers in public services;
  • greater decentralization of authority and responsibility from central to lower levels of government;
  • greater recourse to the use of market-type mechanisms, such as internal markets, user charges, vouchers, franchising and contracting out;
  • privatization of market-orientated public enterprises.

(OECD, 1993 as cited by Bovaird and Löffler, 2003: 17)

In education this led to the development of many public sector specific MBA’s (Masters in Business Administration) and MPA’s (Masters in Public Administration – though perhaps not so much in the UK.

Invariably these degree programmes consist of a number of generic management subjects such as human resource management and strategic management with some public sector examples tagged on. I certainly wouldn’t downplay the value of many of these degrees. But at Queen Margaret University we wanted to offer something distinctive which reflected the most recent debates in public service development and delivery[1].

Rationale for Public Services Governance programme

There are three key factors which have contributed to the design of our public services governance programme:

  1. There is an increasing recognition within policy and academia that public services are particularly complex. I will be posting more on the nature of public services later. In the meantime see this excellent blogpost;
  2. The prevalence of ‘wicked problems’ such as climate change, childhood obesity and population aging has led to the need for a notably different approach to the design and delivery of public services. Increasingly public sector organisations are working in collaboration (rather than in competition) with private and third sector organisations;
  3. Increasingly academics and practitioners alike are questioning the limits of private sector management techniques to address these ‘wicked problems’.

Elke Löffler summed up the rationale for a distinct public governance programme when she stated,

‘public agencies no longer only have to be good at getting their internal management systems right – financial management, human resource management, ICT and performance management – but they also have to manage their most important external stakeholders as well’ (Löffler in Bovaird and Löffler, 2003: 163).

This is not to say that NPM is no longer relevant. I share Bovaird’s view that the realms of public management and public governance are separate but interconnected (2003: 11). Nonetheless, in line with Osborne (2010), I do think public governance is worthy of study in its own right. It was this belief that led to the development of our Postgraduate Certificate in Public Services Governance – the first ever postgraduate course with a focus on public governance[2].

Programme Aim and Contents

Within our programme the key aim is to enable learners to:

  • Build on their professional experience by engaging critically with, and reflecting on, themes and issues in public services governance in order to better deliver public service outcomes

Modules are focused on themes and issues within public services governance – rather than focusing on managerial functions. Modules include:

  • Public Services Governance: Themes and Issues
  • Engendering Policy and Practice
  • Internal Communications
  • Leading Change in Public Services
  • Managing Customer Complaints
  • Public Finance

More to follow on these modules in later blog posts. In the meantime you can read about the rationale for inclusion of Engendering Policy and Practice.

UPDATE (Posted 04/02/2016)

Since first publishing this blog we have successfully delivered the PgCert Public Services Governance to many students. We have worked with Academi Wales to offer the programme to public service officials from across Wales (more on that here).

Subsequently it has become clear that there is significant demand from an international audience for Masters level programmes with a governance focus. Much of this experience has informed our development of the new Master of Public Administration (MPA) programme. For more on this programme see ‘What is an MPA‘; the course leaflet; and some further resources via FindaMasters.com.

Some Useful References:

Bovaird, T. and Löffler, E. (eds) (2003) Public Management and Governance. Routledge: London.

Fukuyama, F. (1989) ‘End of History?’, National Interest, No 16, pp. 3–18.

Osborne, S. (ed) (2010) The New Public Governance. Routledge: London.

Pierre, J. and Peters, B.G. (2000) Governance, Politics and the State. MacMillan Press: Hampshire.

Rhodes, R.A.W. (1997) Understanding Governance. Open University Press: Buckingham.

Stoker, G. (2004) Transforming Local Governance. Palgrave: Hampshire.

World Bank (1989) Sub-Saharan Africa: From Crisis to Sustainable Development. World Bank: Washington, DC.

World Bank (1992) Governance and Development. World Bank: Washington, DC.

World Bank (1994) Governance: The World Bank Experience. World Bank: Washington, DC.


[1] We also have an excellent MBA and MSc International Leadership and Management for those who are looking to develop their  understanding of generic management and leadership: http://www.qmu.ac.uk/assam/PostGradDegrees.htm.

[2] The LSE does have a MSc Public Management and Governance.

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