"Scraping of burnt toast in the public sector
Published: June 25 2009 03:00 | Last updated: June 25 2009 03:00
From Dr Peter Middleton.
Sir, I enjoyed the excellent analysis of “the state of Britain” by Chris Giles and Simon Briscoe (June 23). They reported that “government expenditure will soon account for almost half of the UK economy” and that “consensus reigns on the need to shrink it but there is no detail on what should be cut”. The research and consultancy evidence would suggest that “cuts” are not the way to tackle the problem of high public sector spending.
The issue is that the dominant management thinking is to announce arbitrary targets and set up compliance mechanisms to ensure they are met. This approach inevitably leads to poor service, high costs and massive waste. The need therefore is to dismantle the targets and activity measures infrastructure and start managing organisations as systems.
In essence the next UK government must move from the bankrupt General Motors approach to management and adopt the more successful Toyota systems model. The required “cuts” will occur as waste is systematically removed from the system while services improve.
W. Edwards Deming’s joke – “Let’s make toast the American way: you burn and I'll scrape” – applies to the management of much of the UK public sector.
School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science,
Queen's University Belfast,