Sir Michael Barber, one of the world’s experts on how to manage public sector reform, spoke to CDE’s executive director Ann Bernstein about ‘Delivery: from talk to action’.
Barber rejected a common assumption that the private sector is good and the public sector bad. “Evidence from around the world shows that there are great public sector organisations, great private sector organisations, and bad ones in both,” he said.
He argued that delivery happens when you replace ‘government by spasm’ with ‘government by routine’. Instead of reacting to the latest crisis, making loads of announcements, and pretending bad things are not happening, you need to set priorities, collect data, build routines to review progress, and solve problems as they arise.
He spoke about his involvement with education reform in the Punjab province of Pakistan and the importance of consistent leadership. When the chief minister of the Punjab demanded an improvement in teacher attendance, there was pushback from teachers unions, but they were defending the indefensible. They could not defend their ‘right’ to get paid for not working in the face of public pressure, so the minister prevailed.