Call it efficiency; call it outsourcing; call it a purge. But it turns out you don’t need all those managers. If you outsource HR, IT and admin then you outsource their managers.
‘Are increased spans of responsibility raising issues of accountability, as well as anxiety?’
Likewise, if you close half your libraries and most of your sports centres, you dispense with the need for their managers. If you combine service such as social services and housing and randomly chuck in libraries, museums and registrars (births, deaths and marriages), you can delete some service heads and senior management posts.
Headcount reduction achieved, and those who dream different dreams, purged; restructuring complete (almost); closure programmes implemented (subject to legal challenges and revised timetable); budget savings on course (fingers crossed); management headcount reduced (not counting new contract monitoring posts); and performance targets achieved (mostly).
After the purge
So what is life like in the new, smaller organisation?
Are children safer now the director of education is also responsible for social work and child protection? Are care services of a higher quality now they are provided by staff on zero hours contracts? Is HR more helpful now it has been outsourced and does the IT system deliver the promised information revolution?
Or is the loss of experienced managers slowing down transformation? Are increased spans of responsibility raising issues of accountability, as well as anxiety? Are managers starting to miss the old, friendly IT helpdesk? Are they finding the new outsourced HR service doesn’t extent to the practical assistance they were accustomed to?
‘It could only be a matter of time before a tragedy or scandal identifies that management was spread too thin’
Does the new organisation still have a blame culture? Are performance targets any more realistic? Have we seen an end to senior managers fiddling the performance figures? Has staff morale improved now that things have settled down?
What’s more, are service users happier with services now they are “customers”? Is it easier to complain and are you more likely to get your complaint resolved now the service is commissioned by the public sector but delivered by the private sector?
It could only be a matter of time before a tragedy or scandal identifies that management was spread too thin, with the lack of experience meaning the right questions were not asked and senior managers were too reliant on the managers telling them what they needed to know.
How long, then, before we see the return of specialist managers to improve the quality of services and to safeguard service users?