'If there is one lesson to be learnt.from the past 10 years, it is to pay much more attention to implementing change. Far better to implement half-a-dozen change strategies effectively than to fire off a dozen in a scattergun way, hoping some will hit the mark'
It seems almost everybody is commenting on Tony Blair at the moment, so why should this column be any different?
The area of most interest to me is that Mr Blair marked his decade in office with 'big regrets' at his inability to move more quickly on public service reform.
Lord Falconer was right when he said Mr Blair was too slow to recognise how public services needed to be reformed by embracing cultural change. But this is only half the story.
The what and the how
The biggest problem with public service change is that far too much time is spent on the 'what' of change and far, far too little on the 'how'. This is one of the big differences between the public and private sectors.
Given Mr Blair's apparent love of the private sector in the early days of his decade as prime minister, I'm surprised this message was not spelled out loud and clear by either his advisers or the numerous private-sector commentators on public service reform.
Incidentally, where are the public-sector commentators on the trials and tribulations of the private sector? Why did we not see the public sector commenting on why Marks & Spencer got itself into a strategic mess? Or Sainsbury's, for that matter? After all, all they do is sell consumable produce - if people don't want to buy it, then surely it can't be that strategically difficult to work out why?
But I digress. The other current journalistic trend is offering advice to Gordon Brown. So, if there is one lesson to be learnt from the past 10 years, it is to pay much more attention to implementing change. Far better to implement half a dozen change strategies effectively than to fire off a dozen in a scattergun way hoping some will hit the mark..
Lessons for leaders
In his book, Execution: the discipline of getting things done, Larry Bossidy comments that when organisations fail to deliver on their promises, the most frequent explanation is that the chief executive's strategy was wrong.
But the strategy itself is not often the cause. Bossidy says strategies fail because they are not executed well. He underscores his view by arguing convincingly that execution is a discipline that is integral to strategy, it is the major job of every leader and it must be a core element of an organisation's culture. If this is what Lord Falconer meant in his comments, then he is spot on and, although Bossidy talks about organisations, Mr Brown should think about government. The lessons are the same.
In summary, the next phase of public service reform should be characterised by much greater emphasis on the 'how' of strategy and change. If Mr Brown could achieve this, the result may be more of a sustainable legacy than his predecessor achieved.