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Consultant Eddie Molloy on managerial reform of civil service


patslatt

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Seven things the public service needs to do - The Irish Times - Fri, Apr 09, 2010

The seven recommendations outlined above would help reverse fossilisation of management. But in my opinion,to prevent fossilisation in the first place,underperforming civil servants should be subject to the sack.

There is an argument that the power to sack could tempt ministers to replace career civil servants with party placemen,but an independent commission could be set up to hear appeals into unjust dismissal cases.
 

The Field Marshal

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This is an excellent series of articles.
The underperforming Irish permanent civil service has got away with far too much over the years.

This relic of British imperialism has shielded itself from any real public scrutiny while at the same time ensuring extraordinarily good pay , conditions & perks for its more senior members.

I fully acknowledge that the vast majority of this priviledged elite are fine and decent people but the sorry state of Irelands economy and educational system is in part a reflection on their poor performance.
 
D

Deleted member 17573

This is an excellent series of articles.
The underperforming Irish permanent civil service has got away with far too much over the years.

This relic of British imperialism has shielded itself from any real public scrutiny while at the same time ensuring extraordinarily good pay , conditions & perks for its more senior members.

I fully acknowledge that the vast majority of this priviledged elite are fine and decent people but the sorry state of Irelands economy and educational system is in part a reflection on their poor performance.
FM, would you not agree that the article by Molloy is pretty standard, text-book management consultancy waffle. It all makes a degree of sense but is totally non-specific. There are a lot of chancers in the consultancy game - not implying Molloy is one, of course.
 

feargach

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There is an argument that the power to sack could tempt ministers to replace career civil servants with party placemen, but an independent commission could be set up to hear appeals into unjust dismissal cases.
That already exists, it is called the Employment Appeals Tribunal.
 

Schuhart

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the article by Molloy is pretty standard, text-book management consultancy waffle.
That's much as I feel. I'm actually more than a little surprised that anyone thought they were good. Each of his seven points is vacuous. Just briefly:

1. If official are to become publicly accountable, then they become part of the political system. Molloy has nothing to say about that at all - he hardly seems to have noticed that suddenly our elected representatives are detached from all responsibility.

2. He says self-regulation doesn't work, and then says external assessment doesn't work either. So what works? This is completely woolly.

3. What system of accountability would have prevented the evoting waste?

4. He contradicts himself by both saying departments need to move away from generalists while at the same time saying expertise was lost when those same generalists were moved around to accommodate decentralisation.

5. His 'managerial role' stuff seems to be anecdotal. There may be an issue here - but he is saying nothing substantial about it.

6. Does he really think decentralisation would have been stopped by a Department of Finance risk assessment? If so, he's a space cadet.

7. He falls into the usual trap of "set up a Department for the thing I'm talking about". Why, if the system of administration is so lacking, would exactly the same kind of organisation cure the problem?

His conclusion is a joke - particularly putting DoF centre stage when the strategic direction for the Government policies that brought us here is set by the Department of the Taoiseach through the so-called Partnership process.

All in all, a very poor article. Its actually quite abysmal. The more I think of it, the more shocking it is that this tripe ends up getting printed, let alone getting favourable comment.
 

Old Tom Frost

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Having had to endure several "staff development" sessions given by Eddy "Get your arms round the concept" Molloy in the '90s I was pleasantly surprised by much of what he wrote.

I would make just a couple of brief points:

Measuring the effectiveness of Secretaries-General is a largely meaningless exercise as so much of what they actually do is determined for them by their Minister and his/her daily demands. Few Ministers take a long-term view of anything....their eye is on their seat from day one and they are inherently risk-averse so delivery of long-term departmental goals is of little interest to many of them.

The reaction of the senior civil service to McCreevey's bombshell on Decentralisation was very interesting. With one possible exception they reacted like meek little lambs and went along with the madness even though they knew it would be unworkable, would decimate departments of expertise and lead to low morale and promotion based on a willingness to travel.

THis is symptomatic of one of the major problems in the Service at present....at the senior levels it is populated by a large cadre of sycophants who see their job as nodding meekly every time a Minister makes a demand. Few if any see their role as including challenging Ministers.

I would love to see a system whereby advice can be seen by a Committee or the C&AG but the sad reality is that many Ministers now no longer want anything put in writing as they do not want such information/advice getting into the public domain via FOI. Far from operating in an era of transparency we appear to be becoming more secretive and less inclined to seriously discuss/debate issues before policy decisions are taken at a political level.
 

patslatt

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FM, would you not agree that the article by Molloy is pretty standard, text-book management consultancy waffle. It all makes a degree of sense but is totally non-specific. There are a lot of chancers in the consultancy game - not implying Molloy is one, of course.

Can you be SPECIFIC about where he could be less non-specific?
 

patslatt

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That's much as I feel. I'm actually more than a little surprised that anyone thought they were good. Each of his seven points is vacuous. Just briefly:

1. If official are to become publicly accountable, then they become part of the political system. Molloy has nothing to say about that at all - he hardly seems to have noticed that suddenly our elected representatives are detached from all responsibility.

2. He says self-regulation doesn't work, and then says external assessment doesn't work either. So what works? This is completely woolly.

3. What system of accountability would have prevented the evoting waste?

4. He contradicts himself by both saying departments need to move away from generalists while at the same time saying expertise was lost when those same generalists were moved around to accommodate decentralisation.

5. His 'managerial role' stuff seems to be anecdotal. There may be an issue here - but he is saying nothing substantial about it.

6. Does he really think decentralisation would have been stopped by a Department of Finance risk assessment? If so, he's a space cadet.

7. He falls into the usual trap of "set up a Department for the thing I'm talking about". Why, if the system of administration is so lacking, would exactly the same kind of organisation cure the problem?

His conclusion is a joke - particularly putting DoF centre stage when the strategic direction for the Government policies that brought us here is set by the Department of the Taoiseach through the so-called Partnership process.

All in all, a very poor article. Its actually quite abysmal. The more I think of it, the more shocking it is that this tripe ends up getting printed, let alone getting favourable comment.
A lot of the problems are due to ducking,diving and evading of responsibility by mangers who can avoid all risks. Hence,the need to introduce the fear of the sack as a deterrent to this ass covering.
 

seenitallb4

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Incentives- does the system punish failure and reward success? It's not that complicated.
 

Schuhart

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THis is symptomatic of one of the major problems in the Service at present....at the senior levels it is populated by a large cadre of sycophants who see their job as nodding meekly every time a Minister makes a demand. Few if any see their role as including challenging Ministers.
Grand, but can we be a little bit practical about this.

As I'm typing this, our State apparatus is struggling with how best it can find a formula to rob the taxpayer to pay the debts of the Quinn Group.

Why is our State apparatus doing this? Why are they not united in saying "Put them into administration, and let due process sort it out"? Because the overwhelming bulk of agitation has been for the taxpayer to take on these debts, by whatever means. (Yes, I am deeming Anglo Irish to be a mechanism to stuff the taxpayer in this context.)

Can you see how the 'layer of sycophants' is largely irrelevant to this process? Because essentially what you are saying is the civil service should stage a coup by reducing the elected representatives of the people to the status of advisors.

This isn't to say reform is not necessary. Just that its not the primary solution to the main problem. The main problem is political - as evidenced by the way that all of the purported commitment to rebuilding our system of financial regulation goes out the window at its first test.
 

OCicero

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This isn't to say reform is not necessary. Just that its not the primary solution to the main problem. The main problem is political - as evidenced by the way that all of the purported commitment to rebuilding our system of financial regulation goes out the window at its first test.
Well put. The more efficiently and dynamically you implement bad policy, the faster and more thorough the damage.
 
D

Deleted member 17573

Can you be SPECIFIC about where he could be less non-specific?

The following, for example - apart maybe from the anecdotes which I recall hearing about 30 years ago :rolleyes:

"5 ESTABLISH THE MANAGERIAL ROLE THROUGHOUT THE CIVIL SERVICE: A couple of years ago a person appointed to the position of secretary general of a large department remarked to me: “I have never received one day’s training in management.” In another case I overheard a newly appointed assistant secretary general say: “It’s great, it’s a relief that I will no longer have to deal with staff.”

Levels of training in management and the quality of management practice across the public service range from excellent to abysmal. The most basic management disciplines, like setting explicit goals and reviewing performance, are absent in many places. The track record in policy execution – even when the money is available – has been described by one senior official as a pervasive “implementation deficit disorder”. The performance management system, PMDS, is widely regarded as a meaningless process. The weaknesses in local financial management are exposed annually by the CAG.

These management weaknesses constitute the main risk to any prospect of actually implementing the public sector reforms recently negotiated."
 

Fun with Irish

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Punishments are not the answer. It would be like kicking a cat in the hope that the kicks will make it bark like a dog. When you follow a certain way of giving promotions over a period of fifty and more years then by definition all the 45-year, 50-year, 55-year, and 60-year olds in the senior grades are products of that system. Ditto for the political side of the structure.

Eddie Molloy is dead right about the changes that are needed. But where is the resource that will bring about those changes? Where can the reforming drive come from?
 
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Measuring the effectiveness of Secretaries-General is a largely meaningless exercise as so much of what they actually do is determined for them by their Minister and his/her daily demands. Few Ministers take a long-term view of anything....their eye is on their seat from day one and they are inherently risk-averse so delivery of long-term departmental goals is of little interest to many of them.

The reaction of the senior civil service to McCreevey's bombshell on Decentralisation was very interesting. With one possible exception they reacted like meek little lambs and went along with the madness even though they knew it would be unworkable, would decimate departments of expertise and lead to low morale and promotion based on a willingness to travel.

This is symptomatic of one of the major problems in the Service at present....at the senior levels it is populated by a large cadre of sycophants who see their job as nodding meekly every time a Minister makes a demand. Few if any see their role as including challenging Ministers.
The role of senior civil servants has changed greatly in this State especially since the arrival of TLAC, the Top Level Appointments Committe, the system which promotes Asst Secretaries and Sec Generals. IMHO this has increased the amount of these grades who are willing to do the Minister's bidding and abandon their traditional and correct role of giving independent advice to Ministers. The decentralisation example is a case in point where Charlie McCeevy decided to give FF an election boost through the dispersal of civil servants throughout the country. Also, I think it would be good to see the advice given by the civil service to Ministers on the property bubble over the last 15 years, this has been a massive failure of policy and it would be interesting to see the Minister/Civil Service interaction here. Also, with this TLAC system unlikley we will see a T.K. Whittaker again,.
 
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Where can the reforming drive come from?
This is a difficult one as no Sec Gen will want to lead this process and the political process is very willing for the CS to continue doing its political role of PQ's, reps, adjournment debates. There has been no vision or leadership from the political class on either civil or public sector reform over the last twenty years.
 

Schuhart

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Eddie Molloy is dead right about the changes that are needed.
No he isn't. His article is massively misdirected, as he hasn't addressed the political question at all.

The point is not that civil servants should operate as a benevolent dictatorship, deciding which of their Minister's hare-brained suggestions they might accede to. The point is why, when we select our political representatives, we send them in with a brief to implement hare-brained suggestions.

Again, I return to the example of the Quinn group that is being played out in front of us. Its actually incredible that such a plainly inept article was published even as event that demonstrate its irrelevance are being played out.

Our society will have a competent Government when you see the day that Marian Harkin sees her job as to protect the millions of people and businesses with Quinn insurance policies, rather than to protect a few thousand jobs at any expense to the taxpayer and Quinn customers.
 

Schuhart

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IMHO this has increased the amount of these grades who are willing to do the Minister's bidding and abandon their traditional and correct role of giving independent advice to Ministers. The decentralisation example is a case in point where Charlie McCeevy decided to give FF an election boost through the dispersal of civil servants throughout the country.
How does the decentralisation example illustrate a problem with the civil service?

I'm not saying there isn't a need for public sector reform. I just don't see how decentralisation illustrates the point you are trying to make.

What difference do you think it would have made for the decentralisation programme if correct advice was given?
 

politicaldonations

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Management seems non existant in the public sector. How else can you explain the tripling of expenditure in public sector over past 15 years with no significant improvement in services
 

Schuhart

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Management seems non existant in the public sector. How else can you explain the tripling of expenditure in public sector over past 15 years with no significant improvement in services
Taking the example of decentralisation (used both by Eddie Molloy and some posters here).

How has good or bad operational management got anything to do with that? The policy is simply a waste, no matter how well or badly managed. I mean, there's a recent article in one of the papers talking about the new OPW headquarters in Trim. The building is grand - no particular problem with the operational execution of the instruction to build an office in Trim. The problem is the cost of busing the staff too and from Dublin, where they really needed to be located and where they were in the first place.

Political buffoonery is what cost the money there. Political buffoonery is why we are paying a level of social welfare benefits that we cannot afford.

Molloy's article is simply massively inept.
 
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