Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Management v Managerialism

I concluded my last post by criticising Ofsted for not taking a "management perspective". Some people might misunderstand that, so the purpose of this post is to make my view clear.

I am strongly in favour of good management in child protection work. But I am opposed to what is called managerialism. What's the difference?

I think it was Peter Drucker who said that 'management' is all about "how to do the right things right". In child protection work doing the right things right involves creating conditions in which professionals can work as professionals, not bureaucrats, to meet the needs of abused and neglected children. The role of the manager is to ensure that the professionals are well supported and that systems and facilities are well designed and fit for purpose.

There are many definitions of  'managerialism'.  Krantz and Gilmore ["The Splitting of Leadership and Management as a Social Defense."  Human Relations  43 (February 1990)] stress that it involves promoting the analytical decision-making tools developed by managers "as ends in themselves". In other words the 'managerialist' believes in substituting management tools for professional practices; the manager knows best.

The differences between the two positions are illustrated by looking at the kinds of questions that advocates of the two positions might ask. Typically the managerialist will asks questions like:
  • What targets shall we set?
  • What rules and procedures should be enforced?
  • How do we monitor and achieve compliance?
  • What forms and computer systems shall we implement?
  • How can we best represent our work to inspectors and politicians?
In contrast the advocate of good management will focus on the following:
  • How do we discover the wants and needs of those we want to help?
  • How do we plan in order to deliver the required services?
  • How can we create conditions in which professionals and other staff are supported and motivated and able to succeed in delivering quality services?
  • What could go wrong and what do we need to do to avoid it?
  • How do we find, and best use, the resources to do the tasks which we know to be necessary?
Managerialism makes a fetish of management theory, raising it above professional and technical knowledge and even commonsense. Good management, on the other hands tries to use management theory to create the conditions in which those who understand complex problems can best deliver appropriate services.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Ofsted find Cornwall 'Inadequate'

Reading the latest Ofsted report, which finds that Cornwall's child protection services are 'inadequate', I was drawn to the statistics on pages 3 and 4. (

There one can find out all sorts of things about Cornwall's children, and the authority's services for children, including the number of Gypsy and Traveller children living in the county, and the proportion of pupils whose first language is known or believed to be other than English (which is very low). 

Some data that I couldn't find in the report seemed to me to be much more important than this rambling statistical digest. Given that the report is highly critical of the services provided, I would have expected to have seen something about what are two key aspects of any operation - the demand for services and the capacity to meet it. 

Some crude figures such as the number of children referred in a given period and the number of social workers and support staff trying to meet this demand would have been a starting point. And it would have been useful to have information on vacancy, retention and sickness absence rates as well. The second part of the report - on services for looked after children - mentions low vacancy rates in this part of the work, but there is nothing to indicate what the staffing of child protection teams is like.

Among the first things any Operations Management student would look at in assessing a service operation are demand and capacity. But Ofsted doesn't really take a management perspective - despite banging on about 'leadership' and 'performance management'. Rather inspectors are rooted in a tradition of regulations, procedures and targets and equate the 'effectiveness of safeguarding' to how well services conform to what are, more often than not, arbitrary requirements.