I left the UK public sector five years ago. At that time people management skills appeared to be in the decline. I noticed this particularly in how restructuring exercises were being handled. It was the main reason I chose to go!
I had always been very proud to be part of the UK Civil Service! Sadly that ceased when I saw how some of my colleagues were being treated. No, not because we were being downsized – it was how we were being downsized.
Well, the UK public sector has changed a lot since I left and I do not mean in terms of the colour of the government. In terms of managing change, few lessons seem to have been learned and a good number seem to have been forgotten.
There have always been good and bad employers – bosses with more and less finesse when dealing with their employees. My encounters with large private sector corporates, has led me to think they are not better or worse at handling people than those in the public sector. Good practice in small and medium-sized bodies varies widely in both sectors.
Recently I have heard some very strange and rather sad tales from those in both the public and private sectors. I have heard about organizations going through their third and fourth restructuring in a few months.
On top of that, I am being told of people who have had to reapply for their own roles three and four times in those exercises. As you will understand the effect on staff morale is devastating.
Running large corporate change programmes – even when well handled – costs a lot of money.
Right now, not only is there a lot of change but it is very clear that it is not being handled well.
As one former colleague with vast experience of managing public sector change successfully said to me;
“They try to manage a restructure themselves and can’t. So then they bring in one of the large consultancy firms to help and they just seem to make it worse. They are being told to finish the change quickly, so they don’t try to find out what we do really but they get well paid.”
What is going wrong? Well yes, I do know about the economy and the need to make “cuts”. And yes I do know we live in a world of constant change.
But there seems to be a kind of corporate panic/frenzy around and that is the worst way to respond. Now more than ever we need real leadership and we need leadership confident enough to be serene when all about are running round like headless chickens.
Think about a wolf pack! Wolves have to flex and change all the time as they hunt. The constants are that they are quite clear why they are there, the strengths and weaknesses they possess and their roles. The leader sniffs the wind and off they go in very good order.
The weather may change about them and the quarry may lead them into new and difficult terrain. But because they are well led, have a strong commitment to the pack and are clear about their roles they succeed often enough to thrive even in the most challenging times.
Wendy Mason works as a Coach, Consultant and Blogger.
She works with all kinds of people going through many different kinds of personal and career change, particularly those;
- looking for work
- looking for promotion or newly promoted
- moving between Public and Private Sectors
- facing redundancy
- moving into retirement
- wanting to do a mid-life review
You can contact Wendy at firstname.lastname@example.org or ring ++44 (0)2084610114
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- An abuse of power? Lessons from Penn State (cbsnews.com)