Organisational change

In defence of hierarchy

The word ‘bureaucrat’ was once a descriptive term, it is now a word used primarily as abuse. ‘Hierarchy’ – one of the characteristics of bureaucracy – gets a similarly poor press. Confucius, who was a hierarchical bureaucrat has done rather better, but at the price of having his name largely decoupled from what he thought. A group of philosophers attempt to rescue the high calling of hierarchy and bureaucracy as critical elements of a modern state, though find it easier to do that for an ideal form of hierarchy than one visible in the real world.

Stephen Angle et al – Aeon

Organisational change

Blend small changes with large changes


Transforming everything at once doesn’t work, so it’s important to be both continuous and incremental and discontinuous and dramatic.

Barry Quirk -Twitter

Organisational change

How can we stop reinventing policies? 

Click on the image to see the full infographic published with the report

A new report from the Institute for Government on policy churn – the perennial question of why government policy seems to be replaced and reinvented with what is sometimes extraordinary rapidity. There are some sensible ideas on how to do this better, though the idea that strengthening the centre will slow down the churn, rather than accelerate it, might be seen as rather optimistic by some. But it’s essentially looking at the symptoms rather than offering ways of addressing the underlying causes, with little obvious reason to expect much to change.

Emma Norris and Robert Adam – Institute for Government

Innovation Organisational change

Towards an experimental culture in government: reflections on and from practice 

Click on the image to see it as a large pdf
Governments have not generally been places of experimentation, but there are increasing numbers of experiments across the world in how to do experimentation, many of them referred to through this post. The last and perhaps most important of the reflections is on the culture of orgainsations which allows experimentation to flourish, including the principles summarised in the graphic.

Jesper Christiansen, Bas Leurs and Giulio Quaggiotto – NESTA

Innovation Organisational change

Innovation in the public sector: Is risk aversion a cause or a symptom?

Is government organised so as to make innovation difficult? That’s not a new question (to put it mildly), but this post approaches the question through the lens of organisational debt, which produces some slightly newer answers. Not surprisingly, though, there is nothing very surprising about those answers: large, cumbersome organisations with a conservative approach to change need more than just simple ambition to become something else.

Eoin McFadden – NESTA

Organisational change

How to eliminate organizational debt

The idea of ‘technical debt’ has been around for a long time. It’s all the things you should have done to write clean code and clear documentation, to have tested everything in combination with everything else – but never quite got round to doing. The thing you built may well work, but at some point somebody is going to have to clear up the mess – so you have a debt until the time and cost of doing that have been met. There’s a clear parallel with organisations: the way they do things has all too often got disconnected from what the organisation wants and needs to get done.. So there’s a constant drag on delivery until the organisation can get itself better aligned to its current needs. That’s organisational debt – and it isn’t cheap or easy to pay it off.

Two bonus Dilbert cartoons included which make the point all too clearly.

Aaron Dignan – The Ready

Organisational change Service design

Policy v5.127: Could government make services like Dyson makes vacuum cleaners?

A good summary of the people and methods bringing design thinking into government, with mini case studies of where it’s starting to make a difference. The provocative question in the title never quite gets answered, but there is a bit of a flavour that while there’s been a lot of progress in some areas, the vacuum cleaner of government itself hasn’t moved far beyond version 1.0.

John Lapping – Pieria

Future of work Organisational change

Work in progress: Towards a leaner, smarter public-sector workforce

Public services should be designed around the needs of users and to make best use of technology. The result will be improved productivity, the opportunity to break away from traditonal mindsets – and a quarter of a million fewer administrative jobs.

Kate Laycock, Emilie Sundorph and Alexander Hitchcock – Reform