The performance of public services is now more closely scrutinised than ever before. In the current age of hyper-accountability – what Michael Power (1999) memorably termed the ‘audit society’ – every teacher, doctor, social worker or probation officer knows that behind them stands a restless army of overseers, equipped with a panoply of league tables, star ratings, user opinion surveys, performance indicators and the like with which to judge them. It can seem to these public servants as if regulators, inspectors, government, politicians, the media, pressure groups and assertive service users line up to berate them for their shortcomings, criticise their failings and make ever more challenging demands on their services. Those who lead public organisations – chief executives, head teachers, directors and others – may with reason feel acutely vulnerable and personally exposed to the risks of any failure, whatever its cause, within their organisation. The era of passive, compliant, respectful and grateful public service users; authoritative, distant and unchallengeable professionals; and comfortable, complacent, conservative and unchanging public bureaucracies is long gone. Those who feel a tinge of nostalgic warmth for times past should remind themselves that, rather than this being a halcyon age for public services, it was a time when mediocrity and incompetence were tolerated or ignored in public services, when poor standards or inadequate performance often persisted for years, and when a ‘club culture’ evolved in which public services often seemed to be organised to benefit their staff, not their users or the public (Kennedy 2001).
|Title of host publication||Connecting Knowledge and Performance in Public Services|
|Subtitle of host publication||From Knowing to Doing|
|Editors||Kieran Walshe, Gill Harvey, Pauline Jas|
|Publisher||Cambridge University Press|
|Number of pages||15|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jan 2010|