Chapters 27 - 29
Designing and Running the Public Service

Marcus and Grand Alf meet with Sir Bertram, one of the planet’s most senior public servants. They work through the differences between the public and private sectors, and Sir Bertram covers two key areas - how to design the right conceptual foundations and how to manage the delivery of the services.

They begin by discussing the conceptual challenges, and Sir Bertram explains how to configure the public sector so it is best able to direct its attention to the priority issues, and deliver the right services to the right people.

They then accompany Sir Bertram as he travels to his next appointment and complete their discussion in a secluded corner of an art gallery. They explore the issues around decision making, individual freedom, resource allocation, structure, and delivery.

“As the colony develops and the issues change the departments must be reconfigured. They should have no sacred right to exist and should not gather so many fixed people and projects they become self perpetuating when there is a decreasing return.”

“We have to get this absolutely clear before we continue our discussion as it is a common misunderstanding, both inside and outside the public sector,” Sir Bertram said forcefully. “There are three complex issues for those of us in the public sector. These challenges are around ‘individual freedoms’, ‘political appeasement’ and ‘allocating resources for the greatest good’.” Marcus sat forward, concentrating intently.

Grand Alf added to Marcus’ summary, “People like to think they’re individuals, but at a fundamental level we’re connected to everyone else. If one person chooses not to work another has to for the services they enjoy and if one person chooses ill health (through lifestyle and habits) someone else has to pay for their care.”

“What about the absence of the profit incentive?” asked Marcus
“Think about profit as just one of many success indicators. The lack of ‘profit’ on our executive dashboard just means we have to be extremely clear about focus and relevance.”

“It is easy to do no more than tinker at the edges and get the spin doctors to make your accomplishments seem greater than you deserve. However, those of us who are serious about public office want to make a difference. If we did not there would be no point in achieving higher positions,” answered Sir Bertram.