John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
  Home Office Problem Solving
One of the top stories of the day is that the government intend fixing problems at the Home Office.

On the TV screens is a display of one of the presentations which goes approximately.
1. Find problem
2. Fix it
3. Check that it is solved.

This is really sad. If this is news to the Home Office then something is much more wrong than I ever believed. I still don't believe that they don't know this. I think it is purely window dressing.

The underlying problem as with any large organisation is one of how problems are solved. It is definitely the case that any board or senior manager should not generally be looking at little problems.

However, there is now a tendency to avoid ever looking at the details. This was a particular problem when we had Lin Homer as Chief Executive of the City Council. She (who now runs IND) argued strongly that we should never look at the detailed issues.

I would not see this as an approach which is only one for Ms Homer. There is a tendency in the paid officer service (Local Government Officers, Civil Servants) to get the politicians as far away as possible.

The problem is that you cannot really only manage services by considering outcomes. You also need to consider how to get the outcome. There tend to be turf wars between the different middle managers and the like and hence someone needs to be around to knock heads together.

In the public sector this is the final responsibility of politicians. It needs to be done in a sensible manner and simply going round ranting "Its not fit for purpose" does no-one any good.

As far as the responsibilities of the Home Office are concerned there is a very clear need for a flow chart of how people are processed by the system. I am very concerned as to what happens when people who have been given a "Hospital Order" are released. These are people who have committed a criminal offence because they are mentally ill. They are clearly dangerous people. They, however, seem to disappear in a crevasse between the NHS and the Courts and Criminal Justice system.

One of the problems with the way parliament works is that most of the problems in the UK public sector are management problems. Parliament is actually quite bad at holding the executive to account (by asking questions and getting answers), because the executive simply refuses to answer the questions.

The end result is that MPs get into the mood that the solution to a problem involves legislation. We end up, hence, with a vast quantity of rubbishy legislation when it really does not help.

What is actually needed is attention to detail. Identifying specific and clear problems and their solutions with full information. This can be done by opposition MPs perfectly well. Richard Bacon MP is quite good at this. Then you need to put your big bovver boots on and kick some backsides until the problem is fixed. Frequently the solution to a problem merely involves putting the boots on and no backsides need receive any metaphorical impetus. The threat is enough.

I am having a bit of a go on the audit of death certificates. If you want to identify doctors who kill their patients first look at the number of death certificates signed then look for the explanation of any large numbers.
 
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