Professor Mark Moore of the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard visited the UK in Spring 2006 in his capacity as Fellow of the Sunningdale Institute. His full schedule included speaking appointments, contributing to National School of Government leadership development events, and working with Departments. He speaks with National School principal David Spencer on 'public value', an idea he has championed, and which is gaining increasing currency in the UK.
To see a video of the full interview click on the link below.
Please note that to access the video you must have a broadband internet connection and Windows Media Player installed on your PC.
If you are behind a corporate firewall then your security settings may prevent you from accessing streaming video. Please contact your local technical support team if you have questions about this.
David Spencer: How would you explain the concept of public value?
Mark Moore: Thinking on Public Value emerged from the Kennedy School around 20 years ago, when we started teaching public sector managers. We decided that we would prepare to teach by constructing a theory of public sector leadership and management that started with practice and worked up, rather than starting with theory and working down. Consequently, we invited practitioners to become part of the faculty, young faculty members went to serve in government, we wrote up cases of managers operating in various situations and, perhaps most importantly, we met large numbers of public sector executives through our Executive Program classrooms. As head of the Executive Program I spent a long time listening, and wrote up what I had learned. My book 'Creating Public Value', published in 1995, has served as a continuing basis for our executive education.
At the core of the idea was the notion that we had to talk about the purposes of the public sector manager, and the instruments available to them. Language around this idea had previously centred on efficient, effective accomplishment of the mission of the organisation, and the protection of public interest. But there was something missing - the private sector is always looking to create value for shareholders and workers, and there seemed to be no equivalent for the public sector in models of corporate strategy.
What if the job of the public sector executive were to find and create opportunities for public value - an idea stripped of its financial basis, stripped of individual material success? In the private sector the answer is quite straightforward - customers making the decision to spend their money with you. What makes the government scenario different is that it isn't the individual customer who ascribes value, it is the collective who, through the process of government, makes a commitment to tax and regulate themselves for the purposes of producing a change in the material conditions of society. This became the idea behind public value.
The idea found itself in opposition to the idea of 'customer-orientated' government because it wasn't clear from the latter whether the customer was the client with whom it interacted, or whether it was citizens and society representatives. Consequently, an important part of being an effective manager involved orchestrating a coherent conversation in the collective around what should be produced, as well as figuring out how to produce it. Once you've added entrepreneurship and facilitating conversations to ideas of innovating in pursuit of improved service delivery, you've got a different idea of the role of the public sector executive, and the skills required.
DS: Does your model for public value resonate in the US?
MM: Yes it does. As well as being about creating value, it is also about a set of ideas designed to guide management thinking along strategic lines. We developed the idea because we were looking for an idea to animate people to do a better job, but I also thought we had developed a concept of corporate strategy made simple for public sector application. My new job at Kennedy involves working in the not-for-profit sector, and a comparison of public and private sector corporate strategy models suggested that ours was the more applicable to not-for-profit purposes. Like government, not-for-profit organisations have third-party funders from whom you need to get 'legitimacy and support', and to whom you must demonstrate value in non-financial terms.
DS: With regard to legitimacy and support, I'm sure that the public sector is the more complicated environment. Has there been much uptake of your 'public sector' model in the private sector?
MM: No and it's very frustrating. Strategically, I don't think the private sector knows what to do with politics.
DS: Do you think that would apply to private sector organisations delivering public services?
MM: What is interesting is that, in order for a contractual relationship to work well, the public sector organisation must define the value that it wants the private sector organisation to produce. That is the basis of the contract. But if government is unable to define the value it wants to produce, then the contract won't work. You come back to the fundamental problem in government - mobilisation of the collective to be articulate and clear about what it wants as a reflection of what it aspires to, and how to measure it.
DS: The National School is to be repositioned within Government as a non-Ministerial Department. What might the concepts of public value and legitimacy and support mean for us, given that we will be 'owned' by Departments?
MM: It's an interesting strategic challenge. In the past your principal clientele comprised individuals looking to improve their skills, with courses paid for by personnel departments in existing organisations. In that model, if people make good judgements about what they need, and you provide good courses, then over a period of time organisations will improve. With your new approach, your clients are strategic managers within organisations who feel accountable for the short and long run of their organisations rather than the development of individuals. The challenge, then, is to put in their hands the instruments they need to deliver on strategic objectives.
DS: I suspect the Sunningdale Institute has a big part to play in helping me and the organisation to get the necessary legitimacy and support.
MM: The Fellows are an extraordinary group of people, and I think it would be a missed opportunity were they not to make a sustained material contribution to the development both of a research curriculum, and to the National School faculty itself. I believe you have the resources and the mandate to make it work.