Quote of the week
“…procedural definitions…may not actually correlate with positive outcomes expected…”
— Francis Fukuyama
Francis Fukuyama is best known for his book, The End of History. He is a Senior Fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University.
He has written a paper called What is Governance? in which he notes that there are four ways in which government bureaucracies typically measure “high-quality government”: procedures, capacity, outputs and bureaucratic autonomy.
He dismisses the first one, reminding us that procedures often don’t lead to expected outcomes. This, I think, is an important lesson. How often have we put in place complicated procedures on the assumption that they will generate successful results? Apart from your own projects, think of HR or procurement: full of process but not so good at results.
His concept of bureaucratic autonomy is interesting. He suggests that the degree of autonomy can be measured by the volume of political “mandates” that officials face. Too many mandates lead to too much subordination, which in turn results in poorer performance.
In other words, if innovation is a product of autonomy, then a government organization that is micro-managed will not have the flexibility to respond to change.
This could be a lesson for the politicians as well as senior officials. If you push decision-making up to the top of the organization, you stifle innovation by, among other things, removing the incentive or responsibility to improve.