Private and Public Sector
We often wish that there were more businessmen in government. That would be good for business and good for government.
Yet the experience of those who are drafted into ministerial office from the business community is usually frustrating.
The latest example is Digby Jones, former Director General of the Confederation of British Industry, which represents big business in the UK. In June 2007 he was appointed Minister of Trade by the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.
He resigned in April, 2008, after less than a year in office.
Last week, he described his time as a government minister as “one of the most dehumanising and depersonalising experiences a human being can have”.
Hyperbole, perhaps, but it does illustrate the huge chasm that lies between private sector attitudes and public sector culture – a gap of understanding that is getting wider:
1 The public sector is obsessed with process where the private sector’s priority is purpose;
2 In the private sector, responsibility and authority rest in the same place, in the person of the entrepreneur, but in the public sector it is usually unclear where they lie in complicated structures;
3 The public sector acknowledges little relationship between job security and performance;
4 There is a big difference in public and private sector concepts of the “work ethic” – to put it politely;
5 Survival in the private sector depends on the ability to face facts as they are, but promotion in the public sector depends on the ability to say things one knows to be total nonsense;
6 The private sector demands that the individual accepts the consequences of his actions; and
7 The public sector is all about power, but private business exists only if it gives others what they want.
In the Publin report D9 On the differences between public and private sector innovation Ian Miles and Rannveig Røste argue that there are great differences