New Public Management

The management philosophy that has dominated the field of social practice in the UK and elsewhere - running everything from social housing to social care, education and public utilities - is often called 'neo-liberalism'; which is not wrong, if it is seen essentially as an ideology.

But as an approach with clear policies and lines of commend, it is known more technically, for example in business schools where such things are studied with greater focus,  as the New Public Management'.

Some of its more obvious manifestations in practice, such as the commissioning culture, the 'purchaser/provider' split, a preocupation with quantifiable outcomes, and external regulation by supposedly independent bodies, are well known.

What is less well known is that the roots of this approach are themselves based in a particular psychological model, which can be identified, and assessed for its suitability - but rarely have been.

This 'psychological model' therefore now underplins much of the way public services, including those attempting to develop as PIEs, are now provided; and those services wanting to assess where they stand in reation to these wider systems may at some point need to look upwards to address the strings that pull them.

NPM defined

Some of the most articulate and immediately intelligible critiques of NPM in the UK have come from the work of Toby Lowe and colleagues, at Collaborate and at several universoty business schools. In 'A Whole New World: Commissioning in complexity', Lowe and colleagues sum up the NPM view thus:

"It has been characterised as ‘three Ms’: Markets, Managers and Measurement (Ferlie et al, 1996)

• Markets – the creation of markets for social interventions helps to drive innovation and efficiency
• Managers – social interventions must be overseen by people with training in professional management practice. Managers’ role is to identify what success looks like (strategic management) and to hold subordinates accountable, through performance management, for delivering it.
• Measurement – Metrics must be created which identify what success and failure look like, and performance must be measured against these metrics.'

'The roots of NPM lie in ‘Public Choice Theory’ (Buchanan and Tullock 1962). Public Choice Theory argued that the intrinsic motivation of those who undertake social interventions cannot be trusted to produce effective and efficient public services. Instead those people must be extrinsically motivated – through the incentives created by market forces, and through the use of performance targets.'

This psychological model is radically at variance with the lived experience of almost all those with actual experience of public services; and the tensions between their real motivations and those supposed in the funding model that provides their services is now increasingly exposed.

Finding an alternative means for funders to engage with providers and their staff on more suitable terms is now an urgent need; and if the PIE approach, the PIEs framework and the Pizazz assessment and audit mechanism can play a constructive part in this, and loffer new channels of communication, it will be long overdue.


Other critiques of NPM's psychological model

Others have critiqued the simplistic economistc model of NPM, bringing other models to bear of the structures it has created. Of these, the psychodynamic analysis of the splitting of purchasers and providers, and of providers and regulators, echo the  studies of Zimbardo and colleagues on the polarisation of roles in institutions; and the observations of Transactional Analysis have highlighted the potential for dysfunctional dynamics in ill-thought-through separations of roles in any relationship.





PIElink pages

Where did it all come from : HERE

The ethics and politics of PIE : HERE

Faith and values-based work : HERE

Evaluation by outcomes : HERE

Can smarter commisioning help : HERE

360 degree evaluation : HERE


Library items

Funding and commissioning in complexity : HERE

Enabling Help : HERE


On New Public Management critiques

Beyond outcomes (PIElink forum) : HERE

Centre for Public Impact : HERE

We know New Public Managemt fails : HERE

Human Learning Systems: a new paradigm for public services : HERE