Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Can the new Rudd government genuinely learn from the Blair years - or will it duplicate the same mistakes?

It is surprising how easily governments and their agencies destroy relational capital. In our research we have come to understand relational capital as the glue the holds all the other forms of capital together. So, for example, as Simon Caulkin points out, the UK Treasury has 'singled out five 'levers' of productivity - competition, innovation, enterprise, investment and skills - and subjected each to major programmes of reform'. No doubt their prime focus is on economic and just perhaps, social capital. Despite the Stern report, natural capital still takes a back seat! For the treasury 'best practice' is the glue but it does not work!

The concepts of 'productivity, and 'best practice' are both problematic. As Caulkin outlines, ' not primarily about inputs but the messy, complex, human process of turning them into usable outputs - i.e, management [I would say an active process], not economics'. Hence the need for capability in systemic praxis - practice which builds, sustains and facilitates relational capital through social learning.

Caulkin bases his article on Advanced Institute of Management Research (AIM) 'which suggests that [UK] ministers' views of management are naive. Broadly, the government thinks that improving company performance is about supply-side economics and best practice'. Best practice is a misnomer because practice that is best can only ever be contextual - so it has to be reinvented all of the time as contexts change. Which is not to say that we cannot learn from what others do - but then it becomes best praxis - taking the thinking and applying it to your own context!

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