Organisational Capacity Reviews: Building Capacity
Citation:Murray, John A. `Organisational capacity reviews: building capacity? in proceedings of Institute of Public Administration Annual Conference, Delivering for the Citizen: Transforming Government performance, Dublin, May 31st 2007, 2007, pp 1 - 24
IPA Paper Murray 07.pdf (published (author's copy) peer-reviewed) 474.7Kb
Innovation in the form of an organisational review programme is being implemented in government departments and agencies in the Irish public service . Similar innovation took place in the United Kingdom in 2005 and related developments are visible in parts of Australian and New Zealand public management practice. These innovations are the product of political impatience with the speed and effectiveness of implementation of policy and are oriented towards building the capacity to get things done. While `review? might imply an historical orientation and an assurance emphasis, the real thrust and value must be future oriented: review with the goal of ensuring future effectiveness. Discussion of this innovation and of similar initiatives elsewhere has used the language of capacity and capability review ? hence, no doubt, the title of the conference theme. I will refer to capacity and capability interchangably in this paper as the central aspect of the planned organisational review process. What should we mean when we discuss `capacity?? Why might we be concerned about it? How might one review and build it? These seem to be the three central questions that arise in relation to the current consideration and planning of capacity reviews. Capacity, in popular discussion, relates above all to the ability or inability to deliver services to citizens in a manner that meets their expectations. But it also relates to the ability to provide effective advice to the political decision making process. And, in a manner that only those living in captured and corrupt systems can fully appreciate, it relates to a value base that owes unswerving alliegence to independence, probity, and a commitment to speaking truth to power. The reasons why anyone might be bothered to worry about, and actively build, capacity are several. It is `obvious? that any system should be deeply concerned about reflecting on and developing its capacity. To do otherwise neglects a basic responsibility of stewardship for the present and future. Conditions in Ireland, as in many other countries, create a special contemporary concern about capacity arising from the demand for a `performing state? linked to high expectations, concern about value for money, resistance to any greater tax burden, and ambiguity in the link between allocated resources and realised consequences. If we should indeed be concerned, then the matter of what to do and how to do it presents us with a third challenge. Assessing and building capacity is at once trivial ? in the sense of being `obvious? ? but also infinitely complex. It is trivial in so far as it might be argued that the public performance of public duty stares everyone in the face: `everyone knows? whether health services are delivered well and efficiently; `everyone knows? whether public transport is available, effective and affordable; `everyone knows? whether they feel safe on the streets and by-ways; and so on. And if there are shortcomings, the responsible people should deal with them and resources should be directed towards priorities. However, assessing capacity turns out to be a little more complex than that, and building it even more challenging, since it involves answering the question of `capacity for what?? and the fact that the answer will change with time.
Higher Education Authority
Author: MURRAY, JOHN A
Availability:Full text available