Public Sector: “complexity paralysis” – creator and casualties


No matter how you express it, in a dynamic (non-linear) system, that is, by definition complex, “what goes around comes around” – the “feedback loop” – complexity begets complexity until the system reaches breaking point – “critical complexity”.

But the closer the system operates to this point the more fragile and unstable it becomes.

Things can, do, get ugly, painful, dangerous and costly on a variety of levels and the impact is felt across domains.

Public Sector: “complexity paralysis” – creator and casualties Image by michael.heiss via Flickr A recent blog about procrastination led me to get this off my mind. It has been rattling around in there for some time… Ever had so much going on in your head that you don’t know what to do first? Too many tasks, too little time: which “master” to satisfy? Every issue or task has its own factors to consider: short term effect; long term impact. Assessing cause and effect or imagining problems, leading you to “f … Read More

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NHS: Faith Healer required


NHS logo

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Thankfully I don’t work within NHS. I have enormous respect and sympathy those people working hard to maintain the level of frontline services that an increasingly “sick” UK society needs.

But I cannot avoid the obvious conclusion that, contrary to what is reported below, the NHS is and has been for some time on, financial, life support. It isn’t “clinically dead” but it is and will continue to be too frail to operate on for as long as treatment is limited to treating symptoms and managing pain…

The NHS could reach “breaking point” within the next few years due to increasing demands on services, senior doctors have warned. The UK’s Royal College of Physicians said that financial pressures may mean junior doctors are not given training posts within the NHS, while the overall number of places at medical school could also drop. At the same time, their report said that medical services across the UK were facing extra burdens including limits on how many hours doctors can work, more hospital admissions and people living longer than ever before.

The doctors warned that services dedicated to looking after very ill people were facing particular strain. About 3,800 NHS jobs are set to go this year across Scotland, but unions have warned that relying on staff turnover to reduce numbers means some vital staff risk not being replaced. The latest warnings came in the annual census of members by the Federation of the Royal Colleges of Physicians (RCP) of the UK, which includes the organisations in Glasgow and Edinburgh. (Scotsman page 2,

Public Sector: “complexity paralysis” – creator and casualties


Management of Complexity

Image by michael.heiss via Flickr

A recent blog about procrastination led me to get this off my mind. It has been rattling around in there for some time…

Ever had so much going on in your head that you don’t know what to do first?

Too many tasks, too little time: which “master” to satisfy?

Every issue or task has its own factors to consider: short term effect; long term impact.

Assessing cause and effect or imagining problems, leading you to “flit” – in rising desperation – from one task to another.

Imagining failure or ridicule.

Getting frustrated by your own inability to make progress and wrestling with the temptation to walk or run away.

Turning to a familiar “crutch”, such as alcohol, irrespective of health concerns.

Contemplating delegation to a potential scapegoat. “Parking” it (procrastinating) or dumping it all together.

Seeking out some trivial distraction to fool yourself that you are too busy…even just to satisfy yourself that you are doing something when, in reality, you are DOING NOTHING!

Come on be honest. You have experienced the scenario at some point in your personal or business life. But imagine (if you have to) your state of mind, if this is what you have to contend with in your working life day, after day, after day, after…

Our minds are dynamic complex systems and can – DO – reach “overload”. Falling performance, absenteeism, stress, breakdown, etc. Different for each individual but bad news all round; work; home; family; community.

Some workplaces are more prone to this scenario than others and the excessive complexity of organisations, such as those within the Public Sector in UK, that have responsibility for dealing with the effects of these stresses in our communities, are as sick – individually and collectively – as those they are trying to help! Read more of this post

Two reasons why the public finances are in deep trouble


Circulation in macroeconomics

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Last time the UK’s public finances were in such a mess was back in the 70’s. A whole lot of pain was inflicted on the public, including austere spending cuts imposed by the IMF.

In the end a Tory government was voted in. The government was forced to hike taxes and cut public spending. In the end they were able to right the ship.

Thatcher talked about government finances being like a household budget. This simple analogy can be useful – i.e. you shouldn’t spend more money than you bring home.
But there are two critical differences…

First, when a household borrows it’s usually to buy something tangible (a house, or a car). Yes, you’ve created a liability (the loan), but there’s an asset on the other side of the balance sheet.

Secondly, households tend to borrow most when they’re young. Borrowers work on the assumption that their wage will tend to rise over time, so reducing the onus of the loan.

Neither of these applies to government borrowing.

Firstly, government borrowing generally isn’t for investment. The big bills are for NHS, schools, welfare benefits and pensions. That’s not to mention the banking bail-outs. This is day to day spending – and it keeps going up!

Anyway, if there has been investment, it’s been mainly pushed off the balance sheet into PFI projects. There are no new assets on the government’s balance sheet.
Secondly, the government can’t easily grow its income. They can try to increase revenue by upping taxes, but this is increasingly difficult…
In economics the ‘Laffer curve’* describes how you can only raise taxes to a certain point after which the amount of money raised actually begins to go down. And that’s where we are now.

* Not an original idea. David Hume expressed similar arguments in his essay Of Taxes in 1756, as did fellow Scottish economist Adam Smith, twenty years later. But even they weren’t entirely original.

Businesses are migrating to lower tax regimes and so are individuals. Of course, this all takes time, but make no mistake, people aren’t happy to offer government a blank cheque book.

Once presented with unreasonable taxes people start to avoid them, both legally through avoidance and illegally through evasion.