Friday, September 04, 2009

Quantum administrators

There's a cost cutting efficiency drive sweeping the public services sector at the moment and it struck me that the obsessional, sometimes ambition driven, sometimes absolute belief in the desirability of
  • delivering a standard service to everyone through
  • neutralising the infinitely variable and therefore unreliable human elements by
  • breaking organisational processes into smaller and smaller constituent parts
  • the operation and cost of which can be rigorously bureaucratically controlled
is a bit like taking one of the athletes preparing for the 2012 Olympics and cutting them up into their constituent atoms, in the hope that by controlling the atoms you can somehow engineer a medal winning performance. The essence of what was once an elite athlete has long since disappeared and you are so far away from controlling the atoms in a way that would secure that elusive medal and so buried in the vast task of trying to control them, that not only have you not noticed the athlete has been killed but the only thing you can think of doing is divide the atoms up into their even smaller sub atomic particles. And so you sail blindly and vigorously into the completely alien quantum universe, so far beyond the rules of nature of the macroscopic world of the athlete and comprehensibilty to the skill set you bring to it that... well... let's say the medal is not getting any closer.

I've had the privilege of working at the Open University for over 14 years now and the secret of our success has being putting people in touch with people and the absolutely phenomenal goodwill that generates, in spite - shock horror - of the flawed variability of humankind. That public services cost cutting has reached us too but I'm hoping the quantum administrative mindset - a universal constituent in all large organisations (commercial and public sector) that seem to evolve universally towards a state of insanity - can be held at bay suffiently to ensure the survival of the essence of what the OU is all about: to be open to people, places, methods and ideas and promote educational opportunity and social justice by making high-quality university education open to everyone.

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