Calls for reform of the public service are routinely heard from politicians, private sector interests, civil society organizations and public servants themselves. Public service reform programmes have become the norm in many countries, including Ireland. But the overheated rhetoric that usually accompanies the launch of such programmes is often rapidly followed by the disappointment of unfulfilled ambition and apparent failure.
This book looks at the realities of public service reform in Ireland today. It begins with the conviction that reform is an ongoing process of adaptation to the rapidly changing requirements of society, rather than anything that can be captured in a once-off programme. It recognises the achievements of recent reform efforts, and it sets out some key elements that the authors believe should be part of the next phase of reform. In particular it identifies specific actions that are needed to improve accountability for performance, to adapt organisational structures to contemporary needs, and to put in place the vital leadership capability. The authors recognise that other actions will also be required in the short term, and that the process of adaptation will rapidly move on to other challenges, but they insist that the next phase of reform must, as a priority, address at least these three areas.
The book draws on management theory, international best practice and, not least, the authors’ own experience at the frontline of public service delivery. Its proposals are practical and immediate, but are also well grounded in a vision of a high-performance public service that can meet the most demanding expectations of today’s citizens.