Public sector takes the gold

14 August 2012
What an Olympics it turned out to be. Usain Bolt was electrifying, Mo Farah obliterated his opponents and Jessica Ennis showed the world that British sports stars are capable of taking on huge pressure and expectation and still delivering (take note, Wayne Rooney). My particular highlight was Greg Rutherford winning gold in the long jump. Unlike Bolt, Farah and Ennis, he was an underdog and everybody loves it when an underdog succeeds. Like Rutherford, the public sector, in the shape of the Ministry of Defence, came out of the 16 days of Games having dwarfed the achievements of private sector ‘rival’ G4S. The military did its job and got a wonderful reception from the games-going public. And it would appear the services’ exemplary performance has caused defence secretary Phillip Hammond to reassess just to what degree the public sector needs to look to the private sector for guidance. In an interview in The Independent today, he was asked which is better – public or private? “That's the thing that I'm learning – that the application of the lean commercial approach model does have relevance in areas of the MoD, but equally you can't look at a warship and say 'How can I bring a lean management model to this?'  because it's doing different things with different levels of resilience that are not generally required in the private sector. "We don't ask the military to prepare to maybe be able to do something or to have an 80 per cent chance of delivering. We ask the military to be in a position that, if we ask them to do a task, they are absolutely able to do it for us.” It’s no surprise the defence secretary is singing the praises of the soldiers and no doubt winning a few brownie points having come to the rescue of Theresa May in her time of need. So it’s hard to gauge the significance of what he said in practical terms, but with the MoD currently examining outsourcing its procurement to the private sector it’s a very interesting thing to hear. As the Games has come to an end, attention has already turned to what its legacy will be. And for some people, it will be that the public sector can show the private sector how it should be done.
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