Growing the Productivity of Government Services
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Growing the Productivity of Government Services

Patrick Dunleavy and Leandro Carrera

Productivity is essentially the ratio of an organization’s outputs divided by its inputs. For many years it was treated as always being static in government agencies. In fact productivity in government services should be rising rapidly as a result of digital changes and new management approaches, and it has done so in some agencies. However, Dunleavy and Carrera show for the first time how complex are the factors affecting productivity growth in government organizations – especially management practices, use of IT, organizational culture, strategic mis-decisions and political and policy churn.
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Chapter 9: Embracing digital change and enhancing organizational learning

Patrick Dunleavy and Leandro Carrera


Improving productivity in government services is like dieting. (Almost) all of us agree that it would be a good thing to do. But there are a baffling range of theoretically (yet vaguely) plausible suggestions for changes, none of which are proven to work and few of which are as easy to implement as their proponents proclaim (McKinsey, 2011a). In the short term dramatic results can sometimes be achieved, but often in temporary ways that cannot be maintained so that performance quickly slips back into the old mould. Making an approach work for long enough to achieve worthwhile results is far harder than it looks. And shifting government organizations onto a new and sustainable pathway of continuous productivity improvements is the hardest task of all. Yet there are also many factors that work in favour of improvement, of which we review two of the most fundamental in this chapter – digital changes and the push for organizational learning.

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