Public Sector: Clash of public/private sectors

One of the (many) interesting things about being a consultant is finding yourself sandwiched between the public and private sectors.

You may be working for a private sector company providing services to the public sector or, vice versa, working for, say, a local authority dealing with private sector suppliers.

As such, no matter which side your client is actually on, you often seem caught between two large opposing forces.

One side believes that ownership of certain assets or services by the public is the only successful way to deliver the collective good, the other that the power of the free market, above all else, is the way to deliver better quality of life.

With the general election just around the corner and Obama's reforms polarising America, the debate around these issues at national, local and regional level is gaining in intensity.

And as a consultant stuck in the middle, it can be a strangely intense, rather dramatic place to be. Like finding yourself in a storm belt or earthquake zone, where normally immoveable objects constantly collide with each other at great force.

The two sides slug it out, with no concessions made, in a bid to make good some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy that this is simply how it has always been - the public sector has its 'public sector tendencies' and the private sector is just a voracious pursuer of profit.

Of course, neither caricature is really true. There are shades of grey in all of this, as in everything in life. The trouble is - and here is the crunch - the main thing that suffers as a result of all this conflict and gnashing of teeth is service or project delivery.

The truth is, both the public and private sectors have different skills and different strengths. Sometimes they even share the same ones.

It is the inability to see these, understand them, and apply them with maximum effect to the project or service in question, that causes so much friction in the first place and lack of delivery further down the line.

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