I don’t know Nick Mowbray although I’m obviously aware of him.
Recently a lawyer friend sent me a copy of his observations on bureaucratic growth, which I reproduce below.
Thoughts of Nick Mowbray founder of Zuru.
Its time NZ looked at our return on bureaucrats.
In the year 2000 New Zealand had 1200 Bureaucrats working in the ministry of education. We had 2800 schools and according to the M.O.E we had 750,000 students. We ranked highly on international metrics such as the program for international student assessment (PISA) We were ranked fourth in reading, sixth in mathematics and fifth in science. Fast forward to today and student numbers have risen a little over 11% and the number of schools has decreased to 2600, but bureaucrat numbers have ballooned, nearly tripling, a rise of 166.7%. And what have we got for it? Nothing. In fact, we have gone backwards rapidly, now ranked 13th in reading, 27th in Math and 20th in science.
This same pattern is repeated across almost all Government departments. Since Labour took office public service headcount has exploded. Since 2017, Oranga Tamaraki’s headcount has increased 49%, MBIE has grown 53%, the Ministry of social development 35% and so the list goes on. These numbers are not small. They are tens of thousands of extra people. The sobering thing is results and outcomes have gone backwards in every single area dramatically.
So, what does this tell us? Like in business bloated bureaucracies stifle decision-making, leading to inefficiencies, and hindering the effective implementation of policies and leading to worse results. I have always found that small agile teams with clear objectives and accountability will deliver better results and do it for far less cost. The problem with companies like governments is that the creep starts to come in. We have a saying at ZURU “fight the creep”. There are no points for adding more people for the sake of it. We are consistently looking at ways to drive efficiency, simplify and rationalise. We know that over time companies naturally become more complex, and complexity drives inefficiency. Inefficiency is the enemy.
Twitter is a great example of creep that got out of control. The workforce has now been reduced from 7500 to below 2000 and they are already delivering record users and on track to get back to profitability.
More people lead to worse results.
Unfortunately, governments are the worst culprits for adding complexity. Governments bring new agendas, new laws, consultants on top of consultants, and more staff and at some point, they lose context of what it is that they do that is important. They lose focus on the core role of government and things start to get ugly.
When we have obscure ministries like the Ministry of pacific people which had 34 people in 2017 ballooning to 128 people or when communications staff doubled since Labour came into government, everyone should rightly be asking some serious questions about the competence of this government to manage a country in a fiscally and economically responsible way.
How is it the government needs 532 full-time communications staff? That is outrageous. At ZURU we have zero. Not saying the government does not need communications staff but really 532 of them? What do they all honestly do? What do 128 people in the Ministry of Pacific People actually do? Who is holding them to account?
At some point, we need to demand better than this. When a government is spending so much more, driving the country into huge debt and not delivering results or setting us up to be more productive in the future, we have serious problems.
Urgent time for change.