WORKING IN AN ORGANISATIONAL CONTEXT
Select a specific organisational/management issue within the Probation Service. Analyse this in relation to relevant concepts employed in the field of organisational theory/organisational behaviour/strategic management.
With the coming to power of the Conservative government in 1979, led by Margaret Thatcher, there emerged a ‘managerial revolution that transformed the face of the UK public sector.’ (Pollitt 1993). The Thatcherite ideology of reducing public spending and state intervention within the public sphere, a result of the New Right critique of social welfare being too costly and ineffective, signified the commencement of this revolution, and ultimately the first wave of public sector reforms. For the first term of conservative governance the Criminal Justice System (CJS) avoided the fate of organisational restructuring; (value for money initiatives and efficiency gains) (Beaumont 1995), as opposed to other services such as the National Health Service (NHS). However it did not take long for the government to realise that the CJS was a failing public sector which was, as Garland duly noted, in the grips of a ‘crisis of legitimacy.’ Crime rates, reconviction rates and the fear of crime levels continuously rose (May 1991) and public awareness of these factors, particularly the cost of crime had also increased. Inevitably a government rethink had to take place, and subsequently the solution was the unveiling of a strategy which sought to ‘redefine ownership of the crime problem and promote managerialist solutions’ (Muncie & Mclaughlin 1994).
This essay will therefore trace the managerialist ethos from its inception under the Conservatives in the 1980s and early 1990s, through to its modern day development as ‘New Public Management’ under the governance of New Labour. The path of managerialism will be followed specifically through the organisational restructuring of the National Probation Service (NPS), or as it to be known in 2005 – the National Offender Management Service (NOMS). It will also argue that this new service will signify the completion of the managerialist movement with the culmination of NOMS as the end product and New Public Management as the conveyor of change.
According to McWilliams (1992) the arrival of management into the NPS is a recent concept within the organisations development. Up until then he believed that the service had operated under a ‘professional-administrative model,’ yet the recommendations of the Butterworth report (1972) included the need for planning and control – and thus the era of management began. This shift largely occurred through Martinson’s proclamation that Nothing Works (1974). However it is important at this stage to differentiate between the concepts of management and managerialism. The former, in the traditional sense, refers to the ‘balancing and direction of resources to achieve certain intents.’ Managerialism on the other hand refers to the ‘implementation of a variety of techniques…..within a culture of cost efficiency and service effectiveness.’ (James & Raine 1998). It is therefore the concept of managerialism which, under the guise that public services including the NPS, should be run like a business (Clarke 1994) became the transformational force for reform.
The first wave of reform was not simply aimed at improving efficiency; there was a need to overcome the deficiencies in the existing bureaucratic model. James and Raine (1998) identified the ‘Three E’s’ as underpinning reform – ‘efficiency, economy and service effectiveness.’ The first step taken by the government firmly reflected their ‘organisational and penal policy imperative’-the introduction of the Statement of National Objectives and Priorities (SNOP 1984), which was enhanced by the demand that the NPS became more accountable for its actions. These initial moves, it can be argued, were reflective of the organisations shift towards a neo-Taylorist managerial model, that is a focus upon ‘planning, implementation, standardization and measurement with regard to productivity.’ According to Taylor himself these elements were merely ‘the elements or details of the mechanisms of management.’ Pollitt (1993) states that this model became the most dominant theoretical model of its time, committed to the ‘creation of efficiency and increased productivity.’ SNOP therefore can be regarded as a “precursor to probation exposure to the new public sector managerialism.” (Home Office 2005).
SNOP therefore placed an emphasis on planned and co-ordinated responses to crime, and on the bureaucratic model, with the introduction of managerialism. However this was not an isolated initiative and in 1988 the Home Office published ‘Punishment, Custody and the Community, which required each Probation Service to produce an Action Plan to tackle offending and furthermore submit it to the Home Office to be scrutinised. According to Beaumont (1995) ‘the Probation Service management, scared by the Green Paper’s threats of privatisation and marginalisation, complied.’ However the threats of legislative change, reorganisation and pressures from privatisation loomed larger by the time the next Green Paper, Punishment in the Community (1990) was published. Resistance against these changes occurred from within the organisation (professional discretion and autonomy) and from the organisation itself, culminating in a joint statement prior to the Conservatives third term in office. ACOP/CCPC/NAPO (1987) argued that developments should…..
“build upon the established strengths of the probation service, utilise the skills of
its professionals…and work with the grain of the service. Any other approach
risks disorientation, dislocations and inefficiency.”
The central government onslaught of organisational; redevelopment continued and in 1990 the White Paper ‘Crime, Justice and Protecting the Public was published. Throughout the journey between green and white papers ‘Home Office civil servants had found a unifying theme, just deserts.’ (Beaumont1995 Pp.59). This resulted in the implementation of the 1991 Criminal Justice Act, based on a framework of just deserts, and a move away from the welfare model (Worrall 1997).
Indeed the beginning of the 1990s signaled a significant change in the culture of the Probation Service. The 1992 paper ‘Partnerships in dealing with offenders in the community’ opened up tendering for private bail hostels, and therefore a competitive market was introduced. This followed the contracting out of electronic monitoring schemes to Securicor (1991) and the transportation of prisoners to private sector firms such as Group 4. This shift signaled a merger between the public and private sectors, and the more active roles of private and voluntary agencies within the CJS induced a redefinition in the role of Probation. Offence based work became the focus of the Service, which was highlighted by the move from PO’s being ‘case managers’ rather than ‘case workers’ (1991).
In 1992 National Standards (NS) were launched, essentially introducing the element of overall control and accountability. NS are concerned with quantitative rather than qualitative assessment, enforcement is strictly regulated and the failure to meet specific target resulted in the prospect of reduced funding. This latter concept of ‘cash induced targets’ emerged in the 1990’s and is linked to key performance indicators (KPI’s). The increasing standardisation of probation practice has continued since the inception of NS, which have been revised in 1995, 2000 and more recently in 2005, and on each occasion tighter controls have been exercised upon practice, and subsequently a loss of professional autonomy and discretion. The inception of NS has, it has been argued, been stimulated by the development of the effective practice agenda (Chapman & Hough 1998), which emphasizes the need to monitor outputs and achieve projected targets. It could be argued that the What Works framework is also ‘intimately related to the modernisation project.’ (Mair 2004).
For the managerialist agenda there were important changes under the Conservative government, yet under New labour these transitions were not only built upon, but went even further. According to Chui and Nellis (2003) within New Labour’s modernised public sector the Probation Service is “a quintessentially managerial achievement, shaped far more by contemporary political styles and the requirement of accountability and cost effectiveness.” In April 2001 The Service became centralised – a.k.a The National Probation Service. Further changes to the names of community penalties to give a sense of a tougher public image were introduced (Chui & Nellis 2003) and on the recommendations of the Carter report (2003), a unified field of corrections emanated – giving greater ‘marketisation’ in dealing with offenders.
Thus far this essay has highlighted the key implementations of legislation and policy in enforcing the managerialist doctrine within the organisational structure of the NPS. The direction of this essay has moved towards highlighting the move away from the traditionalist framework of ‘advising, assisting and befriending’ to a Service based on the three E’s, solely accountable to the Home Office, and whose practices are influenced by cash incentives and rigorous NS-all of which is underpinned by the managerialist ethos. So are there any positive elements of the managerialist movement? One plus could be the shift of focus onto, primarily, public protection. Secondly, competition within the market place should lead to a better service for the users. Thirdly accountability and transparency inform the public as to the Service’s use of government funds and Clarke etal (1997) state that managerialism enables the ‘discipline necessary for effective organisation.’
To conclude one would surmise that the NPS, or NOMS, has undergone some radical organisational and cultural changes. Furthermore the vehicle for change has undoubtedly been managerialism, and under New Labour ‘New Public Management.’ According to Chui and Nellis (2003) the Service has “entered the 21st century in a form that would have been unrecognisable, unimaginable to those who developed it.” Indeed the Service has been subjected to constant pressures, and managers have transcended beyond ‘rational management models’ into managerialism. One feels that the following quote captures the very notion and understanding of managerialism within a probation context….
“the imposition of the new managerialism must have felt a little like being given school detention.
In their own classrooms and under the personal and critical eyed supervision of the head teacher,
they were taught how to behave and to do as they were told….the class was made to recite out
loud ‘I must give priority to economy, efficiency and effectiveness’….I must be accountable
for my actions,’ I must be more strategic in my approach’ and I must do as the head
teacher tells me.’”
Some evidence suggests that this managerialist style could soon be at an end (Beaumont 1995), yet the legacy of managerialism, and the belief of today’s managers that New Public management is the only way to manage, could mean that its demise will not come soon enough. It is my belief that NOMS is the ultimate goal of the managerialist movement, yet the need to strive for more efficiency, effectiveness and economy will not subside – change is inevitable and ongoing.
Beaumont, B. (1995)
Managerialism and the Probation Service
Found in Williams, B. (ed) Probation Values
Birmingham: Venture Press
Chapman, T. & Hough, M. (1998)
Evidence Based Practice – A Guide to Effective Practice
London: Home Office
Chui, W. H., & Nellis, M. (2003)
Moving Probation Forward
Harlow: Pearson Longman
Clarke & Newman (1997)
The Managerial State (Pp.57-81)
London: sage Publications
Home Office (1984)
Probation Service in England and Wales: Statement of National Objectives and Priorities
London: Home Office
Home Office (2005)
Evidence Based Practice: A Guide to Effective Practice
Mclaughlin, E. & Muncie, J. (1994)
Mair, G. (1997)
In Maguire, M., Morgan, R. & Reiner, R. The Oxford handbook of Criminology
New York: Oxford University Press
May, T. (1991)
Probation: Politics, Policy and Practice
Buckingham: Oxford University Press.
McWilliams, B. (1992)
Found in Williams, B. (ed) Probation Values
Birmingham: Venture Press
Pollit, C. (1993)
Managerialism and the Public Services
Worrall, A. (1997)
Punishment in the Community: The future of Criminal Justice
Using current direct practice, describe and critically evaluate your personal strategy for workload management, including the management of direct practice, the management of information and the expectations of your team.
On reflecting upon my time as a Trainee Probation Officer (TPO) it is my opinion that my workload management skills have significantly improved over this period of time. In the context of this essay workload management will take the form of how I manage the demands that an organisation (The National Probation Service) makes upon me, and whether I am effective, efficient and productive when working with the resources I have available. For the purpose of this essay I will look specifically at time management, which is an integral component of the ethos of workload management. This essay will argue that by implementing new strategies, developing a more organisational attitude and adapting new systems I have been able to significantly increase the effective use of time within an organisational context. Furthermore it will conclude by suggesting what new and improved systems could be implemented to make even better use of time in the future.
According to Douglas (1998) ‘Time is a paradox: you never seem to have enough time, yet you have all the time there is.’ However this view gives little consolation to a TPO, whom faces considerable demands and challenges from more than one source. The traineeship consists of an integration of direct practice and academic work – which gives way to three arenas of demand and pressure. The first arena; academia. Weekly lectures, discussions, activities and the constant production of essays. The second arena; the workplace. Essentially I am an employee of the NPS and the requirement is for me to work in two different teams (Resettlement and CRO) over a two year period whilst managing a quota of cases. The expectations within this area include a rapid integration into the professional practice and competencies of the given team. The third and final arena is effectively a symbiosis of the two aforementioned fields – the NVQ. This is designed to develop a ‘reflective practitioner’ through the integration of a theoretical basis into practice. When defining my role within an organisation one can say that I am both student and employee, and the danger that exists is the blurring of the boundaries between this distinction. Similarly there are further hazards should one fail to achieve an effective balance between the three pronged demands placed upon TPO’s.
Prior to becoming a TPO I would ascertain that my time management skills were virtually non-existent. As a student my essays were completed on deadline day, and later as an employee I often found myself running late, failing to complete tasks and constantly procrastinating; that is lacking concentration and having no self discipline. This lack of organisational efficiency, hidden throughout the stages of screening for this post, became extremely evident in the first three months of my employment with the NPS. During this time I chose to use bits of note paper rather than diaries, preferring the use of memory as my method of organisation. This resulted in a chaotic approach to workload management, one based on disorganization and a lack of prioritisation. Within one particular supervision session with my line manager she made it very clear that my workload management needed to drastically improve, and that by using my time effectively and efficiently I would be able to maintain a high work standard whilst at the same time display a competent level of organization.
The first goal I had to set myself was that of prioritisation, that is the ability to see what tasks are more important at a specific moment, and subsequently assign the needed attention, energy and time. My initial failure to utilise this concept meant work that needed to be completed by a specific date was not, and cases that needed attention were neglected. According to Johnson (2002) ‘Prioritising is the answer to time management problems….you need to spend more time on the right things.’ In principle this technique seems simple, yet having three different roles as a TPO complicates the issue somewhat. The pressure to prioritise comes from three different sources, the PDA expects the NVQ to take priority, the line manager has the same view for case management, and then of course there are the lecturers who expect deadlines to be met. One of the fundamental reasons behind the need to prioritise is that of the 80/20 rule (Pareto principle 1906), which states that ’80 percent of our typical activities contribute less than twenty percent to the value of our work’ (www.time-management-guide.com). On this premise should I complete the most important 20 percent of tasks then I will still get the most value from my workload management. My prioritisation of work on three different fronts has significantly improved over time, and this has largely emanated with the increased awareness to distinguish between what is important/unimportant and what is important/urgent (Covey 1989) and the use of a ‘To Do’ list.
A further problem I had with time management was that of procrastination, and in relation to my current post I often found myself putting off essays, NVQ’s and reports. I located some of the reasons for this to be underestimating the difficulty and time required to complete the tasks and being unclear in the standards for the outcome of the task. However the primary cause was that of office interruptions. Given the fact that I am unable to work at home due to being to easily distracted I tended to do my essays and NVQ’s within the workplace; yet when working in a busy office telephone calls, case incidents and even socializing with colleagues all provided me with an excuse to procrastinate. As with prioritisation, this resulted in a chaotic, disorganized management of my workload that was inefficient and ineffective. I have managed to overcome this by eradicating the things that distract me and by coming into work early in the morning. This allows me some quiet time to get the important work done without distraction.
The final element that I needed to employ in order to substantially improve my time management skills is that of planning. This is one of the most important time management techniques in that knowing where you are is essential in making good decisions in terms of where to go or what to do next. Within a Probation context I had no planning technique within the first few months – offenders were turning up for appointments when I didn’t expect them and numerous meetings/appointments were missed by myself. Furthermore essays were handed in on time only due to my reliance on others to inform me of the hand in date. This in turn lead to a great deal of stress and trauma – and so by being encouraged to use a diary and a calendar to plan ahead I was able to manage my workload and deal with distractions that surfaced by adjusting plans.
The three areas identified were imperative in improving my time management skills, and in terms of identifying my strengths it is simply in implementing the above effectively and efficiently. One could suggest that in the previous mis-management of my workload I was able to produce some work under immense pressure, but rather than a strength I see this as a weakness in that had I planned and prioritised my workload effectively I would not have been in such a position.
I feel that my current strategy for time management is effective. By acknowledging what my problems were within the area of time management I have been able to implement the fundamental building blocks to initiate effective time management. However I still feel that there is room to develop and improve. There are still times when I procrastinate, particularly in relation to talking to colleagues and even the ritual of smoking allows me to put off work. There is also the strategy of time tabling, which I intend to use upon qualifying as a Probation Officer. This will allow me to use certain days for office visits, PSR slots and prison visits – something which at present I don’t really utilise.
Time Management Guide. (2002)
The Time Management Matrix (2001)
Blair, G. M.
Personal Time management for Busy Managers
Covey, S. R. (1989)
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Time Management
Simon & Schuster
Time Management Guide. (2002)
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