17 09 2010

I believe the Government are right. With the national economy in such a fragile state it is necessary to make drastic cuts to public spending. But I believe they are wrong in that this doesn’t necessarily mean we should face cuts to public services as a result. 

So I also believe the TUC are right, many public services are worth saving. And then I believe the TUC are wrong, saving many of those services does not mean we don’t have to make cuts to public spending. 

The TUC - right but also wrong


The problem here is that both Government and TUC are not thinking in a vertically integrated way. I know I have talked of vertical integration of strategy in this blog before but I make no excuse for doing so again and will continue to do so until key decision makers start to show signs of ‘getting it’. 

Vertical integration of strategy; planning in a way that means every action considers the impact and needs of every other action; or in this case, every department/service on every other service. 

Let’s take the police as an example. Nottinghamshire police are opposed to any combining of forces to create a larger East Midlands force. Whether you agree with that stand-point or not, do forces need to combine to share resources for improved efficiency/effectiveness? Of course not. 

It is the same in many local authorities. While times were good no one examined the waste created by employing only horizontally integrated strategy. Now they are so used to thinking only in a horizontal way that they fail to see how many of the services they provide could be maintained (or at least cut less) if they considered looking at how different departments can work together and share resource. Indeed, a whole generation of managers has grown up not knowing there is any other way to plan. 

There have been a tiny number of ‘eureka moments’ around the country. Only this week three local authorities in Leicestershire announced that they are to combine support services as a cost saving measure in order to maintain front line services. 

I’ve picked on the police and local authorities but during the good times we have seen the same bloated bureaucracy of employing more people than an organisation needs because that organisation cannot think beyond the horizontal. We have seen it demonstrated worst of all in the NHS but also in sport and in much of the ‘Third Sector’. 

Sadly taking such measures will undoubtedly mean cutting jobs something the Government have recognised and the TUC have opposed mistakenly thinking jobs and services are the same thing. 

Structure should always be the servant of strategy, it is part of the process designed to best achieve the strategic objectives, to reach the Vision. Yet by maintaining a system of horizontally integrated planning far too many organisations (including businesses) are making strategy the servant of structure and drastically limiting their potential during the good times and putting services at risk during the bad. 

It’s time for a national rethink on how we do strategy. 

For more on Vertical and Horizontal Integration of Strategy see: 

‘What’s All This Vertical And Horizontal Integration Stuff?’ 

‘An Accidental Demonstration Of The Need For Vertically Integrated Strategy’ 

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, 2010 


Twitter @cowanglobal



2 responses

17 09 2010
Yvonne Parker

Thanks Jim, great stuff.

But will anyone listen, much less understand???

18 09 2010
Simon Hamer

Nicely put.
Party Politics and the outcome of choosing a party and thus choosing its policies is often portrayed as being similar to a switch.
As you have pointed out, there are many shades of grey in how policies and decisions are made and implemented.

As Yvonne says though, is anyone listening.

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