One of the best and most viewed presentations on Slideshare in the last few years is a brilliant presentation from Reed Hastings of Netflix here … if you choose to watch it I think you will, just like me, have a number of “aha” moments, your head will nod as you find yourself agreeing with its simple yet brilliant logic.
My particular “aha” moment came when I reached the slide that said “We’re a team, not a family”. Coming from a Private Sector background (have I mentioned that before?) I knew instinctively what was behind this message, as I think you may also. To those of us that have spent the bulk of our working lives in the Private Sector, especially working in or with smaller companies, it is part of our core belief system that companies can’t afford to carry passengers just because they are likeable people or because they happen to have been around for lots of years. Carrying passengers and reinforcing mediocrity is unfair on everyone including colleagues, customers and the balance sheet…of course ultimately it is unfair on the mediocre themselves; to be allowed to think you are X Factor when others see you as Y Bother is to be part of a cruel delusion, a delusion which is often further exacerbated because meaningful comparison and self-development are avoided or seen as unnecessary.
Unfortunately for tax-payers the world over, the Public Sector often sees itself as more of a family than a team. In the absence of a competitive environment and meaningful competition, there is little incentive to behave like a competitive team because the team never plays anyone other than itself. For many in the Public Sector work is akin to kicking a ball against the wall when you are a kid; you can dream and pretend to be Pele all day long safe in the knowledge that the wall is never going to respond, it won’t surprise you, take the ball off you, dribble past you and place a bicycle kick in the back of your net. And that’s the great shame about never competing, you never get to see how good you really are, you never really know what good looks like, and you don’t see the need to develop because you have not compared yourself with anything that you might aspire to become.
I sometimes wonder if we should insist that people are only allowed to spend a certain proportion of their working lives in the Public Sector? I think that being exposed to the reality of business in the Private Sector is one of the most valuable lessons that can be learned, researching markets, competing for custom and dealing with uncertainty are valuable life-lessons…if nothing else they make a person realise that the world does not owe them a well expensed living. The tax that pays for the Public Sector is hard-earned and contrary to the popular belief of many in the Public Sector it does not originate from within a government department. The tax-paying Public deserve the best team to turn out for them in exchange for their hard-earned money, they need the Public Sector to start to behave like a team and not a family.