New Public Management (NPM) can be perceived as a corporate economic response to politicians’ desire to reduce the cost of an ever expanding public sector. The model entails competition for public sector tasks, such as park management. NPM provides increased efficiency, more skilled gardeners and better parks at a lower cost. Abracadabra.
NPM originated in the early 1980s in New Zealand and Australia, and was adopted to other Western countries in the 1990s. The English Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, «The Ironwoman», distilled the worst out of NPM and forced brutal reforms into place through the 1980s. The Norwegian torries ruled Norway at that time and introduced NPM with a thatchers twist. Today the model rules i Norway, in Norwegian parks as well.
New Public Management requires competition. A fair competition requires everyone to compete on an equal footing. Consequently, you must describe what you want to have done down to the smalllest detail. To describe a task, you need standards everyone can agree on. Norwegian standards are developed by «Norsk Standard», a member organization where 70 employees and about 2000 Norwegian experts in all fields of study writes standards for everything. Almost.
With descriptions and standards in place, everyone can carry out control, both while the task is completed, when it is completed and how it is maintained. Then you have fair competition and can get a bid on the tasks, but you need lawyers to produce the papers. An error in the offer may result in fatal results with compensation cases from the loser or, for that matter, the company who won the offer. I know NPM from park management. It has not been a lot of fun.
Already 10 years after the NPM wave hit the West, several researchers warned the politicians. The wave will drown you, they said. Today the majority of researchers are quite unanimous: NPM does not work. Why is easily understood and parks are excellent storytellers.
The more complex a task is, the harder it is to describe it, and far mote difficut to create standards for it. When you get to care and care tasks, it is almost impossible. Park management belongs, so to speak, to the nursing and nursing profession. The patient, or the customer as NPM names it, is called a park. It consists of thousands of details with different needs that change throught days and seasonal weather, and the changing climate of the years. Gardeners knows their parks, follows the weather and performs the tasks needed on time with suitable methods. Serious owners of the parks trust their gardeners and pay them salaries for the job. The most important content of the park; the people who use it, are also part of the gardener’s care work: She knows old, smoky Hansen, who always sits on that particular parkbench in the morning sun, and shares a few words with him while she drains the trash bucket at the bench. That is probably why he sits there. Try to describe this. Add a default. And obtain bids. Poor smoky Hansen.
The earliest parks occupied tens of gardeners, in the largest Norwegian cities hundreds. Oslo’s Parkadministration approached 800 people in the late 1980s. A lot of them were well studied gardeners and several got their certificate of apprenticeship at work. Some were given simple tasks well adapted to their abilities. With 800 on payroll, and the Norwegian torry government chasing for symbolic examples of how fantastic NPM would work, the NPM consultants knicked in open doors. As the researchers pointed out in the early 1990s, it went wrong. Very wrong. So it is not our fault that the parks look like they do for time being, not only in Oslo, but across most of the western NPM world.
Fortunately, there are exceptions, they grow well and should be exposed to the public. We call it New Park Management. The method is directly transferable to all nursing and careing buisnesses careers. The password is called Trust. Abracadabra.