My first reaction on reading Lorenzo's The curse of managerialism was to muse on the reasons why the rise of managerialism as an ism should have been so associated with the decline of management as a craft or even an art. My second reaction was to try to identify why I instinctively disagreed with him. After all, I too, think that managerialism is a curse. I, too, hate narrow input-output approaches with their key KPIs and have long railed about them. And I totally agree that corporatist approaches in Australia's University sector have had some very nasty results.
Last week UNE VC Jim Barber resigned, and I am writing a short historical piece on UNE's various VCs for next week's Armidale Express. This is not an indirect shot at Jim. Rather, re-reading some of the history has just envenomed some of my pet hates. After all, they almost destroyed my University!
The waking point came when I followed a Lorenzo's link through to the wikipedia page on managerialism. This page is actually about ideology, whereas the material I wrote concentrated on the history of trends in management and especially public administration. Those trends created what was to be called managerialism, but they were not, of themselves, ideological in the way that word is normally used. However, the way some of them played out in practice was affected by what we can think of as ideology.
My attacks on those trends are not ideological, purely practical. They don't work. I say this with something of a sense of irony, for I espoused many of them in the early days.
To illustrate, take the obsession with measurement. This came out of the standards movement in part, in part out of the management practitioners such as Galbraith or later Deming, in part from McNamara and the early growth of program budgeting. This is where inputs, outputs and outcomes gained their public sector power. It was aided by, depended on, the growth of computational technology. That's a simplistic explanation, but the process has very little to do with ideology.