Numbers or Results?

As readers may have seen, spat on the floor in response to National’s food in schools announcement. His criticism was that not enough money is being spent on it.

This is something you often see from the left. They measure how much you care by how much taxpayers money you are willing to spend on something.

Hone’s bill was proposing food in schools in decile 1 and 2 schools only. The Govt has actually announced it for deciles 3 and 4 also – yet Hone spits on the floor at it, merely because taxpayers are not spending enough money on it.

The same fixation with numbers we see with Danyl at the Dim-Post. He declares the reason MPI made an error with China export certificates is because they have fewer staff.

We went through all this back in the 1990s. Turns out a lot of those back-office public servants – who National loves to sack by the thousand on the grounds that they don’t actually do anything, approximately one hundred and fifty of whom were let go during the MPI merger – do genuinely do some things, like check export certificates.

Danyl is convinced that the quality of the public service is determined by its size. If you care about the public service, you hire more staff. This is a core faith on the left.

I’d be interested in a shred of proof that the mistake made by MPI was anything to do with fewer staff. A belief that more staff means no errors, is like believing in God – can’t prove or disprove.

Regular surveys by the State Services Commission have shown that satisfaction with public services is increasing – despite fewer staff.

And no one has ever said that staff made redundant don’t actually do anything. That’s an insult to them. You don’t make staff redundant because they do nothing. You sack them, if they do nothing. Staff get made redundant because employers have to live within their means, and can sometimes operate in different ways with fewer staff. Sometimes fewer staff will mean a reduction in quality, but not always. Judging quality on number of staff is bonkers.

I worked for an NGO that made around half the staff redundant. We thought it would be a disaster, and fought against it. in fact we discovered that some staff roles actually ended up creating un-necessary work for other staff, and in some ways things worked better with fewer staff.

The belief that you show how much you care by spending more money or hiring more staff, is fatally flawed. What is important is outcomes, not inputs.

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