Government Management Approaches and Accountability-Harperland
Harperland is a politically analytical book that analyzes the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper in control of the Canadian government. Mr. Harper gets into power as conservative in 2006 through the minority Conservative party. The conservative winners come in to government with a feeling of insecurity, characterized with a fear for the media-which they perceive as being hostile and a governments civil service full of sympathizers of the liberal party. The conservatives had to contend with a liberal Senate and a House of Commons with no allies. Surrounded by all these insecurities, the conservatives embark on a power amassing mission led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that greatly dislikes the Liberals with a passion that can be akin to hatred. His government amasses power by gagging and controlling people (Martin, 2010).
Under Harpers leadership the conservatives set up a hierarchical mode communication and policy formulation and implementation, where policies are centrally made through the control of Harper and his advisor, and then passed down to the lower levels of the hierarchy for implementation. Communication to the public and press is controlled and no information negatively highlighting the conservative party and its leadership is let loose. All in a bid to exercise full control and give the conservatives a positive image by keeping people in the dark about their failures and thus kill the positive image and like for the liberals. Harpers skills are successful, however; the same tactics work against his leadership at some point (Martin, 2010).
Mr. Harper made use of a decision theory approach in managing the issues of his government. This approach is characterized by central decision-making, where the upper and top most echelon of management formulates policies and lets them to flow down to lower ranks for implementation without consideration of feedback from them. Under such a management approach the manager (Mr. Harper) was the decision-maker and his unit of top advisors and government conservative leaders were the decision-making unit. This kind of managerial approach has five basic features: Firstly, management is regarded as decision-making, thus appropriate decision-making is central to management. Secondly, members of an organization under such leadership are the decision-making body. Thirdly, the act of decision making is regarded as a tool of control in management.
Additionally, in order to increase efficiency in management, better quality of decisions should be made, and finally; the study of decision-making is central in this approach. Clearly, the features appear in the Prime Ministers mode of government control (Elsy, 2009). He adopts more of a control by making decisions on virtually things that should happen, and through the control of the decision-making process and policy formulation he is able to control the government appropriately. The failure that results out of Harpers approach is also actually characteristic of the limitations of this approach in management. Firstly, decision-making does not take into account the total view of management and secondly, decision making is juts but a single aspect to management and it does not offer a view of the other side of the coin. Perhaps the Prime Minister concentrated so much on one side and thus his failure (Elsy, 2009).
The fear and tension that resulted from the fact that Mr. Harpers team had least support in many sectors such as the civil service, House of Commons and the Senate dominated with liberals made them retreat into a cocoon and adopt a self protective stance. Additionally, they lacked experience as government leaders, because they had been in the opposition for long and all tactics they knew were in the game of opposition and not leadership. Surrounded with fear and certainty they became control maniacs wishing to control everything in their favor. The suppression of reports on crime by the justice arm of government and scientists speaking out on global warming are actually some depictions of being extremely in control because of insecurity of what such events may cause. The fear of the conservatives about their future is actually they main reason that drives their behavior.
Policy formulation and decision-making in the Harper government is under the total control of Harper. Harper adopts a centralized control where ministers get direct directives from his office. The directives are passed down in a hierarchical manner and communications are strictly controlled and every action has to be vetted. Thus the first voice in policy and decision making is Harper, followed by his aides, who of course help him in decision making and his chief of staff. The structure is more of a disciplinarian structure where orders are handed down with consultations or expected feedback, because the main goal is to attain discipline and obedience rather than consensus. This is portrayed by an example where the ministers meeting schedules are concealed to keep them away from meeting the press, just in case they pass information thought of as privy to the government.
Under Harpers leadership collective responsibility was totally not functional, because the cabinet relies on direct and unquestionable directives and formulated policies and decisions which they were required to implement in favor of the conservative government. As such, no one was required to compromise on any decisions reached and handed down. This individualistic nature began at the top echelon, and this spirit of lack consultation or forum was passed down and people within the government had to rely on orders. Unlike circular and leveled patterns or government where there is exercise of information sharing, consultation and consensus building, the Harper government only shares in formation at the top end consisting of a few people. This totalitarian nature eliminates any occurrence of collectivism.
Under Harpers government the evolving doctrine of ministerial responsibility is one of a totalitarian-cum-disciplinarian nature. Under the doctrine ministers are like government puppets that should play to the tune of Prime Minister Harpers government and directives. They are required to exercise express authority on what they are mandated, but act within the precincts of the stipulations offered by the top government officials whose directives emanate directly from Harpers table of control held by Prime Minister Harper, his chief of staff and aides.
Observations made in Harpers government portray acts that totally disregard any form of transparency and accountability whatsoever. The government is characteristically secretive and privy even to matters that are of public concern such as global warming and crimes rates. The government stops one scientists publication and speech on global warming as well as the publication of information on crime rate issues by the Justice department. This is all done in a bid to keep the people in the dark. The government tends to gag people and prevent the exposure of government information in a bid to save its face from the public. Decision-making is not allowed at the grass root level and every directive has to be passed down through the hierarchy thus increasing the bureaucratic nature of decision-making. There is no accountability of the government to the people and it is like the government owes them nothing.
Conclusively, this situation needs to remedied and the only solution is to have an all inclusive approach that will allow a circular and more leveled manner of information sharing, collective decision-making, consensus building and of course a comprehensive implementation of policy. Failure to achieve this may lead to policy and decision implementation failure. People have to be contended with the decision reached in order to be able to implement it whole-heartedly. Implementations made with grumbling or disgruntled people may be inappropriately done, and thus lead to policy failure. No individual or minority may always call the shots and underscore the importance of the devilâ€™s advocate in any decision- making process. Any forms of suppressive forces in policy formulation or decision-making only serve to increase the opposition that the decision-maker will face (Elsy, 2009). Thus any suppressive forces should be minimized if the government intends to have the support of the people, because it is the people that constitute the government and not just the few decision-makers.
Elsy, P. A. (2009),. Approaches to Management, Discovery Publishing House
Martin, L. (2010),. Harperland: the politics of control, 1st edition, Penguin Group of Publishers
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