Mao and Stalin are rarely cited as management gurus, but today\’s announcement that 6,000 civil servants have been selected to act as \”special agents\” of the cabinet secretary Sir Gus O\’Donnell, with a remit to \”give their bosses a hard time\” if they don\’t push reform hard enough, suggests that their influence lives on.
Mass mobilisation by cadres of young zealots was a popular technique for both of the great communist tyrants: Stalin\’s purges in the 1930s were often fueled by workers\’ denunciations of their bosses, and the Red Army cadres who led the Cultural Revolution were chosen for their youth and commitment to cleansing the party.
Of course, you can\’t really compare what Sir Gus is proposing with the horrors of those regimes, but mass mobilisation is undoubtedly a popular tool in seeking to enforce change in the face of perceived inertia within a monolithic public sector. In a previous generation, John Major rtied to do something similar through his much-mocked Citizen\’s Charter initiative: unleashing the forces of consumers against remote and unaccountable service providers. Rather disturbingly, the wikipedia entry for the Charter even refers to \”taking measures to cleanse and motivate civil service\”.