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Noted educationist delivers Public Value lecture

14 March 2017

Cardiff Business School welcomed Sir Michael Barber, renowned educationist and Pearson’s Chief Education Advisor, to the School on Thursday 2 March 2017 to deliver a public lecture.

The lecture, entitled How Governments can get things done, was held as part of the School’s Public Value event series, which has previously attracted renowned thought-leaders in public value and public impact.

Professor Martin Kitchener, Dean of Cardiff Business School, opened proceedings, welcoming Sir Michael and the audience to the School. He expounded on the School’s bold and progressive Public Value strategy, which sees the School’s resources directed towards promoting economic and social improvement through interdisciplinary research and teaching.

The School’s Public Value agenda has drawn widespread commendation from industry and Higher education stakeholders since its launch in 2015. The ambition to deliver Public Value chimed with Sir Michael’s sense of what, and how, social value can be realised through public money and at the beginning of his talk he said that he loved "the idea of a Public Value business school".

Before Sir Michael’s engaging and thoughtful presentation, Cardiff Business School Professor of Practice in Public Service Leadership and Innovation, Leighton Andrews, shone a spotlight on Sir Michael’s background and experience. He also spoke about the way in which they had worked together during his tenure as Minister for Education in the Welsh Government.

What followed from Sir Michael was a challenging exposition on effecting change in government, and translating policy, and promises, into tangible outcomes. It focused heavily on the discipline of delivery or as Sir Michael labels it, ‘deliverology’, which he sees as the system for achieving maximum success from policy. He argued that policy and implementation aren’t weighted correctly and that there is an underestimation of the importance of implementation strategies to generating results.

As he drew to a close, Sir Michael said that as new governments establish themselves, they must shift from decision-making by ‘spasm’ – reactive and inefficient – and move to a position of ‘routine’. It is at this stage that decision-making becomes considered, inclusive and deliverable. This is a transferable lesson for many institutions and organisations, whether public or private sector.

Speaking after the event, Professor Martin Kitchener said: “It was a great pleasure to welcome Sir Michael to the School and we are grateful that he shared his expertise and insight with us. I’m also delighted that our Public Value strategy was met with positivity and enthusiasm.

“Sir Michael’s talk emphasised that ideas and policy aren’t enough, and that legitimacy and implementation strategies are important to achieving success. We couldn’t agree more. Following the launch of our Public Value strategy we have worked hard on how we approach implementation to ensure we meet our challenging objectives of delivering economic and social improvement. Using our resources to help solve some of society’s grand social challenges is a departure within business and management but we are committed to effecting real change, and recognise that process is important in realising that ambition.”

Sir Michael Barber was awarded a knighthood, for services to education, in 2005. He served as Chief Adviser to the Secretary of State for Education (1997-2001) on School standards and as Head of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (2001-2005) reporting directly to Prime Minister Tony Blair. The Delivery Unit that Sir Michael created has been emulated in several other countries.

Following his time in Government, Sir Michael became Partner at McKinsey & Company and is now, in addition to his role at Pearson, is a Managing Partner of Delivery Associates and Co-Chair of Boston Consulting Group’s not-for-profit foundation, Centre for Public Impact.

Read more about Cardiff Business School’s Public Value strategy and activities.

Watch Sir Michael's lecture.

Find out more about how we are embedding our public value strategy across our research, teaching and governance.