Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Managing consultants

Tim Clark has written this book about the topic, arguing that it's impression management. I like the diagram that he has used to explain what bases he starts his argument from. With slight adapting, I can use something similar for my next set of notes for my supervisors.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Matching accountability to clients

After listening to a colleague's presentation of her MRes research on stakeholder understanding of museum value, I was stimulated to thinking how her seven types of values might be tabulated against types of stakeholder. Similarly, I could cross tabulate Schein's types of clients against Boven's types of accountabilities.

  • Bovens, M. 2007. Analysing and Assessing Accountability: A Conceptual Framework. European Law Journal, 13(4): 447-468.
  • Schein, E. 1997. The concept of “client” from a process consultation perspective: a guide for change agents. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 109 (3): 202-216.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007


Next task is to review literature on the management of consultants, which is quite difficult to find, possibly because
  1. there is little such literature
  2. it's hidden because the research terms 'management' AND 'consultant' could mean how consultants manage, or how they consult for managers rather than how managers select, use and manage them.

I also need to turn up at the next supervision meeting with around 10 possible PhD skills to pick three from and concentrate on.

Thirdly, I need to work out what, if anything I can submit to the student stream at the BAM conference in September.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Research on contracts

Dicke & Ott's research to my mind is good in that it doesn't start by taking accountability for granted but uses Romzek & Dubnick's 1994 model of accountability to work from.

It is the only research so far that looks remotely worth emulating. Having identified ten methods of demonstrating accountability, Dicke and Ott then examined contracts for human services to see if any of those methods appeared in the contracts. Findings were that some methods were explicitly mentioned in the contracts, especially audits, monitoring, courts and contracts.

They concluded that accountability has both positive and negative implications. Overdependence on controls means other dimensions of accountability may be neglected. The need for flexibility must be balanced with responsibility for maintaining all 5 dimensions of accountability in upholding the public interest. There’s a need not to overlook the moral dimension.

This is about how the contractor accounts for work, not how the principal accounts to the public for using the contractor, unless, you count ability to account by referring to the techniques that the principal uses to monitor and control the consultant-agent. I could use this approach for my work too, if I could get access to the contracts.

Dicke, L. A., & Ott, J. S. 1999. Public Agency Accountability in Human Services Contracting. Public Productivity & Management Review, 22(4): 502-516.
Romzek, B. S., & Dubnick, M. J. (1994). Issues of accountability in flexible personnel systems. In P. W. Ingraham & B. S. Romzek (Eds.), New paradigms, for government (pp. 263-294). San Francisco:Jossey-Bass.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Dimensions of accountability

Romzek & Dubnick's 1994 model is a book that I haven't managed to get hold of, so I can only go by what Dicke & Ott say. They indicated that accountability has at least four competing dimensions: bureaucratic or hierarchical, legal, professional and political. To that they add a moral or ethical accountability quoting Dwivedi & Jabbra.

I'd guess that there'd be a match to Bovens types of accountability. For instance, his social accountability might match moral accountability.

  • Bovens, M. 2007. Analysing and Assessing Accountability: A Conceptual Framework. European Law Journal, 13(4): 447-468.
  • Dicke, L. A., & Ott, J. S. 1999. Public Agency Accountability in Human Services Contracting. Public Productivity & Management Review, 22(4): 502-516.
  • Dwivedi, 0 . P., & Jabbra, J. G. (1988). Public service responsibility and accountability. In J. G. Jabbra & O . P. Dwivedi (Eds.), Public service accountability (pp. 1-16). West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press.
  • Romzek, B. S., & Dubnick, M. J. (1994). Issues of accountability in flexible personnel systems. In P. W. Ingraham & B. S. Romzek (Eds.), New paradigms, for government (pp. 263-294). San Francisco:Jossey-Bass.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Recent accountability literature

My problem with the recent literature is the geographical categorisation of the literature: Britain, America, Australia, EU, Jamaica & colonies, and developing countries.

  • EU – legislation and governance
  • Developing - participatory governance
  • American - little reference to rest of world
  • Different vocabulary e.g. ex-part, ex-ante relates to EU governance

Examples are embodied in language, rather than terms

Specific research is little mentioned but the literature discusses definitions, meanings, the concept of accountability, typologies, mechanisms, providing little experimental research or evidence.

An exception is Jermias who explores the effects of over-confidence and accountability on decision making. Costs systems business students could be transferred to other areas such as choice of mobile phones, overconfidence in decision making process to employ, appoint, and use consultants. This experiment was laboratory based in which business students were allowed to choose a costing system, make decisions using that systems computer screen, given negative feedback and asked for rationale justification of decision. Results showed a confirmatory bias for the preferred / chosen system, blaming the non-preferred system. I could conclude that the post-use manager will justify the decision regardless of negative effects and evidence of poor choice.

Monday, 10 December 2007


I've been reading Johnny Jermias' paper on accountability [1]. Unlike all the papers that I've recently read about EU accountability, he at least has the results of experiments to report. Although the stress in his research is on overconfidence and resistance to change, he reports that accountability mitigates and attenuates overconfidence in a system. He suggests that someone could research the impact of accountability on overconfidence when performance is evaluated against a goal that is set participatively.

I like this idea. The public sector seems to be moving to more participative governance (probably a way of avoiding accountability), but could goals be set participatively? Imagine a school governing body. Who would set the goals? Usually it's the governing body in conjunction with the head teacher, so would other stakeholders participate, and then who would be evaluated? Probably only the head teacher and the teachers, not the governors. Wouldn't the governors be accountable for setting up this participation anyhow? I can't see how to set up the research situation, unless it's a totally artificial one like Jermias' experiment with statistical results.

Jermias, J. 2006. The influence of accountability on overconfidence and resistance to change: A research framework and experimental evidence. Management Accounting Research, 17(4): 370-388.

Friday, 7 December 2007


Our IT department arranged a drop in session to demonstrate how to use the smart board. It's quite nifty. All you need is your finger to act as the mouse and enter (tap the board). You have to have the software (Smart notebook & scratchpad) available either on the computer in the room you are working in, or on your laptop. It provides a nice clear screen with no old stains from previous many uses of pens, but I still think that actually, the white board or even the black board has a lot of advantages.

If you use the smart board it seems to me that you have to have done a lot of preparation before so that you know what to bring up, where to find it, what to do with it when it goes wrong, whereas with a blackboard, it's all in your head. Yes, you still have to prepare but you don't have to be distracted, stressed or embarrassed by technology that goes wrong.

Disadvantages of the smart board:
  • As a short person though I'm going to have difficulty tapping the top of the board for some functions such as calibrating it, or for the X square if I'm connecting it to the computer.
  • The smart software it takes up a lot of space (and as I don't have a laptop...)
  • If you're working with kids, they have great fun scribbling over the board.
  • The pens get lost.
  • The technology doesn't do what you thought it would and you don't know how to sort it out and everybody is watching you.
Advantages of a white board or black board
  • I can clean either of them myself, especially the blackboard, the pens are cheaper, and chalk is even cheaper and if the kids nick it, their scribbles are easier to remove.
OTH, I like the comfort of knowing that I have everything ready and available giving me a means of presenting my programme in preplanned order.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Rationale for literature on accountability

Why is there the interest in accountability? In Europe, the growth in the EU has put pressure on accountability mechanisms, and it is necessary to legitimise and democratise governance that occurs at many levels, in a manner that breaks chains of accountability, hence Bovens’ comment: no unbroken chain”. There has been a push to improve performance and decision making, modernising accountability and control procedures (Curristan?, 2005).

New Public Management (NPM) comes into the literature on EU governance and accountability. NPM makes demands – this is the reform in the public sector which involves transferring business and marketing principals from the private sector to the public sector with the aim of improving efficiently by applying business techniques.

Monday, 3 December 2007


Bovens is this law professor from the Netherlands who seems to be particularly strong on describing and explaining accountability. He extends existing theory providing a conceptual framework in the context of the EU suffering from deficits of accountability.
  • He explains the concept as a relationship between actor and forum.
  • He analyses types of accountability, discerning dimensions to describe relations in the EU
  • He assesses the accountability arrangements: democratic, constitutional, learning.

[1] Bovens, Mark, 2007, European Law Journal, Vol 13, No4, July 2007, pp 447-468