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An Bord Snip Nua: The Change Management Implications

by Tom O'Connor on September 9th, 2009
Colm McCarthy, Chair of An Bord Snip Nua

Colm McCarthy, Chair of An Bord Snip Nua

Have you noticed how short the evenings are getting already. Or, is it just that this year we are all a little more sensitive to the post-summer blues – with so much talk about the recession, NAMA & the Lisbon re-run.
The recent publication of the report from an Bord Snip Nua, is especially stark. Operating within the constraints of the Government’s terms of reference, which focus exclusively on reducing current expenditure, it comes as no surprise that all of its recommendations are of the tough medicine variety.
For the most part, these include proposals to either elimininate/reduce, merge/consolidate, or outsource/privatise many of the current functions & services of government. The result is the identification of potential savings of €5.3B in annual government expenditures, mostly deriving from direct cuts to Health and Social Welfare benefits.
Savings deriving from rationalising the delivery apparatus of government itself account for about €170M, of which roughly €70M is related to the closure & €100M to the merger, respectively, of various functions and agencies. (I’ve extracted the full catalogue of mergers proposed from the near 300-page document into a slide set, Bord Snip Nua – Merger Recommendations, to save you ploughing through the full text).
The capacity to implement this degree of change shouldn’t be underestimated, however. Progress on the earlier tranche of rationalisations announced in the 2009 Budget is reported to be slow, with just 11 of the 43 plans currently implemented. (Again, if you need to refresh yourself on this earlier set of merger announcements, please refer to our separate Budget 2009 – Merger Announcements slide-set.)
And, of course, this statistic just speaks to the completion of the physical & accounting changes. The organisational change management aspects that ultimately determine the long-term effectiveness, or otherwise, of the merged entity is an entirely different consideration.
Hopefully, this time around, lessons will be learned from some previous public sector mergers that indeed combined units at a surface structural level, but not too often had the deeper cultural & organisational implications properly thought through, nor the processes streamlined & reengineered, to realise the more meaningful returns. (For an example of the more enlightened approach, read a related case study here.)

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