Politicians believe they can pull ‘levers’ to drive change in the public sector. So they set targets, they drive new policy initiatives and mandate adherence to them and so on. When they get reports coming back up the hierarchy, they regard the reports as evidence of success. But it is no more than ‘policy-based evidence’ – a record of compliance.

Reliance on the hierarchy telling them about compliance keeps politicians unaware of the true impact of their initiatives on service operations; they have no knowledge of the true impact of pulling ‘levers’.

Taking action without knowledge of operations can only lead to sub-optimisation. Unlike private-sector managers, when things go wrong politicians stick with bad ideas and blame others. If you did that in the private sector your organisation would be doomed and so would you career.

The levers are a fantasy; pulling them only makes things worse.