We have read in a number of recent debate articles that Sweden's municipalities are facing a major challenge when it comes to delivering the welfare of the future.
The main challenge is that financial resources will not be sufficient to meet future needs, but also the ability to recruit and retain the right skills.
Several debate articles (Dagens Samhälle, 15, 16 and 18 August) propose a number of solutions to cope with this - these involve efficiency improvements (probably budget reductions) but also tax increases.
We believe there is a better way to go. To create public organisations that are driven by performance. When we talk about performance, we don't mean whipping employees to deliver more or increasing the burden on individuals. Quite the contrary. We mean that the municipalities/public sector need to get better at building organisations with a clearer performance culture where everyone is willing, able and eager to do their best.
"In an achievement culture, we inspire each other, individuals come forward, take action, entrepreneurship and drive are given room for manoeuvre and results take precedence over good intentions."
In a performance culture, it is not enough to complain about things. Observations and insights are not good enough. In a performance culture, inspirational speeches and general management training programmes are difficult to penetrate. In a performance culture, we inspire each other, individuals come forward, get things done, entrepreneurship and action are allowed to flourish, and results take precedence over good intentions.
The Trust Delegation has done important work in focusing on how we can unleash more power in public organisations. Trust is now on everyone's lips, which is good. It would be even better if performance and results were also on everyone's lips. At the moment, the debate is far too concentrated on issues of internal organisational conditions, with too little focus on what we want and need to achieve in terms of results. In the school debate, it is constantly about teachers having better conditions, in healthcare and in several other sectors it sounds the same: give us better conditions.
"Meeting the challenges faced by municipalities requires a culture that rewards courage and action."
Don't misunderstand our message - yes, public sector staff need the right conditions, but they also need to create them themselves. More leaders and employees in the public sector need to drive change, not wait for change. To meet the challenges facing municipalities, we need a culture that rewards courage and action. We don't need more clever reports and interesting panel discussions, we need change.
"Politicians and officials need to understand the environment in which they work and make sure they have the tools to change it."
Our thesis is that the change our municipalities face is not so much about organisation as it is about culture. Politicians and civil servants need to understand the environment in which they work and make sure they have the tools to change it. Therefore, organisational culture needs to become a strategic issue in a completely different way than it is today. This means that politicians and governing officials in the municipalities need to have a developed idea of how organisational culture can bring ambitious municipal visions to life.
If the municipalities do not succeed in the cultural transition, the prevailing cultures will unfortunately slow down the development the municipalities so badly need and we will continue to dwell on the lack of the right conditions. Let's move the focus to creation instead, to making the world's best schools, to providing health and social care of the highest quality, to leading and driving rather than investigating and observing.