Prof. Norman Flynn was at SBS teaching the Public Policy Executive Program. The program involved demystifying the policy-making process – from policy formation to implementation as well as evaluation and monitoring. We interviewed him, to learn more about the Public Policy Program, we well as tap his advice to the Kenyan government on matters public policy and management.
Give us a brief introduction of yourself.
I started my career as a civil servant in England, first in London before moving to North England in a county council, and then I started teaching when I was about 27 years old. My first academic job was in the University of Birmingham where I was working in executive programs for civil servants at sub-national level. Then I started doing research on various aspects of public policy; competition, performance, privatisation just to mention but a few. I then ended up writing a book, Public Sector Management. After that book, I did a comparative research on Public management in 7 European countries; France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, UK, Austria and the Netherlands and that led me into comparative work and people asking me to talk about what it was like in Europe and different places.
My next assignment after that was in China, training civil servants in Beijing and because of that, I was offered a position in City University in Hong Kong. I worked there for two years as a professor before going back to London to work in the school of Oriental African Studies where I have a program in Public affairs management and a few of the faculty at Strathmore are actually graduates from our programs.
You have so much experience and knowledge in your field. When did you develop your interest in public policy?
It started right from the beginning of my career, when I was working as a civil servant in the UK. I was employed as an economist and then I realised its not all about the economics but more of public policies and their implementation. My entire career has been concerning issues on decision making, policy choice and implementation.
In simple terms, explain public policy making and implementation
It is the process of how governments decide on priorities and programs, resource allocation and implementation. They can implement them either through the civil service or through a devolved administration and then manage them either on their own or through contracts.
How does teaching public policy help an individual to apply and implement policy making.
We give the individual concepts and models, to help them familiarise themselves with what theyre doing and grow their understanding of the matter.
In your years of experience, what are some of the main challenges youve noticed in the different countries youve visited?
The main challenge has been trying to get politicians to be realistic about policies, like the Kenyan government and their projection of Kenya as a model country by the year 2020. Many problems have been caused by the self-interest of politicians.
Another problem is that when you do very well in the public sector, you get spoted by the players in the private sector and scouted to work for them, draining the public sector of personnel who are meant to play an important role in bringing change
What do you take from Kenya that you would use to do better in the management of public policy?
You have very good calibres and very smart people on your programs; you seem to have very honest people too, who understand how to do their jobs and have personal ethics and despite some of the setbacks youve encountered, you still have people who are willing to do the job. Other than that Kenyans deserve better politicians.
How has your experience in SBS been?
SBS is as professional as any business school I have been to. The building is fantastic, the people are friendly and the faculty development is terrific. This institution will make a big contribution in terms of development to Kenya and the region – no doubt.
What do you do for fun?
I am an avid Arsenal supporter and I have 1/3 share in a seasonal ticket (it takes 6 years to apply and get a seasonal ticket). First thing I did in Nairobi is that I linked up with a friend I met in Mombasa. He is a young guy who is an engineer and also an Arsenal supporter. He took me to a local pub where we sat and drunk Tusker while watching the 5:30 game on a Saturday afternoon.
Prof. Flynns Biography
Prof. Flynn is the Director of the Centre for Financial and Management Studies, University of London and has held academic posts at London School of Economics, London Business School and the University of Birmingham.
Recent books include Public Sector Reform: An Introduction (European Commission); Public Sector Management (Sage, London); The Market and Social Policy in China (edited with Linda Wong) (Palgrave Macmillan); Miracle to Meltdown in Asia: Business, Government and Society (Oxford University Press), and (with Franz Strehl) Public Sector Management in Europe (Pearson).