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Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Qantas ride....

I am in my awkward laptop V-writing position again (I should have brought a smaller computer!), about mid-flight, somewhere between Saturday and Sunday over the Pacific on my way to my third stop on this "Six Weeks of Hell" World Tour (I really do need to get a t-shirt made...).

The airline this time is Qantas, and it is living up to its positive reputation of being a decent ride. Seats are a bit bigger than the narrower ones I had in my Atlantic and Pacific crossing with Northwest over the previous four weeks (or so it seems) and they provide things like eye shades, night socks, etc which I had thought standard for any overnight flying. The only bad part was the first leg of the journey from Boston to Los Angeles -- I was on a nearly seven hour flight on Qantas codeshare partner, American Airlines, where the check-in is inefficient, and general service mediocre (although friendly), and they charged for the so-called meal (a sandwich for $5 which was worth perhaps $2.50 at best -- and this flight starting as dinner time!). For years I have taken Continental for domestic flights and avoided United or American, and now I recall why....

The trek to Melbourne is shaping up nicely as far as schedules are concerned. It is taking place during Spring Break, so my guilt level for missing classes is way down. It is early fall there, so the weather is almost ideal (will range from 60-80 F according the weather service), and I have a reasonable speaking agenda -- talks on Tuesday and Wednesday in Melbourne area, Thursday in Canberra, and Friday in Brisbane.

There was one glitch -- I was to stay in the center of Melbourne originally, but it seems that the Commonwealth Games are going to be held this week in that city (which explains the literal uniformity of dress among some of my fellow passengers) -- and so I am relegated to a hotel in the suburbs which (luckily) is located near the residence of my host. I will get to spend time at the main Monash campus as well as its suburban campus, which does gives some welcome variety to the trip...

My goal this leg of the "Tour" is to make my argument against current administrative reform much clearer to general audiences. What I found out in Seoul was that the argument is a difficult one to accept, not only because I am that obtruse in my presentaiton (which I oftentimes am), but also that my point is such a radical challenge to the conventional wisdom on accountability that listeners -- even those who want to get, like my former students who hosted me in South Korea -- could not get their minds wrapped around the basic message. So I am committed to doing that better this time.

My approach will be to challenge our current thinking on accountability and administrative reform as an unframed and untested belief system -- we are operating on beliefs rather than knowledge, and while this might not be too damaging when there is some compatibility between the folk wisdom of reform and the basic governance system, we have moved beyond that with the current global reform movement (NPM?) where we have elevated the folks wisdom into prescriptive strategies for change that in fact challenge and undermine the foundations of modern governance.... (Quite a mouthful, eh?) In taking this approach I feel like I am in the midst of repeating history by substantively bringing Chester Barnard back into the game and strategically adopting the tactics of Herbert Simon. (Ironically, my insprition for this latest approach is Daniel Dennett in both Sweet Dreams -- see earlier posts -- and the new work on Breaking the Spell, which I am reading at the moment whenever I get the opportunity....)

So much for plans; now to put them into action....

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