Colin Mair of the Scottish Local Authorities Management Service at Strathclyde University said high expectations of the parliament and its limited resources "heightened the risk of death by a thousand initiatives".
The notion of "disciplining" MSPs was also voiced by Ian McKay, assistant secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, whose South Lanarkshire association organised the conference. Mr McKay said the best opportunity for groups like the EIS was at the outset when politicians were at their weakest and unions at their strongest.
Speakers also called for more policy input from outside official circles. Keir Bloomer, director of education in Clackmannanshire, said a Government monopoly of strategic thinking was unproductive and ill-conceived.
"If the people who are assessing the outcomes of the system are the same ones who are making the policies," Mr Bloomer said, "they will always put the blame on the workers rather than the policy, as happened with modern languages."
Brian Boyd of Strathclyde University advised the new MSPs to take stock before being tempted by any "quick fix". Dr Boyd highlighted the case of new community schools, which he said should more properly be termed "new community provision".
"If reculturing is the aim, pragmatism based on present arrangements just will not work," Dr Boyd said.