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Civil Service reform: taking your feedback forward

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Be Exceptional - London 2nd July Delegates at Civil Service Live in London, Tuesday 2nd July. Crown copyright.
Be Exceptional - London 2nd July
Delegates at Civil Service Live in London, Tuesday 2nd July. Crown copyright.

Thank you again for all your comments in advance of the meeting last week with Directors General and Permanent Secretaries.  We try to get together twice a year in this way and your contributions helped to add a layer of context and colour to the discussions we had this time.  I quoted some of you in my speech to the whole group, and I know that those leading sessions on capabilities, talent and other aspects of reform used your views to inform the discussion.

Identifying talent

With regards to talent, there was a clear commitment from the group to invest their personal time and effort into identifying and developing the most talented civil servants – they will each be identifying two or three people who could do their job one day, and working with them to develop their potential.  This is something all of us with a line management or leadership role should be doing, it’s not just for those who are on formal talent schemes, and if we do it, we can have a tangible impact on the organisation.  And don’t forget, having identified these talents, we should not shy away from celebrating them.

Taking learning and development seriously

Meanwhile, on capabilities, I set out clearly my intention that all civil servants should receive 5 days learning and development a year.  The 5 days should be made up of informal learning, such as shadowing, coaching conversations and on the job learning, as well as formal learning from  Civil Service Learning.  If we’re to improve our skills and deliver a better service to the public and Ministers then it is vital that we take learning and development seriously.

I have been very concerned by the number of people saying on the blog that they’re not being given the opportunity to receive their 5 days a year.  I know Chris Last, Head of Civil Service HR shares my concerns and he is keen to hear from you if you’re not being given the time and opportunity to develop.  Please contact him and his team at to share your experiences so he can follow up on your behalf.  There was a clear commitment from all in the room on Friday that 5 days should be a reality, not an aspiration.

The right environment and tools

Finally, with regards to smarter working, you have told me that all too often you’re delivering services using outdated IT, poorly designed offices and inflexible working practices.  It’s clear to me that if you’re to realise your full potential then you need to work in the right environment and have access to the right tools. For example, colleagues in the Highways Agency across the country are benefitting from smarter working and improved IT which is supporting them in their work.  The “Fit for the Future” programme is just the sort of thing I want to see in other departments, and I know colleagues across all departments are working hard on taking forward their own smarter working programmes.

We know we have more work to do, and the best way to address this is to be clear what and where the issues are which you’re facing.  The team leading this work are really keen to hear from you at  They will be guest blogging for me in a few weeks’ time on how they’re taking your feedback forward so please get in touch.

In the coming weeks you should hear from your Director General about the work they will be doing in your department to deliver at least one aspect of Civil Service Reform.  I urge you to work with them to deliver a lasting and positive change for us all.

Stay in touch. Sign up now for email updates from this blog.

Related content:

Blog post You're hired- a successful week for the civil service

Blog post Technology at least as good as people have at home

Blog post Civil Service Reform- the year ahead

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  1. Comment by Noel posted on

    Sir Bob

    I was greatly encouraged by your words about the need for "smarter working" in the Civil Service. This very much echoes my own thinking. Although it presents a huge challenge as we still seem to be working in many ways that would be familiar to a Victorian factory owner!

    We do need to examine the way that modern technologies have affected our lives and the way we work. I think we need to examine whether or not the way that we deal with those technologies, the way that we use them, the way that we handle them on a daily basis actually fits our expectations and needs. In short we need to look at how we’re being asked to work by the world at large and whether our existing approaches might actually be preventing us from becoming more productive.

    We have all heard the spiel, for example, about how having open-plan offices fosters huge amounts of collaboration or encourage huge amounts of knowledge sharing; about how it will create a great deal of value for organisations and for ourselves. I really don’t think this is actually true. So I think we need to reassess the way that we work against what it is we’re actually trying to achieve. Collaboration is a very good thing and while collaboration tools, computers, the internet and social media and all the rest are incredibly powerful and valuable, our work should be driven by achieving the best outcomes, not how best we can use the new cool tools.

    Many of us in the Civil Service – most of us probably – spend our lives in offices. We spend our lives doing knowledge work sat in front of a glowing rectangle.

    By adopting more distributed concepts of the workplace, linked through technology, we can work closer to the citizen and deliver services more directly and immediately, we can allow people to work closer to where they live and to balance work, personal and community commitments more flexibly. We should enable people to work together without actually having to be together so reducing travel.

    By using workspace more intensively and wisely we can reduce our use of buildings. By providing modern, flexible work patterns, with excellent connectivity and in good quality environments.

    But I think we also have to challenge unnecessary rules and procedures, the concept of a permanent workplace, management by inputs and traditional working hours. It is much more than hot-desking or flexible working – smarter working will only succeed where it is implemented in an integrated way with a focus on technology and information management, the physical fit-out and most critically the supporting behaviour: the people and culture.

    I would be interested to hear more about your plans the Civil Service - but I can find nothing on line....

    • Replies to Noel>

      Comment by G Timbrell posted on

      I cannot think of anything worse than hot desking and having to rely on technology that invariably fails and leaves people unable to continue working.
      I also hate the idea of having your privacy invaded by 'big brother' and not being able to email through normal outlook channels, but having to use a group email system where emails can be seen by all in sundry. There are some things that shouldn't be seen by just anybody.
      Maybe all this is designed to fit the big City environment but to outlying Units and Stations this is unnecessary and costly and very unfriendly!
      Change for changes sake seems to run rife throughout the Services now, it serves no purpose unless it fits everybody and these systems dont' fit everybody, so before you go slapping yourselves on your backs for 'progress' just ask yourselves, why.

  2. Comment by Noel 2 posted on

    I note that you haven’t mentioned PMR in your blog and how the majority of staff commented on what a time-consuming, divisive, demoralising and demotivating system it is. Does this mean that we are stuck with it until the government decide otherwise or until it results in the necessary reduction in staff numbers?

    • Replies to Noel 2>

      Comment by John posted on

      Noel 2
      The answer is yes, in the same way as the issue of pay has been totally ignored, although a huge number of the posts on the last blog highlighted both as major issues to staff.
      I was really hoping that the SCS were listening, but apparently only if we want to talk about the topics they decide to talk about-its just like the staff survey......
      Roll on retirement (at reduced pension), package (on reduced terms), or nervous breakdown (on my terms).

  3. Comment by Pat Rouse posted on

    I just can't take all this trumpeting about the 'Government's digital agenda' seriously. Here we are in 2014 and I and my colleagues in HMRC (DMB LAST) have been told recently to discontinue the use of external email, despite this being a very useful tool in some cases! No explanation, just a North Korean style edict! Certainly not progress as I recognise it.

  4. Comment by Richard Graham, Programme Manager - The Way We Work posted on

    Hi Noel

    Thanks for your comments which I read with great interest.The Way We Work (TW3) is a Cabinet Office led cross-department programme designed to help realise the Civil Service Reform Plan’s aim of ‘Creating a decent working environment for all staff, with modern workplaces enabling flexible working, substantially improving IT tools and streamlining security requirements to be less burdensome for staff’. The programme picks-up on many of the themes you raise around smater working.

    I am really sorry you have not been able to find anything on-line – we’re working hard to address this and hope to have things sorted very soon. In the meantime if you drop me an email with your contact details to the email address in Sir Bob’s blog I’ll get you a copy of our guide, produced to help change teams in delivery of their programmes and which was presented to last week's meeting of Directors General and Permanent Secretaries .

    • Replies to Richard Graham, Programme Manager - The Way We Work>

      Comment by Gareth posted on

      I would be interested to see a copy of your guide, but if you send it to me it could crash my Inbox. I work in MOD, at Abbey Wood, and often receive contractual documentation sized between 5 and 8MB. My Inbox capacity is 200MB, if it's much beyond that then I can't send or receive. I and most of my colleagues spend a fair proportion of time weeding out Inboxes so we can use them again. Since support staff have been cut to the bone, we do our own filing (not necessarily a great use of B1 or B2 time). I calculate that about 10 laptops like the one I have at home would have the same capacity as all of the Inboxes of all the staff at Abbey Wood (which was 6,000 now going towards 10,000 - and don't get me started on hot desking and parking....). There's got top be something wrong with that picture.

      So thank you for the offer of the guide, but I can't spare the electrons.

  5. Comment by Jan posted on

    I agree with the comments made about the PMR, and it is disappointing that there is no visibility on a piece of work being taken forward to formally review the current arrangements. As a line manager, this is a stressful and demotivating system to deliver, and very demotivating for staff. What are the outcomes we need from our Performance Management and Reporting systems? At the present time, it feels that we miss a massive opportunity to celebrate success, motivate and encourage our people through the current systems and arrangements. There will always be high fliers, and there will always be people who struggle. But most people just work really hard and have small successes to celebrate, which, when added together make the hugest difference to our work and our business. I'm certain there must be a better way, and would love to see some detailed insight and options from our HR Professionals considered by our Senior Leaders.

    • Replies to Jan>

      Comment by John posted on

      Couldn't agree more.......guess i'll just have to keep taking the Prozac.

  6. Comment by Mike O'Neill posted on

    I have been digitalising for many years. I was one of those business managers who, around 1980, took full advantage of the power of the personal business computer and my first machine, the iconic Osborne 1 (progenitor to the modern laptop), now sits in the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry's collection along with the story of what it achieved in saving our small business from operational insolvency (can you believe that in 1990 we were one of the very few training providers promoting courses on coastal and flood protection, because we believed more should be being done....but that is another story).

    So I am all for the ambition to make best use of what (IT) technology offers, and to deliver more services using digital channels. But I'm a business manager who happened to teach himself IT skills, and my focus was always on the business activity, not the IT per se (intellectually interesting though that was). It always concerned me that IT should support what is (and should be) at the heart of a good organisation – its people – and that organisations should not be completely dazzled by the allure of cost savings. In a similar vein, hot-desking may seem very attractive as part of cost reduction. But what is the effect on the human spirit, that most essential of things to nurture in any organisation with ambition to succeed. When we make a claim that 'Moving services from offline to digital channels could save £1.7 to £1.8 billion a year', many of those whose jobs and lives stand to be most closely affected by the achieving of those savings may see them not so much as savings as the transferring, or displacement, of costs to another, less immediately visible, area.

    Digitalisation, and the putting of all eggs in one basket as in the creation of GOV.UK, does not come without risks. I used to explain IT to non-IT colleagues by saying that it was really much like the road network, with back roads, trunk roads, and motorways, except that the vehicles on it carry information rather than goods or people. The danger with relying on motorways too much was that whilst they were fine when new and working below capacity, this very attractiveness pulled more and more traffic on to them, and the plans of people and businesses became strongly dependant on the advantages they offered. This was fine until bad combinations of being filled to capacity, accidents, weather and lane closures started to happen. And who remembers that bank holiday in the 1990s when the IRA claimed to have put a bomb under an unspecified bridge in the Midlands, and the whole country was all but cut in half. Thank goodness then for the backroads.

    So loading all your eggs in the digitalisation basket could at some point result in large and hard to predict penalties, albeit that those penalties may not be readily or directly measurable. As if to echo this, the internet itself relies instead on having a wealth of alternative routes by which information may be moved around.

    A popular term with planners these days is ‘sustainable’. I think we would do well to keep that idea in mind with services delivery planning, and to think holistically. We should have some inbuilt redundancy, some ‘Plan B’ in service delivery strategies. Whilst the drivers for digitalisation are powerful, I think we should adequately consider the risks and the limitations and we should not be driven over-hastily or solely by a need to cut service delivery costs.

    On a more mundane level, and relevant to the above, my office IT would not let me play the videos on the various e-promo pages.

    As a footnote, I think it might have been better not to have used the term ‘JFDI’ in the opening address at Sprint14. Some customers of the soon-to-be-delivered-digitally services might feel justifiably uncomfortable with this expletive-deletive acronym. On the other hand, many of those customers might not even have heard the term ‘JFDI’. And that might throw into question whether those implementing the new services delivery vision are sufficiently in touch with those requiring those services.

  7. Comment by Bav posted on

    The worls has seen Vista, working with Windows 7 and getting ready for Windows 8. But we at HMRC are still working with Windows 2003.
    How are we going to meet the Digital Challenge if we cannot keep up to date with the latest technology.
    Unless we can meet the technological challenge our customers will always be a step ahead of us, making it hard to close the tax gap.

    • Replies to Bav>

      Comment by Chris posted on

      Hi Bav, as part of the IT Infrastructure Programme , everyone in 100PS will have dual monitors, be using Microsoft Office 13 and Internet Explorer 8, I’m not sure when this initiative will be industrialised across HMRC, however there are a fair amount of changes being made in the background...

      • Replies to Chris>

        Comment by Noel 2 posted on

        My understanding is staff at HMRC will start moving to Windows 7 from April this year, when Microsoft stop supporting XP. Roll on progress!

  8. Comment by fred posted on

    Most of the 250 responses last time covered pay, did we get a response from Sir Bob, or the top 200, of course not. Anyway, I'm promoted to Grade 6 and my salary will be above that of a SCS 1 starting out at the bottom of the SCS 1 payscale, great for me, but I'm gald I'm not one of those SCS1s. But hey Sir Bob and the top 200 care about, or acknowledge it...... Instead of writing to Chris Last (Head of CS HR) about not getting 5 days L&D, write to him and ask him about sorting out equal pay in the civil service, I wonder if he'll be as quick to act on equal pay.

    • Replies to fred>

      Comment by John posted on

      Right on cue following Fred's post it's Chris Last....... 🙂

      • Replies to John>

        Comment by John posted on

        Wondering why a light hearted aside has been under moderation for 2 days?

    • Replies to fred>

      Comment by ed posted on

      This grade "mock class" this is a nonsense. as jobs not on open compition around ablity to do but on what "class" grade someone is.

  9. Comment by Chris Last, Head of Civil Service HR posted on

    I echo Sir Bob’s words about the importance of identifying talent and taking learning and development seriously. They are top priorities in today’s Civil Service and for me personally, as a leader and as an individual. It was good to hear at last week’s event that so many are ready to make a big commitment to both talent and capabilities.

    Talent does take time and effort. It needs enormous personal investment from the individuals and from their leaders. We need to make sure the investment we put into our people is matched by opportunities for them to develop and grow. So, great talent management does mean taking more risks.

    And, although we continue to do a lot to improve skills and capabilities in the Civil Service, I am concerned to hear that some of you still aren’t being given the opportunity to receive your 5 days a year. As Bob says I’d like to hear about your learning and development experiences, whether it be shadowing a colleague or taking online training on the Civil Service Learning portal.

    Chris Last
    Head of Civil Service Human Resources

    • Replies to Chris Last, Head of Civil Service HR>

      Comment by Andrew posted on

      You were right, Fred. Not a mention.

    • Replies to Chris Last, Head of Civil Service HR>

      Comment by Nick posted on

      Fairly typical,this is why people are so frustrated the pay issue raised has not even been acknowledged. Its almost like its invisible to senior management

    • Replies to Chris Last, Head of Civil Service HR>

      Comment by ed posted on

      In respect to talent, the lack of basic understanding of stastics, by the whitewall privilage people read "The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing."

      It incudes lots of concepts thinking in an easily accessable way.

  10. Comment by Sue posted on

    Mike - What's JFDI? That question aside I think your point about IT tools being a means to an end is absolutely right and your infrastructure analogy is apt. I often think of the IT and workplaces as being the infrastructure that makes it possible for us to to our work. If its not suitable or doesn't work then it stops us doing our jobs as well as we could.

    Sir Bob - I've actually experienced some very good office environments in the Civil Service that really work giving me a choice of places where I can work depending on what I need to do - and to be honest - what mood I'm in. I like being able to choose a place where I feel comfortable, but it only works because those places are available and I have IT kit that allows me to work pretty well anywhere, and, I'm lucky enough to work in a team where I'm trusted. Wouldn't it be great if we could all work like that? I agree with Noel - the infrastructure needs to be integrated to support people within a culture where people are trusted. In my experience Civil Servants are hard working and delivery focussed and certainly can be trusted to make the right choices about when and where to work.

    Richard - The Way We Work program sounds interesting - its a pity there's nothing on the website about it. How can people like me get involved?

    • Replies to Sue>

      Comment by Richard Graham, Programme Manager - The Way We Work posted on

      Hi Sue

      Well people working on The Way We Work programme both in my team and in departments are really passionate about the potential to make a really positive change for everyone in the Civil Service. And we’re really interested to understand the barriers that frustrate people in how they could work better. Drop me an email at and I’ll get you some more information. We're working on the website and I hope we’ll get something on-line as soon as we can.

      Richard Graham
      Programme Manager

      • Replies to Richard Graham, Programme Manager - The Way We Work>

        Comment by Andrew posted on

        please prove me wrong, but TW3 will not happen in my lifetime.
        We are trialling new software that apparently is known not to work with our main OS.
        I rest my case.

        • Replies to Andrew>

          Comment by Ian posted on

          I disagree with Andrew above as I think that TW3 has the potential to really drive a modernised Civil Service; I think it's easy to be cynical and really difficult to make a significant cultural and commitment shift. I work for a Government Department (MoJ) that is committed to changing the working environment through enhanced technology, flexible approaches to the working day and upgraded accommodation. It won't happen overnight but we are already adapting our working patterns, trialling new hardware and software and linking up with other Government Departments to share solutions. The key for me will be leadership at all levels but especially seeing some role modelling within the SCS perhaps starting with a move away from the traditional bases in Whitehall.

      • Replies to Richard Graham, Programme Manager - The Way We Work>

        Comment by Ewan posted on

        Hi Richard
        I found your presentation which others may be interested in. Search for 'TW3 The Way We Work Programme FDA' and click on the PPT PowerPoint link.

        If the security issues can be overcome it could save accommodation and travelling costs. Wins all round, perhaps there would even be some left for a decent payrise so all the best with it!

    • Replies to Sue>

      Comment by another chris posted on

      @Sue: "What's JFDI?"

      Just flippin' do it. 😉

      It's an understandable if over-simplified reaction to the blizzard of acronyms and over-hyped quick-fix silver bullet solutions that sweep through IT development so regularly.

      • Replies to another chris>

        Comment by Sue posted on

        @anotherChris Lol! Well I approve of that!

  11. Comment by Andrew posted on

    Sir Bob,
    Talent spotting.
    It's all very "Type A", people who want to be SCS with the attributes that destroyed the banking sector.
    What happened to people who don't want to be SCS but want to be the best they can?
    My last PMR was marked down because I admitted to "not knowing where I would be in 5 years".
    So what? That makes me a bad person?

    and my apologies to Chris Last - there is no email inbox big enough to deal with people missing out on "5 a day" dropping you line. and we're probably all to busy anyway doing the work of 2 or 3 people.

  12. Comment by Anne Harrison posted on

    When I arrive at work and read messages telling me what the Civil Service is doing to become the best, how it is improving and becoming more digital, it does not improve my morale.

    This morning (Monday) once again, the printers are out of action and many of my colleagues are unable to log on to their computers. Last week I spent over an hour talking to the helpdesk, trying to get my computer to work. I have lost count of the times that Outlook has crashed so far this year, and the phones have been out of action (and we are only 5 weeks in!!). Each time there is an interruption to the computer/printer/phone service, there is an interruption to work. Trains of thought are lost, so the work time lost far exceeds the service time lost. In addition, so far this year we have spent 2 weeks without kitchen sinks across 6 floors of this building because the pipes were blocked. During some of this time, the ladies toilets were not working either.

    All that those of us at the bottom of the pyramid want is somewhere to make a cuppa, a working loo, a reliable computer and a printer. Given those basic tools, we will do the job we are paid to do. Not much to ask.

  13. Comment by Michael posted on

    Is the photograph accompanying this blog really th best one to get across the desire for a reformed civil service ready for new challenges? Everyone in it looks bored to tears!

    • Replies to Michael>

      Comment by Eamonn posted on

      Sit on the floor or a window ledge. Real choice in the 21st Century Civil Service!

  14. Comment by Mark $ posted on

    As a member of The Highways Agency, I'm a little baffled at our being singled-out ; this supposed great leap forward in IT is, in reality, merely Windows 7 and thus far only rolled out in one office, and the 'smarter working' appears to be a meaningless soundbyte. Still, if it is all getting us 'Fit for the Future'....I would advise everyone to avoid it assiduously since our Agency's future is to be kicked out of the Civil Service next year !

    • Replies to Mark $>

      Comment by Barry Bentham posted on

      Fit For the Future is 13 years old now isn't? It involves getting more and more mammals and electronic stuff in a big space without adequate ventilation systems in place and banning the use of plants as far as I can tell. And my office is called Woodlands!

    • Replies to Mark $>

      Comment by George posted on


      Don’t want to sound facetious, but as someone “baffled” by a Highways Agency decision on selecting “merely Windows 7” have you actually asked anyone the reason why? My own experience is that when buying the latest shiny software from Microsoft, or whoever, “higher is better” isn’t always the case in Windows-land. I remember Windows Vista, which couldn’t transfer files over a network at reasonable speeds — like many organisations, we stuck with Windows XP we are due to change but it still does the job.. There are plenty of organisations who have made a decision in favour of Windows 7 over 8. So don't be too harsh on colleagues who are trying do their best like you - I think the point made in the blog was about “improved IT”. Also I am lucky to work in an organisation that whilst we can’t claim the latest IT in the world we are trusted to be thoughtful about where and when we work and I have a manager that trusts me to do my work and measures be by what I achieve rather than just being there all day. “Working smarter” doesn’t suit everyone, because “going to the office” everyday can be an addiction, but it would be great to think that everyone can have choice.

  15. Comment by Barry Bentham posted on

    How can you use the Highways Agency as an example of improved IT, Bob? We are just about to be upgraded to systems that have already been superceded. I have seen photos of your visits to rooms that look reminiscent of the Regional Control Centres I have been to, although they look way too well lit to be the same places, with people, some of whom I recognise, that are actually smiling - can't be the same places. I am surprised you found the time to experience our illustrious IT systems when most of your visits outside the protective bubble of that London only stretches to select parts of Birmingham. I thought you'd be stuck in traffic.

  16. Comment by Tom posted on

    I would be interested to hear what Senior Management's definition of what they think 'talent' is?

    I have a colleague who is on a Talent Programme, before they went on it they complained about how busy they were and couldn't possibly take on anymore work. However they appeared to have plenty of spare time to research their holidays, do online shopping etc. Last year they took three days to attend a two day training course in London and have recently returned from two days away (including an overnight stay) to attend an interview (one or two hours at the most?).

    If this is the sort of person that the Civil Service deems 'talented', then I would suggest that this is the reason we are in the mess we are!

    • Replies to Tom>

      Comment by ed posted on

      Celebrating identifying talent? Would someone celebrate picking a share, would celebrate picking a lottery number?
      Of course a lottery number or share is more independent, as even if a subprime “talent” after resources poured in to the “specially selected” should be able to get an average standard to avoid embarrassment as there is a sunk cost mentality to an extent not just finically.
      Unlike say runners where could have a running test to identify the best runner secondary “tests” or criteria’s are used to indentify talent. The idea being that how someone performs in a test is related to other attributes. To take to the ridiculous to establish principle a secondary test could be tiddlywinks so the assumption being there is a relationship between ability at this on another task. How strong or indeed what relationship can be subjective.

      Secondary tests and criteria in part are used being nature of job. How do you measure the success of senior leaders public commercial or whereever is less objective than how would measure the ability of a runner.
      As well as secondary tests, the tests can measure privilege already given for internal candidates this can be approved “competences” which may or may not of being awarded through competition but may be an expression of favor. For external can also be a measure of privilege such volunarering for an international charity when a poor candidate has to stack shelves in Tesco.
      Then there is insider knowledge of the process which can be knowing the process because other people you know are have done it, you may have been briefed by someone that knows the test. Knowledge of the test can also be used a key, someone can give some knowledge of test or briefing before hand or practice exercises. So that the candidate that is favored is given role etc.

      To actually isolate innate ability over preexisting favor may be very difficult. The civil service tests possibly lean towards preexisting privilege and insider knowledge to an extent.

      How do the secondary tests come about well could some completely arbitrary test or use something’s that assume has some relationship stick to generally academic tests , use regressive analysis what attributes do preexisting leader have. The problems this assume that senior leaders are not product of a random run. Like trader that has had good trades may be not better just good luck, could also be the existing product of favor. Can also be signal and noise. Causation correlation.

      We assume causation relationships from the test and criteria.
      The person that passes selection believes merit the person that failed may like wise believe failed on merit.
      But the tests did not existing preexisting privilege, insider information prior knowledge practice, and regressive anyasis rigor. The relationship of test causation.
      Would we celebrate a runner talent may be, would we celebrate a lottery winners, would we celebrate a zars or kings.

      If discount privileged, prior knowledge of process, the relationship between the test and job. Regressive parts through ex senior leaders and current being evolved in the process.

      Like most things it may be somewhere in middle neither being a runner nor lottery winner. Although for runner would not specification of talent as most genetic runners may be working. So we mean the outcome of talent.

      The talent programs where get approved talent that are then put on some pedestal and give some registered talent seems more about convince as replaces the tradional role of higher class. The approved talent,

      But its seems static rather than dynamic process, its static approved talent then is given addionial recourses.

      The rate on approved talent schemes like FastStream drop failure is low. This may be claimed because this is because the selection is go good this is a theory. But this is untested to certain extent.
      This is not practical experiment but the thinking would go something like this. If took each criteria or test then had people that fail on each one put every one on scheme then 20 years later could test the impact of each test if used infinite people. Of course not possible, however even if use the test criteria’s that used applied to senior leaders how many would pass fail etc. Either meet criteria or do not from experiment purpose.
      The approved talent for things like business leaders is more difficult as hard to measure what I would refer to bluster. Even in private business took Harvard MBAs, or ex McKinley consultants, is it what has been created the knowledge base or the connections. The leaders of old business not Google.

      In business more quicker change business big bang theory, rapid rates change. What is good today may not tomorrow. These approved talent where people are meant to pretend have these on mass have some objective more talent, The people on programs possible believe lack of self awareness when told give job assume “merit” as the upside does not get informed that well you had more privilege access to information we discriminated against some others our test was poor regressive to past the befits of yesterday privilege senior Whitehall making the rules and judgment. But even if was perfect selection process, idea that have a selection then serious of special privileged allocated over prolonged period may be wrong. As could be constant process of re evaluation so in effect every one on a talent scheme and as good what last did etc like business.

      The current talent schemes are about allocation of favor over valuating a few chosen ones, the giving as much favor as possible to try and justify the previous decision.
      There is competition for a longer period of privilege rather than competition around each project. So the approved talent then gave preference on an insider basis rather than merit on each project or role. The grades are artificial based on old higher arcitcal society. We don’t need more people knighted but an approved talent scheme then given favor even if knighting was based on merit test. Because can predict well enough because so many subjective variables.

      People that benefit that benefit from existing set up Whitehall etc claim merit; people like me who don’t may say not merit because. Its good for ego to say merit for senior, it is good for ego to say not merit if low grade.

      • Replies to ed>

        Comment by another chris posted on

        With respect, I find it very hard to understand your English here. If you feel blocked in your personal career development, this might be one area where you could look at improving your own skills (ideally with the support of your managers), in order to qualify for more interesting opportunities.

  17. Comment by Kevin posted on

    Sir Bob or Christ Last won't reply to comments about civil service pay because it's become a political issue.

  18. Comment by Kevin posted on

    As well as ignoring comments on here Sir Bob also refuses to meet with the civil service unions to listein to their concerns about pay.

    A clear brick wall has been built up to ignore concerns about imposed cuts to pay in relation to inflation, they pay cap, and fair civil service pay issues.

    • Replies to Kevin>

      Comment by Mark $ posted on

      I noted that the best way to shame the 'Mandarins' who refuse to talk to CS Unions appears to be to confront them openly at Civil Service Live...although of course you have to pick the ones they are actually at, namely London in most cases. But the Perm Secs of Cabinet Office and MOD got put on the spot nicely by enraged Union members in Bristol.

  19. Comment by Mark posted on

    Sir Bob

    It's nice to hear your meeting last week with Directors General and Permanent Secretaries made a number of commitments, but where's the delivery?

    For example, for the 5 days a year training commitment, what is the average number of training days provided by the Civil Service and individual CS departments?

  20. Comment by Mike O'Neill posted on

    Belated reply to Sue — 07/02/2014 who asked me to explain what 'JFDI' stood for. Well, as [another chris — 12/02/2014] explained, it stands for something like 'Just flippin' do it.' I first came across the term in a large, aggressive and very thrusting corporate law firm. The 'F' stood for something rather more offensive than 'flippin', and the term was shouted theateningly by (some members of) the senior ranks at the more junior ranks. I suppose the term may have had its place, but I disliked it, for two reasons. Firstly, I thought it potentially offensive and contradicting of the image the organisation wished its clients to have of it. Secondly, I saw the disengaging effect it had on some very good managers, whose input the organisation might otherwise have benefitted from. The JFDI culture made people reluctant to challenge instructions from the top, for fear of appearing 'off message'. Whenever I hear the term I am reminded of those bunker like scenarios where one person in the bunker is shouting at their generals not to bring them problems, but to JFDI and bring them solutions. A bunker may offer sensible protection, but it can also (conveniently, dangerously) obscure the (difficult) truth about what is happening outside. So (in my opinion at least) I think the speech writer might have done better not to include the term in the opening address at Sprint14.

    • Replies to Mike O'Neill>

      Comment by Sue posted on

      I take the point Mike - there are two ways to read JFDI. I certainly wouldn't want to work in an environment where I have no voice and no ability to challenge and have to JFDI - but equally its frustrating if people have to ask permission all the time when it would be so much more enlivening and motivating to let them JFDI.

  21. Comment by Stephen O'Neill posted on

    Sir Bob

    I am a civil servant at Makerfield contact centre which is part of the Department for Work and Pensions. I work as an Administrative Assistant(AA)along with 23 other AA's.Management have announced that the the current work we are doing JSA destruction exercise is due to finish in March 2014 and that we will be surplus, even although in December 2012 we were informed that the JSA destruction exercise would last for at least 4 years.The PCS union is trying to safeguard the AA role in Makerfield contact centre by asking management to tender out for more destruction work ( which I believe is out their).Management also informed us at the time that when Makerfield transformed from a Benefit centre to a contact centre no AA's would become surplus.Management don't seem to want to tender for any further work how ever another area of DWP (Blackpool Disability Centre) has had it's AA's ring fenced by help from it's local MP.We are currently being advised by management to register on the civil service website and look for other AA roles or higher grades the vast majority of which are outside the Wigan area.I would be grateful for any help fom yourself. I have also emailed the MP's for Wigan and Makerfield to help to secure further work for the AA's at Makerfield contact centre.

    • Replies to Stephen O'Neill>

      Comment by Mike O'Neill posted on

      You have my deep sympathy Stephen.

      Sir Bob. Is there any way the modernisers could be persuaded to remember that way out in the regions, an investment in saving civil service jobs may repay UK plc in many ways. These may include greater productivity and engagement; lower accommodation costs; better staff retention and consequent business continuity; better connection with communities using services and - last but not least - the preservation of some spending power without which local shops, services and communities may in turn struggle. I've heard this last idea referred to as 'social easing', with the suggestion that it might prove more effective than the 'financial easing' that was used in the post 2008 banking crisis.

      Footnote: I'm an ex- Londoner and still very connected with it. But in my experience of getting best value for money in businesses that made things, the best bangs per buck were generally obtained by setting up stall away from the centre that was my home town.

  22. Comment by Cath posted on

    I have just come across a new C2 vacancy and the starting minimum salary is equivalent to mine after 6 years in a C2 post! Are we saying that the experience, knowledge, competences and skills acquired during a period of time are equivalent to those of a newbie?!?

    • Replies to Cath>

      Comment by Matt posted on

      6 years in post Cath would likely mean that like many of us you got caught in the trap of pay bands being narrowed prior to the subsequent scrapping of pay progression leaving you stuck at the bottom of your pay band which is where the newbie will now be coming in. Sadly for those who weren't in grade long enough to progress beyond the current minima as you state your experience, knowledge, competences and skills currently count for nothing.

      Personally I'm surprised they even advertised a minimum salary for this vacancy as to my knowledge (and I stand and hope to be corrected on this) pay progression isn't going to be reinstated any time soon so we're all going to sit exactly where we are unless and until we:

      1. tick all the boxes in order to be eligible for promotion
      2. make the decision to take said promotion when it's offered bearing in mind that accepting may well result in a significant reduction of your current terms and conditions of service.

      But hey, average house prices just hit a 1/4 million, it's all good.

  23. Comment by Phil Taylor posted on

    Sir Bob, how can you completely dodge the issues of pay, terms and conditions? I as a manager of a team of 12 was until recently, entitled to the very benefit my team are administrating! Are you aware of this and the issues we all face at the lower end of the pay scale? I have to plan when I am going to have my heating on and go around the house constantly switching off sockets etc because I'm so worried about my heating and lighting costs. And I'm a manager!

    • Replies to Phil Taylor>

      Comment by Matt posted on

      I have to agree Phil, Personally I take the slimiest measure of hope in that this surely is an issue which cannot be dodged much longer without causing irreparable damage to the civil service.

      Inspired by a posting made on another civil service blog I read recently I ran my own numbers as to the impact of the various changes to pay, terms and conditions since 2010. for background I'm a D grade with 10 years of service but despite having never had a bad report or being subject to disciplinary action I'm still stuck at the bottom of the pay band and the resultant numbers make for grim reading.

      By the time the current period of pay "restraint" following on from the freeze is scheduled to finish next year I'm looking at having lost nearly £7,500 worth of pay over 4 denied progression increases , even allowing for tax taking that down to call it £5,000, that's a massive hit both to my finances and morale and will probably take the best part of a decade to fix.

      But it doesn't stop there, on top of the denied increases to base pay all of the increases that have been made to the personal allowance for income tax have in turn been eaten up by forced increases in my pension contributions, these increases have actually lead to an albeit tiny but none the less significant cut to my pay in nominal terms. In other words my pay statement this month showed my take home pay as being less than one issued back in 2010, another massive boost to my morale right there.

      To cap it all off there were no inflation uprates of the pay scales for the 3 freeze years and now under restraint we are being told to consider ourselves lucky to be getting 1% while even CPI is still running at almost double that figure. even allowing for these 1% uprates by the time restraint comes to an end RPI (ie. the measure that actually includes housing costs and therefore far more accurate) will have cut the value of my take home pay since 2010 by some 15+% in real terms.

      This is not sustainable, indeed it is life changing. Put bluntly it has already destroyed my morale and any sense of good will and willingness to go the extra mile on my part. Combined with continued attacks on my terms and conditions and suffocating bureaucracy just be allowed to do my job from within and a hostile press left unchallenged from without it should come as little surprise that I'm already looking for other options.

      I would not be surprised if there are many other experienced, hard working and highly trained staff in the same position also looking for the exit, individuals who will not be easily replaced but who simply cannot afford to continue working for an employer that is going to treat them with such contempt.

    • Replies to Phil Taylor>

      Comment by Another Phil posted on

      He won't say, or do, anything to upset the status quo upon which his entire current comfortable situation is based. This problem is endemic to the entire senior management structure across the Civil Service: too many people have climbed the greasy pole, and will now do anything to stay there.

  24. Comment by Gregg Eassom posted on

    Linking with comments made above about the current methods applied in the Civil Service for managing staff performance. It may be useful to have someone look at the growing body of evidence from psychologists, and the like, that is beginning to demonstrate that our methods are likely to be reducing performance rather than improving it as they should be.

    The following is an interesting article that explains the above point in summary -

  25. Comment by Noel 2 posted on


    That is an interesting article. At a recent management meeting it was revealed that the section I work in, is on average, going to have spent over a week completing PMR in the past year. Compared to the couple of days the previous system took, it would currently appear to be a monumental waste of time for little or no improvement. I also suspect that as people start to receive 'Improvement Needed' box markings, they will feel demoralised and depressed, which I believe will lead to an increase in sick leave.

    I think the new system will promote those who feel proud of every little piece of work they do and have the time to chase up the necessary feedback and compose elaborate descriptions of what they have done, in a manner akin to a member of the audience who has been selected to play the old quiz programme "The Price is Right"!

  26. Comment by Alan posted on

    In reference to the PMR proces I feel that it is systematically flawed. Currently the department has introduced a process which will demoralise it's staff, cause increase in stress levels and demotivate rather than encourage. A great deal of the focus of the PMR system is based on behaviours. This creates a culture of the individuals word against the managers. This cannot be properly quantified and therefore is based purely on the managers opinion.

    This process puts pressure on managers both at band o and senior manager level to meet the required distribution levels. This potentailly results in individuals possibly not getting an exceed marking when this may be merited or a needs improvement marking simply to meet the targets set out by the department.

    The department is clearly out of touch with the needs of it's staff. A great deal is made of the department wanting to engage with staff. The policy makers don't even have the common sense to gauge the opinion of staff at varied levels to determine what may be viable option.

    Once again the policy makers have failed staff. The only outcome I can see is a working environment void of any willingness to give it's best due to being demotivated by a process that is not fit for purpose.