9 October 2014

The British Civil Service appointed a Chief Executive last week. This new role seeks to bring a proven business focus to organisational change. The appointee has been part of the Civil Service for only eight months, moving from an oil industry career.  He has postgraduate qualifications in engineering and business management and an MBA. His role in the BP – Amoco merger may well be seen as pertinent expertise for delivering on Ministers’ demands for a smaller, more effective Civil Service.

And he is appears to be motivated by public spiritedness. Eight years ago his BP salary package was the equivalent of NZ$ 3 million. His chief executive salary at about NZ$ 400,000 puts him among the fifteen highest paid civil servants (the remuneration of none has changed much over the last four years).

This is likely to be seen as a private sector cuckoo in the public service nest. He appointee’s well-known view is that “… the Civil Service is too focused on policy-making rather than leadership on big projects.” Reportedly he would like to see “…a cadre of project managers brought into Whitehall operating on a payment-by-results basis, so a bank of experience is built up …”

Moves are already afoot to change the character of the Civil Service by opening senior appointments below permanent secretary to external candidates.  A culture is sought that will embody accelerated decision making, improved policy making and stronger programme and project management.