Civilising our servants

The Civil Service reform plan, launched in 2012 by the last government, said that Civil Service leaders should demonstrate three qualities for the effective delivery of government policy. Civil servant should be inspiring about their work and futures; confident in their engagement with others; and able to empower their teams to deliver.
In a fast-changing, digital world, where high operational and political risks sit side-by-side, different leadership qualities are needed in millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) than those possessed by their parents’ generation. We believe that there are three skill attributes that are needed by these young people in order that they become effective leaders.
First, young people must learn to innovate, redesigning existing ways of doing work by using disruptive technology in a cost-efficient way. To achieve this, the Civil Service should create a culture of creativity and reward for both ideas and successful delivery. Young civil servants should measure user value not solely by costs. They should be encouraged to strive for increased connectivity, and the improved quality and capture of data using disruptive technologies such as Blockchain. In doing so, young civil servant should eschew a London-focused approach and should be encouraged to build partnerships with local community and local businesses.
Second, managers of the future must be skilled enough to create a culture of challenging the status quo using a diverse workforce. They should foster a risk- taking within the overall strategy of their government department. They should be trained in resilience and scenario testing, to plan for extreme and (in the words of Donald Rumsfeld) those events which are “unknown unknowns”.
Finally, I believe leaders must develop sustainable development skills if they are to create a fairer society. The reason for this is simple. the speed of change in both the geopolitical and corporate environments requires a new breed of Civil Service leader who can react to disruptive change and who is encouraged to challenge the status quo. This is the generation that can relate to connectivity (internet of things), a generation that has grown up during the financial crisis and one which cares about equality and environment. Better leaders will make for a more innovative, risk-taking, sustainable, efficient Civil Service able to cope with a world which is connected, digital and disruptive in a societal and geopolitically risky world.

Reproduced with kind permission from the Bow Group

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