Bernard’s speech was different from most political speeches about the Civil Service. Normally a politician gives you a strong diagnosis – usually that everything is going to hell in a handcart – followed by a confident assertion that a particular set of specific changes will put everything right. But this is not Bernard’s approach. His core theme is that the Civil Service, like any large and complex institution, is bound together by the relationships of those working within it. If you want to improve how the organisation works, you need to concentrate on strengthening these relationships. Jenkin remarked a number of times that change in the Civil Service cannot come from outside, from the confident prescriptions of Parliament or anyone else, but must come from within. For him, staff engagement is vital and needs to be a central component in the appraisal of permanent secretaries. While his speech probably owes more to the pages of the Harvard Business Review than the typical cut and thrust of Westminster, that does not mean politics were absent. Jenkin touched on the most powerful and compelling set of relationships in Whitehall: that between ministers and officials. How can officials provide constructive challenge when trust […]

Original source – Institute for Government

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