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Civil Service

Meet our new chief executive

John Manzoni
New Chief Executive John Manzoni

I am delighted to be taking the role of chief executive of the Civil Service, and very excited about the future.

My own background is in private industry. I have led large global organisations in transformation and delivery over 30 years. I have spent the last 8 months leading the Major Projects Authority in the Cabinet Office, and I have learnt a great deal about how government works. In particular, I've learned how much more I have to learn!

But what I have seen is impressive. The Civil Service has a deep public service ethos, civil servants are dedicated, hard working and values driven. And we are achieving a huge amount - far more incidentally than is obvious from the outside.

I believe the organisation is fully alive to the continued challenge of delivering better public services at ever increasing efficiency, and ready to step up to that challenge.

My role is to help you do that, by building the muscle of execution within government, and in so doing deepening and strengthening the reforms which have been underway for 2 years. Much has been accomplished, and much remains to be accomplished.

I see some clear priorities going forward:

First, and most important, it is about us as civil servants. We need to deepen and increase our skill base in specific areas of delivery, including commercial, digital and leadership. Several professions exist within government today - we need to continue strengthening those and build some new ones quickly to offer coherent paths for young people to build their careers and experience. And we need to ensure those skills are deployed at the heart of our everyday business.

We need to ensure that every talented, committed and hard-working person has the opportunity to rise to the top, whatever their background and whoever they are.

We must find ways to ensure that every individual is challenged to perform at their best, and supported and rewarded in line with their contribution.

We must continue to clarify accountabilities, especially around delivery, and provide the best help and support to those who are accountable, including preparing them properly for their roles.

We need to find areas where we can work across government to drive efficiencies to meet the future challenges. Technology is an obvious example, and there are others.

I am encouraged in my discussions with the Cabinet Secretary, and the Permanent Secretaries of the Treasury and the other departments, that there is alignment around the intent, and the general priority areas for action.

Finally, I have no intention of being a stranger! I am looking forward to meeting as many as possible of you over the coming weeks and months, to share perspectives and understand how I can help the civil service toward our future aspirations.

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  1. Comment by Andy Stewart posted on

    I find it staggering that after decades of cost cutting, penny pinching 'voluntary' retirement schemes and lack of carreer development for ordinary civil servants, we need TWO people to head this ever shrinking Civil Service. Worse is that no-one comments on how we can apparently afford two heads of the civil service, whatever you call one of them so it appears to be a different job. This is yet another example of the worst excesses of the Private Sector visited on civil sevants.

  2. Comment by Winston Smith posted on

    you lost me at 'build the muscle of execution'
    Has Plain English fallen out of fashion?

  3. Comment by Andy FitzGerald posted on

    Dear Mr Manzoni
    I read that you have been appointed to the post of Chief Executive of the Civil Service.
    As a Civil Servant employed in Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) I was perturbed to read in the Guardian newspaper that you have sought , and were permitted, to retain your directorship of SABMiller.
    As a director of SABMiller your duty is to seek to maximise sales, and thereby profits to that company. As Chief Executive of the Civil Service part of your duties would be to ensure the effective payment of taxes and duties due to the Public exchequer. Primarily this comes through the Department I work for, HMRC
    HMRC’s own published figures show that the scale of alcohol fraud is represents a loss to the exchequer of at least £1billion. The latest figures that I have show that Parliament has estimated that of the 500 million litres of beer exported from the UK the legitimate export market represents only 150 million litres. This means that 350 million litres of beer alone are being smuggled back into the United Kingdom avoiding Excise Duty and VAT. This represents a loss to the Exchequer of £300 million on beer alone.
    Seizures made by HMRC show SABmiller products in significant quantities of those seizures. The extent of the fraud established by Parliament calls into question whether anyone could both work for a brewer seeking to maximise sales (and fuelling an extensive tax fraud) whilst overseeing the Government Department (HMRC) tasked with tackling that fraud.
    As a Criminal Investigation Officer employed by HMRC I have had involvement in large scale alcohol fraud investigations. I perceive that there is a conflict of interest in you holding both the Civil Service and SABMiller posts at the same time.
    I’d be grateful for a detailed explanation as to how you seek to avoid such a conflict of interest.
    In addition I’d like to ask the following questions.
    What steps are SABMiller taking to ensure that they only supply either exports or UK sales that are legitimate?
    What due diligence procedures does SAB Miller have in place to ensure that they are not fuelling this fraud with a steady supply of alcohol products?

  4. Comment by Adam posted on

    In my experience as a civil servant as an ordinary citizen, the private sector is more inefficient and causes more 'blunders' on a global scale than any civil service department possibly could eg. the 2005 Texas oil refinary disaster, from which people in the area are still struggling to recover. What the civil service can really learn from employing more of these over-paid private sector execs is very unclear to me. Efficiency improvements are all well and good but I do hope that we don't see further damage to the service and erosion of our raison d'etre, to do things for the good of the country and all its citizens, NOT just big business interests!

  5. Comment by Pete Vowles posted on

    Bring it on! I (like many others) are completely up for working together to strengthen and value delivery skills, create stronger accountability and create the civil service we want to work for.

    We look forward to playing our part and leading change wherever we sit....

  6. Comment by Kevin White posted on

    John, as a long standing civil servant and HRDG for the Home Office and Civil Service Learning (badger plus, maybe - Charlotte's post on 3 October), I welcome your initial post. There are a lot of things that are incredibly difficult for civil servants to cope with right now. It is hard for many public servants not to feel that they are being penalised for the mistakes of the commercial sector and years of pay restraint inevitably are hard for staff and make it harder to motivate people.

    Most of these things are not within our immediate gift to resolve, however. But what we do have are great jobs, doing immensly worthwhile things and making a real difference. I have seen that in a number of departments and in a number of different kinds of role over the years and I am proud of what I and many others have achieved.

    I also belive that we can and must continue to learn new ways of working and welcome new thoughts and new people. What we do is too important for us not to want to be the very best and learn from the best around. I am looking forward to working with you on the next phase of this journey.

  7. Comment by Joe posted on

    Welcome, John.

    It's heartening to see that you include 'digital' among your priorities. I work in digital comms and if I could change one thing about my job, it would be the tools with which I work. My laptop at home, bought four years ago for about £400, allows me to work far, far, more productively than my kit at work. Though, happily, I now have access to IE11, getting the various levels of signoff to be 'allowed' to use this (bog-standard, free) browser was a job in itself.

    I'm not necessarily talking about an expensive overhaul of IT. There are some practical and cheap/free steps we can take. For example: ensuring the lower levels of SCS are digitally-literate; allowing greater 'bring your own device' freedoms; permitting access to better internet connections for those in digitally-focused roles.

    As an aside, I echo colleagues' comments on the dysfunctional performance management system. It is ludicrously - insanely - time-consuming with a bit too much back-door dealing and too many unwritten 'rules'. Because so little trust is given to the manager to appraise the performance of their direct reports - as ever, the great god 'Process' reigns supreme - the game rewards those who are best able to navigate the system, not those who are actually good at their job (the same apples, incidentally, to the recruitment and appointment system).

    I'm not a disgruntled refusenik by any means, but I've worked in a few organisations (public and private) and have never come across such a convoluted, exhausting (and often, ultimately, wrong) appraisal system. I'm not sure if you're a poker player, but this one hand that needs folding before the losses get even bigger.

    All the best.

  8. Comment by BIlly D posted on

    "We need to ensure that every talented, committed and hard-working person has the opportunity to rise to the top, whatever their background and whoever they are"

    Clearly not the case judged by the Milburn report. How many fast trackers come from working class backgrounds?

    The performance management system has ruined the public service ethic as far as I concerned. When you start reducing contributions to a transaction, the game is up. More like an episode of the apprentice these days.

  9. Comment by andy posted on

    Agreed why should those who do all the hard work be penalised because they happen to be civil servants! Somehow the public have been told that civil servants all drive sports cars and live in nice houses which might be true of the senior civil servants but not us at the bottom who still live with there parents and cant afford to buy a cheap terrace house in there own town!

  10. Comment by Lisa posted on

    God help us! Yet another failed industry leader being badged as successful,I really do sit and scratch my head, we have enough bad press without this appointment!

  11. Comment by Adrian posted on

    If you truly value "dedicated and hard working civil servants", then please give us a living wage that at least matches inflation and does not lag behind it indefinitely. Also regarding the ethos of "people rising to the top" - it's important to recognise that we are all different and not everyone wants to climb the greasy pole and be career driven. Some us just want to do a good job in the role we are in - an army needs goods foot soldiers as well as generals.

  12. Comment by Dianne posted on

    I totally agree with Chris on this point. It is about time that we are paid a decent salary, with a decent wage increase. MPs in Westminster are civil servants, are they not, and they certainly do not suffer the lack of an acceptable wage increase. I think if we get a 1% increase it should be echoed throughout the entire "civil service". Just sickening!

  13. Comment by Kevin posted on

    If I may........"building the muscle of execution" in government - now there is a phrase that is open to wide (mis)interpretation.

  14. Comment by Richard posted on

    The new performance management system is probably worse than the one that contributed to the Texas City disaster, misconceived, short termist, full of perverse incentives, hugely costly and unfair -- sort that out and you will have done something useful.
    The government must stop trying to make civil servants pay a disproportionate amount toward the deficit reduction, they have had £250k from my pension and yet keep cutting our pay in real terms. So many people have left for greener pastures that we are struggling to get important work done,

  15. Comment by Chris posted on

    "We must find ways to ensure that every individual is challenged to perform at their best, and supported and rewarded in line with their contribution."

    Unfotunately we in the Civil Service are being asked to act more and more like the private sector, but without the rewards which are possible in the private sector. In fact, Goverment now expects us the perform at our best, with no support nor 'reward', for many years to come. How do you propose to work with these contradictions?

  16. Comment by Colin posted on

    I'm not quite sure what I think about your appointment at the moment. But I would be interested to hear your further thoughts in one area you have touched on: You say "...what I have seen is impressive. The Civil Service has a deep public service ethos, civil servants are dedicated, hard working and values driven. And we are achieving a huge amount – far more incidentally than is obvious from the outside...". And its also good to hear you say "...We must find ways to ensure that every individual is...rewarded in line with their contribution...". Could you tell us how you used to do that in the private sector? Only, I can't remember the last time I had a consolidated pay rise - and my last "performance bonus" only just covers my morning cup of coffee?

  17. Comment by Sam posted on

    Firstly congratulations on your appointment.

    However what concerns me is that in this time of ever reducing staff and you see departing colleagues (many of whom are desperate to get out of what they now see as a dead end career with ever worsening terms & conditions) is the creation of another top management post. How many low paid jobs will have to disappear to fund you & your office? What does your job require you to do that wasn't previously being done? Are you just taking on some of what was previously the cabinet secretary's job before the cabinet secretary's job was reduced?

  18. Comment by Kevin Stall posted on

    One of the things I noticed when I joined the Civil Service was there was not 1 civil service. Each agency considered itself autonomous. There is not a unified pay system (though they are working on it) Their is not a unified purchasing system, hiring system or management system. Each is a tiny kingdom of its own. The Performance Management system is one that most commercial business abandoned years ago because it is too costly to operate. I am spending days to prepare for the meetings and document my progress.

  19. Comment by Jo Esson posted on

    "We must find ways to ensure that every individual is challenged to perform at their best, and supported and rewarded in line with their contribution."
    I feel challenged every day, I feel supported most of the time, but I do not feel rewarded for my contribution. But I'm doing better than a lot of my colleagues (locally and across the service). I find it difficult to balance the inevitable outcomes of external pressures with an assertion that hard work will be rewarded.

  20. Comment by steve posted on

    Oh that John Manzoni...
    So I assume more privatisation "partnerships" on the way

  21. Comment by gary donaldson posted on

    You do indeed need to grasp the nettle of career development. too many jobs are earmarked processing and daily hum drum and there is not enough self help should it be day release or assistance for interested parties attempting to progress on a professional level should that be finanial or cipd.

  22. Comment by Alan Law posted on

    As has been highlighted elsewhere the fundamental change that the Civil Service needs is a cultural one. It seems that the Civil Service has been conducting itlelf in the same way for the last 170 years when Dickens wrote of the "circumlocution office."

    Any change has to go deep into the psyche of the Civil Service. In DWP it has always been the case that what do, we do to claimants. The new work search review emphasises that we should work with claimants,find out what their ideas and plans are and help develop those. The emphasis is on empowerment and facilitation. I attended a work search review course (which I found very satisfying) but there were only three attendees. Attendance at other courses is just as low. This shows lack of commitment.

    Procedures and processes are frequently complex, time consuming and obscure. For example the new electronic Habitual Residence Test (eHRT). This is a spreadsheet. It is obvious much hard work and ingenuity has gone into its design. It is, however, slow to use and some questions seem of dubious value. No one has yet provided an answer as to why we ask native British citizens if they can speak English.

    eHRT guidance is obscure. There is much explanation but it frequently fails to answer the questions "how" and "why".

    We seem wedded to making procedures complex and process obscure.

    • Replies to Alan Law>

      Comment by John Manzoni posted on

      Hi Alan. I completely agree with your thoughts on culture. We’ve done a lot to reform the Civil Service – and there’s more to do – but we’ve put culture and leadership right at the front of the Civil Service Reform Progress Report because we know that these are critical to the long term health of the Civil Service. Civil Service Group in the Cabinet Office have been working with civil servants across the country over recent months to develop a picture of the culture we’d like to see in the Civil Service, as well as those things that civil servants find frustrating. We’ve titled our work on culture change ‘CS21 – A Civil Service for the 21st Century’ and you should be hearing more over the coming months as we develop this work further.

      I do think it’s worth highlighting that there is some brilliant work going on in this area already – for example the Civil Service Reform Progress Report has two great case studies of the some of the work going on in DWP.

  23. Comment by Tony posted on

    I joined the civil service as I was committed to a public service ethic and do you know what? I still am after 41 years and believe our job is to carry through statutes; not make "profits". I am glad that my career is drawing to a close, but I fear for both my fellow civil servants and the public in this private sector style delivery administration. The world does not look that bright to me.

  24. Comment by Jay posted on

    Is there nobody in the Civil Service capable of running it? Why is there an obsession in every single department to get private industry invovled in Public service?

  25. Comment by Ricardo posted on

    Pity were are only worth 1% !!!

  26. Comment by Joshua posted on

    I am not very excited about the future. It seems to be pretty awful. Private Sector style targets and management without the rewards or support.

  27. Comment by Charlotte posted on

    Thank you for the comment: "civil servants are dedicated, hard working and values driven". After years of Civil Servant bashing by the media and even from internal colleagues, this has made my day!

    However, regarding the comment: "offer coherent paths for young people to build their careers and experience", while it is important to focus on building for new and young careers, please don't dismiss coherent paths for late bloomers or what I affectionately term, Badgers (not yet silver but getting there!). We too have a lot to offer.