Defra chief calls for bravery in senior officials' appointments

Civil service leaders should take more risks when making promotions to bring a wider range of skills into senior teams, environment permanent secretary Bronwyn Hill has said.

By CivilServiceWorld

27 Sep 2011

Speaking in an interview with CSW, Hill said that promoting diversity at senior levels will require "more of us in the civil service to be willing to take a risk sometimes and to give people the opportunity to succeed."
It can be easy, she said, to appoint "people who think like you and act like you," but this does not make for the best senior teams. "In a team you do need different talents round the table, and that does mean encouraging people who think differently."

The civil service must "move away from thinking that only people who are incredibly intelligent and bright are right to work with ministers," she said. "We also need people who understand how to run things, how organisational delivery works."

Hill's support for broadening hands-on delivery experience at the top of the civil service chimes with comments made by Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude last week. Asked by CSW to explain which aspects of the civil service reform agenda he's finding hardest to implement, Maude highlighted the need to remove the "class distinction" between policy and operational streams.

"You need to get rid of the 'class distinction' between the white collar policy people and the blue collar oily rags who do operational delivery and commercial, professional and financial things. We haven't done that," he complained. "It isn't the case that all permanent secretaries come from the policy stream, but overwhelmingly they do - and until that changes, we will still have a class divide in the civil service. That needs to change."

Read the full interview with Hill here.

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