Andrew Greenway has written an interesting post in defence of the ‘senior civil service’. I don’t have much to say directly about what he has written — my experience with the SCS is primarily limited to those I know at ONS and a few I’ve known and know at GDS.
Even with that narrow a perspective I have seen a wide range of people in these roles with varying levels of risk appetite and interest in transformation and digital opportunities. I have always been a long way from Westminster though and have zero experience of the ’policy’ end of Departments and their leadership.
From a purely personal point of view it has often looked like a pretty thankless task and I’ve been pretty open about the fact that I have zero desire to be promoted any further than I am (not that I am exactly beating the offers away).
There is this semi-famous (in certain circles) mapping of civil service roles to their military equivalents that I always just find amusing — apparently I’d fall somewhere between Colonel and Brigadier — are you having a laugh! I am basically an overblown website manager — hardly Colonel material.
I’ve written before that I don’t ever see myself as a digital leader — though if you want to nominate me feel free 🙂 — and believe I am more effective operating a bit closer to the coal face and influencing smaller teams — more Boot Room than Boardroom — seeding transformation via example rather than edict. This might just because this is what I enjoy though and I find operating at organisation scale frustrating. I’m never going to “push units round maps with a croupier stick.”
This is probably career limiting but at this point in my career a certain amount of professional self-awareness is required I think. I’m just always going to be that guy wearing trainers, humming away to himself, who is a bit more informal than the occasion probably demands, quietly rages against any element of bureaucracy that hinders his plans. Like Popeye — I yam what I yam.
What I am not is a tiger.