Council chief executive Steven Broomhead looks at how change can be brought to public service

AS the head honcho of the ‘local civil service’ I took Mr Cumming’s, the Prime Minister’s special adviser, edict as part of my Christmas homework to read the 25 year old book by Andy Grove “High Output Management” in order to pass on tips for reflection and continuous organisational improvement.

It was a tortuous, tough and turgid read with key phrases such as “Success contains the seeds of its own destruction, success breeds complacency and complacency breeds failure.”

Powerful stuff? To most in business it’s probably a useful reminder of what most managers should practice all the time.

For me it has always been a focus on outcomes not process. Just do it ‘in the right way, within budget, with the right outcome’ is what I hope somebody may put on my tombstone (not yet I hope).

Mr Cummings has stated that there needs to be a revolutionary and radical overhaul of the National Civil Service.

He believes that the government’s new agenda to deliver 50 million new GP appointments, new railways and bus services, invest in the north will be defeated without a dynamic and very different Civil Service.

Among the seismic changes would be less ‘public school bluffers’, less graduates with humanities degrees, more data system thinking, stopping meaningless meetings, ending the merry go round where civil servants only spend up to two years in one area before they are moved or promoted to a completely different area and yearly exams.

Mr Cummings has suggested that the Civil Service needs more disrupters, irregulars, weirdos or misfits in order to deliver the radical transformations as part of his policy of creative destruction and renewal. I do expect plenty of ‘online’ comments about this.

So what could it mean here?

Well, firstly the role of local public service officers is very different. We develop policy, give impartial advice to politicians but crucially unlike national civil servants actually deliver projects and outcomes for people in our town.

Of course we are subject to challenge, improvement and change. Locally officers that live here face and feel directly the impact of the delivery of local services/projects.

We are not faceless. I remember a few years ago a senior manager being told in a local supermarket “If you can afford all that in your trolley – you are being paid too much”.

There is something in the change agenda Mr Cummings espouses but you need to take people with you in any organisational change as simple destabilisation doesn’t work on its own.

There’s a danger Mr Cummings may be captured and devoured by the very machine he wants to change.

He may discover that people don’t respond well to being told they are lazy or incompetent. Tact and courtesy are always required in change management.