What a football manager teaches a Permanent Secretary
by John Craig
Matthew Horne and I attended and helped to facilitate a Cabinet Office event last week with the Permanent Secretaries of key government departments and third sector Chief Executives. Stephen Bubb from ACEVO gave a version of this presentation. It reminds us that today the third sector is an engine not just of social renewal but economic renewal. As Stephen puts it:
- Bigger than the car industry and farming
- More staff than the banks
- £120 billion annual turnover
Two things struck me about the conversations of the day. First, it was pleasing to see the extent to which Total Place, beyond the specific pilots, is an idea that is really starting to animate and draw together ideas at the top of Government about innovation in public services. And given our expertise, that can only be a good thing for the Unit. Second, I was struck by how much of our conversation was about structures – the divisions of responsibilities between central and local government and their different departments. But no matter the structure, we still have to build our capacity to innovate, to support good ideas to develop and grow. It reminded me of a line from an old Demos pamphlet: “reform does not only depend on the level and scale at which decisions are taken or performance is measured; it will require greater adaptive capacity in organisations at every level of the system.” Still right. Still tough. As Graeme Taylor says about the obsession with footballing formations, “we should worry less about where we stand before the kick-off and more about how we play together afterwards”.