Don't underestimate role of intelligent customer


Specialists and generalists are both needed in civil service – Ferns

Prospect head of research Sue Ferns comments on the debate that has blown up about the respective roles of generalists and specialists in a reformed civil service in her September blog for the Guardian Public Leaders' Network.

Ferns draws attentions to claims by Sir Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, to be both a generalist and a specialist, and to the way Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin recently eulogised the art of the generalist as practised by an elite group of Oxbridge-educated permanent secretaries. She writes: “Letwin's remarks appear at odds with the direction of government policy, both as set out in the civil service reform plan and in work under way to develop the capabilities plan.

“There's a pat answer because, of course, the civil service needs both generalists and specialists. But this is not an answer the kite-flying Mr Letwin appears to accept.”

She warns that Prospect members report that quality of advice is already under strain, adding that it is plain to see that “intelligent customers, not administrative generalists are needed” in many areas, such as to procure new IT infrastructure.

Read the full blog.

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