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The devil in the detail

Pravda central has put out a release telling us just how great the Dept of Work & Pensions is, including:


"Whitehall's largest government department is in good shape and delivering a better service to its customers".

and:

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, James Purnell, said:"This report shows that we have a really well run Department delivering its services increasingly effectively to the millions of people it serves every day. The report is a great tribute to the leadership and staff of the DWP - and I want to congratulate everyone's hard work and commitment to ensure that we are delivering results."


What Purnell did not see fit to announce in his puff piece are the following:

"DWP...needs to clarify its direction of travel to staff, and to articulate its core purpose and the end result it wants to achieve. The Department needs to consider how best to ensure understanding of its aims and achieve buy-in, and embed this throughout the organisation. (Apologies for the managementese, I'm just copying this stuff. C)

* Staff engagement scores are below the central government benchmark but are consistent with a large-scale delivery department undergoing massive change. The Department must work hard to improve engagement with its staff.

* Although plans are in development, the Department has not yet articulated clearly what it needs in terms of its people and skills mix and ways of working to ensure future delivery effectiveness. There are concerns amongst staff about the performance management system and the consistency with which it is implemented. These include concerns over differentiating performance, incentivising good performance, tackling poor performance and identifying and meeting development needs.

The Department could push further to encourage more strategic innovation.

* Whilst stakeholders think that the Department is working more innovatively and proactively, and is good at adapting as it delivers, they think that it could do more to encourage a step change rather than incremental change.

* The Department could do more to encourage a consistent culture of appropriate challenge and innovation from staff and stakeholders. DWP needs to give better feedback to external stakeholders and to explain its response to their advice and suggestions.
* Much is riding on Lean (an initiative to streamline processes) to create the space for future investment. The Department will need to ensure that this initiative is having the desired impact.


Further, leadership direction setting and capability building and planning, resourcing and prioritising of delivery - that latter bit being what these people are supposed to be doing all day - are euphemistically termed 'a development area'.


Not quite so rosy, is it?

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Anonymous Umbongo said... 9:44 am

The "team" responsible for preparing the report were two professional bureaucrats (one from central, one from local government) and the head of a notoriously bureaucratic organisation in the private sector (Egg and a division of CitiBank). In my (admittedly limited) experience of reviews undertaken within the government machine the work is actually done and the report written by career civil servants who wouldn't know efficiency (as it is practised in the real world) if it reared its ugly head and bit them on the bum.

Even so this report damns the DWP (in the conclusions highlighted by you). However, if you only read the foreword - penned by Gus "Jump Prime Minister? How high?" O'Donnell - you'd think that we were in a paradise of efficient, effective and productive government. Are these people deluded or simply just liars?  



Anonymous Verity said... 7:51 pm

"Whitehall's largest government department is in good shape and delivering a better service to its customers".

Hello? Alice in Wonderland tea party time here and the Mad Hatter is speaking.

Where does a government department find "customers"? Surely the word he meant to employ is "owners"?  



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