UK civil service chief exec on learning from overseas

By on 14/12/2015 | Updated on 25/09/2020
John Manzoni, Chief Executive of the Civil Service, being interviewed by Matt Ross

What have top civil servants learnt from overseas, and what do they have to share? To help our readers get the best out of Global Government Forum, we’ve started asking interviewees five standard questions – four seeking practical advice and opinions, and one to reveal something a little more personal.

Here, you can watch the answers of UK civil service chief executive John Manzoni. It’s worth giving it the full five minutes – his last answer, explaining his favourite book, is of more than literary interest. Manzoni, a newcomer to the civil service from the world of business, has made it his mission to focus Whitehall officials on the importance of delivery; of listening to the frontline; of strengthening those crucial feedback loops between the policymakers and those managing and providing frontline services. Hence his choice of Hermann Hesse’s Glass Bead Game (AKA Magister Ludi) – which he calls “a study of the difference between the intellectual elite and the practical, pragmatic approach”. Fascinating stuff.

Watch out for future interviewees addressing our five questions, which are as follows:

• Can you name one lesson or idea from abroad that’s helped you or your colleagues?
• Are there any projects or innovations in your country that might be valuable to your peers overseas?
• How can we improve the ways in which senior public officials work with and learn from their peers overseas?
• What are the biggest global challenges within your field over the next five years?
• What is your favourite book and why?

If you’d like to catch up on those you missed, you can read the answers given by the former head of the UK Government Digital Service and the Secretary of Australia’s Department of Finance.



About Matt Ross

Matt is a journalist and editor specialising in public sector management, policymaking and service delivery. He was the editor of Civil Service World 2008-14, serving an audience of senior UK officials; and the features editor of Regeneration & Renewal 2002-08, covering urban regeneration, economic growth and community development. He has also been a motoring and travel journalist, and now combines his role as editorial director of Global Government Forum with communications consultancy, marketing and journalism work for publishers, public sector unions and private sector suppliers to government.

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