Chief executive’s work praised, but staff ‘shocked’ at pace of change
LARGE sections of the public sector are in ‘shock’ over the ‘scope and pace’ of OneGov transformations, although the chief executive’s performance throughout 2018 was ‘exemplary’, according to a new independent report.
The appraisal of Charlie Parker’s first year in the job, written by UK government adviser Dr John Nicholson, also found that some staff felt ‘overawed’ by the chief executive and were ‘frightened’ of giving him bad news.
Dr Nicholson said that Mr Parker’s influence in year one had at times been ‘overwhelming’, with sections of the States ‘paralysed by a discussion of his wishes and motivation’.
Mr Parker was appointed to lead the public sector reform programme in 2017 – replacing the former States chief executive, John Richardson.
Dr Nicholson carried out the report by analysing Mr Parker’s performance against his target objectives while speaking to 18 ‘third-party’ respondents, including senior civil servants, politicians and ‘leading figures in the community’. He has previously worked as a psychology professor at Oxford University and founded Nicholson McBride, a company which reviews process and procedures in public and private organisations.
In his first full year in the role, Mr Parker has faced criticism for the number of senior staff brought in on large salaries, while concerns have been raised about the power and influence he holds.
Dr Nicholson said: ‘At the end of year one, significant parts of the organisation are in shock as a result of the scope and pace of the change they have experienced. Their disquiet is shared by (some) politicians and parts of the media and other opinion formers.
‘However, the level of consternation is, if anything, less than I was anticipating, given the historical and geographical context. The scope and pace of the One Government programme also seemed to be well judged – there may have been shortcomings in the way in which it has been explained during year one, but this is typical of the early stages of many transformation programmes.’
He added that Mr Parker’s performance had been ‘exemplary’ and that he had led the reform programme with ‘determination, gusto and imagination’.
However, comments made at a meeting of the executive leadership team at the end of 2018 showed that Mr Parker ‘tends to overawe us’ and revealed that some were ‘still frightened about giving Charlie bad news’.
Another comment included the line: ‘Some of us just want to get on with it – leave us to it, please Charlie...’
Chief Minister John Le Fondré said: ‘I am satisfied that the chief executive has made significant and demonstrable progress against each of his six strategic objectives and that he is fully in charge of his brief.
‘He has proved his ability to navigate the public service through a period of significant and complex change, tackling a number of urgent legacy issues that required his personal attention, designing and beginning to implement a new organisational structure, and appointing a new senior leadership team.
‘The organisational-change process is not yet complete and there have been hurdles and challenges to overcome along the way and still to come.’
He added that Mr Parker’s key targets for the remainder of 2019 were to deliver the Government Plan, make progress on the new hospital project, deliver long-term efficiencies and develop a plan to revive the Island’s infrastructure.