Sunday, November 21, 2010

Civil Service Reform Act of 1978: following the British model - the Senior Executive Service (SES) - reform required - the minister


Senior Executive Service Needs Overhaul, Outside Study Finds

By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Senior Executive Service is broken, mired in tired bureaucratic traditions and fails to attract top talent from outside government, according to a lengthy review of the government's elite managers by two outside organizations.

The report, from the good-government group Partnership for Public Service and the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, will be released Thursday. It comes amid new plans to reshape how the Office of Personnel Management oversees the roughly 7,000 career federal executives in the SES.

The service was established in 1978 during the Carter administration's civil service reform efforts, and its advocates hoped it would lead to a promotion system much like the military's, in which officers are promoted to generals only after serving in various capacities and different locations.

Instead, the study reports, civilian senior executives have mostly opted to stay within one agency, ascending its chain of command. Senior managers "have been viewed primarily as agency-specific assets, not federal or national assets", according to the report.

The study's authors spent more than a year analyzing OPM and agency data, and conducting interviews and focus groups with current and former SES members, academics, lawmakers and human resources experts.

The SES "receives way too little attention and needs to be overhauled in a very consequential way," said Max Stier, president and chief executive of the Partnership.

The report includes several recommendations, including one that would shorten the application process. The current setup relies too much on jargon-laced job descriptions and written essays that deter qualified private-sector candidates, some of whom hire writers to complete the application, according to the report.

Senior Executive Service (SES) - Conquered territory?

British Broadcasting Corporation - European Union Flag

Yes Minister is a satirical British sitcom written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn that was first transmitted by BBC television and BBC Radio between 1980-1982 and 1984, split over three seven-episode series. The sequel, Yes, Prime Minister, ran from 1986 to 1988. In total there were 38 episodes—of which all but one lasted half an hour.

Set principally in the private office of a British government cabinet minister in the (fictional) Department for Administrative Affairs in Whitehall (the sequel was set in the Prime Minister's offices at 10 Downing Street), the series follows the senior ministerial career of The Rt Hon Jim Hacker MP, played by Paul Eddington. His various struggles to formulate and enact legislation or effect departmental changes are opposed by the will of the British Home Civil Service, in particular his Permanent Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby, played by Nigel Hawthorne. His Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley, played by Derek Fowlds, is usually caught between the two. Almost every episode ends with the line "Yes, Minister" (or "Yes, Prime Minister"), uttered (usually) by Sir Humphrey as he relishes his victory over his "political master" or acknowledges defeat—and, more rarely, to acknowledge a joint victory.

A huge critical and popular success, the series received a number of awards, including several BAFTAs and in 2004 came sixth in the Britain's Best Sitcom poll. It was the favourite television programme of the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher. [under Thatcher Britain began privatization; shortly thereafter America followed suit with the SES being put in place in 1979]

Inspirations for The Minister:

The writers were inspired by a variety of sources, including sources inside government, published material and contemporary news stories. The writers also met several leading senior civil servants under the auspices of the Royal Institute of Public Administration, a think-tank for the public service sector, which led to the development of some plot lines. Some situations were conceived as fiction, but were later revealed to have real-life counterparts. The episode "The Compassionate Society" depicts a hospital with five hundred administrative staff but no doctors, nurses or patients. Lynn recalls that "after inventing this absurdity, we discovered there were six such hospitals (or very large empty wings of hospitals) exactly as we had described them in our episode."

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