Dear Michael … An Open Letter to the New Minister for the Cabinet Office

Dear Michael

There will be a lot of people giving you advice in the coming days, weeks and months.  forgive me for adding to your inbox.

– Commit to holding this portfolio for as long as this government is intact.  I appreciate that this could mean weeks or months, maybe years.  But, politics aside, what this role needs is the stability and consistency it had from 2010-2015.  I appreciate Brexit will take up a lot of time … but the rest of the show needs to go on.

– Be Francis Maude.  Not him exactly, but like him.  Treat this as the last job you will have before you become Lord Gove.  Use it to reshape the whole of government and how it does business.  Be the enforcer. Move fast, stop things, confront the ostriches (of which there are many).

– Seize hold of GDS and shred it.  It’s served its purpose.  Most of it can go.

– Not all of it though.  Find the few people who are get shit done and keep them doing that shit.  Inject new people from the rest of government alongside them and have them teach those people how to get shit done.  Have them re-work and notify, the two clear success stories, and take them to the next level.   Call them the GSD team.  GSD?  Get Shit Done.

– Scatter most of the rest of the people across government.  Don’t let them take any post it notes back with them and cancel any framework that allows their purchase.

– Stop Verify.  No, I mean it.  Really stop it.  Don’t pretend you can give it to the nebulous private sector.  Take the hit.

– Find another few people who can see round corners and know how to plan for what’s coming next.  Make them the nucleus of a new team – Policy for Digital Government.   Not Government Digital Policy obviously.   Have these folks work out a plan for where everyone needs to get to and work out how the rest of government can intercept that future by making small and regular changes to what they are doing now to line up with the new course.

– Be clear that the job isn’t about websites and tinkering with Discovery and Alpha (the endless iteration of never getting to live).  It’s about making a difference with the big things. It’s about breaking down the walls of government.  The big things are scary, transactional services that, often, are still on systems built 20, 30 or even 40+ years ago.  Those are what we need to confront.  In, as we used to say many years ago, a joined up, citizen focused way.

Because Digital Government isn’t about Government.  It’s about the citizen.  And it’s time we got back there.

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