back to article The Government Digital Service: The Happiest Place on Earth

Last year, the UK's Cabinet Office asked an external management consultancy to examine staff morale and high turnover at the Government Digital Service. After interviewing more than 100 civil servants, its scathing confidential analysis described an organisation beset by low morale and run by a “cabal” management of old friends …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Loosemore also drew on former BBC associates."

    That explains at least some of it.

    "Most of the great stuff in GDS"

    Surely there's something wrong with this phrase.

  2. SecretSonOfHG


    How GDS has managed to recreate the worst traits of the private sector in such a short time.

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: Admirable

      But unlike the private sector this lot are protected by the public system and never ending taxation of the people who suffer the output.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Admirable

      "GDS has managed to recreate the worst traits of the private sector"

      In my personal experience of Civil Service IT, promotion of the clueless and toleration of the incompetent was endemic, so for the career civil servants to condemn that seems a bit ripe. And the bit of the civil service I worked was resolutely un-diverse (though I've yet to be convinced that diversity is a success factor in this particular field).

      Nepotism and favouritism are more troubling, but even there, the traditional civil service promotion panels involved three smug individuals quizzing you on their particular expertise, and then conferring in secret to decide who should be elected to the next rung of the service. Whilst less based on interpersonal relationships, the outcome was that the culture of the civil service (inertia, risk averseness, obfuscation, techno-babble) tended to be promulgated.

      All in all this report seems to be the pot calling the kettle black.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Admirable

        Yes, my experience of MAFF, albeit some time ago now, bears this out.No chance of getting promotion if you were not in the right clique.

        My current experience of the NHS is promote anyone who doesn't know what they are doing or who is a danger to patients to a position where they can't do any real damage, other than pissing everyone else off due to their incompetence, because this is easier than giving them the sack; or, recommend them for the same or more senior role at a different Trust.

      2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

        Re: Admirable

        Having worked/attended a civil service job in the past, I'm not really surprised by any of this.

        But then there was always the number 1 rule of the civil service.. if someone was bad at his job, promote him out of the way.

        Eg deputy engineering manager who did'nt know one end of a file from the other.. well lets make up a post of engineering liason officer (basically he gets the call from the sciencey groups, then passed the request on to the engineering shop) and promote him to that.

        Science gets to talk to us engineers "can you build it?" and engineering talks to science "yes we can , will take 2 days* " without useless deputy going on about budgets and admin and flapping his arse in the way all the time.


        * we used "wrath of Khan time" so that job took us 2 hrs giving us 1.75 days of tea drinking time :)

  3. John G Imrie

    Bewere of thoes that want to make the world a happy place

    For more evil is done in the name of Happiness than any mad Dictator could dream of.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like the NHS

    Where have all those guys that ran the PCTs & SHAs etc gone? Yep, they are still in the NHS running CCGs and CSUs. As every, not what you know but who you know and where you were educated, jobs for the boys from Oxbridge & Eton.

    1. Soap Distant

      Re: Sounds like the NHS

      NHS managers are like the Sith, always in pairs, there is a talented apprentice who actually does the work and another more senior but hopelessly incompetent master who is adept in the dark arts of workplace politics...

      PS I'm not either one, it's just a pattern I've noticed.


  5. Trollslayer

    As expected

    Just like a few multi billion projects where the consultants refused to even use three point averaging.

    A basic approach for any complex project of much smaller scale.

    You know, the consultants that get paid a few thousand pounds a day.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice little dig at Crapita in there :)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Martha Lane Bloody Fox

    I can't understand the adulation.

    She isn't a technology expert or a serial entrepreneur; she had one big hit during the dotcom boom and has since ridden a raft of quangos, charities and boardrooms. I can't see that she has brought anything other than her name to any of them.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Martha Lane Bloody Fox

      Does her name mean anything in Thai by any chance?

  8. Matt J

    Won't comment on the rest of the article/report since I don't have direct knowledge of dealing with GDS, but I have worked with Neil (as an SME supplier) whilst he was in a project delivery role at BIS. Based on this experience, in my opinion the "Whitehall source" has a case of sour grapes, and the implication that he doesn't deserve a senior role is unfounded.

  9. armyknife

    Titles are for toffs.

    So the W1A tv series isn't an exaggeration.

  10. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


    Are they properly following ITIL best practices and PRINCE2 project management principles? Or are they rabidly biting the agile dog chew?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Rawhide!

      They don't need to because they are dIGITAL(tm)

      (capitalization is important)

  11. Proud Father


    ... just the usual dysfunctional money wasting government department.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Government Digital Strategy: annual report 2014

    I just read the annual report for the Government Digital Strategy, published just three months ago, and it says that everything is absolutely spiffing.

    It starts "This has been a great year for digital government. It’s been 12 months of getting things done. I’m pleased to report that the hard work of the Government Digital Service is transforming the way that the public interacts with the government" and continues in this vein for hundreds of words.

    And then at the bottom of the report, there is a link "Is there anything wrong with this page?"

    You mean, apart from being complete bollocks...

  13. seacook

    Go get them

    Sounds like the super BOFH, cattle prod and all, needs to be inserted into the organization. Think of the stories that could result!!

  14. Pat Att

    Patent Office website used to be excellent...

    ... but the move to killed it. Before the move, it had a great UI, with separate areas for professional users and those who didn't know the jargon, and was very helpful. After, it's just a block of links with no explanation behind them. Total waste of the previous efforts.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Patent Office website used to be excellent...

      VAT-Return pages were/are bad, but they're now hidden behind several new-format pages which describe the basics of VAT (I ALREADY KNOW) and hide everything, as you say, behind "a block of links with no explanation behind them"

      Eventually, after 5 or 10 minutes of going round the (new) houses, I tried a link that I didn't think could be the right thing, AND YES, IT TOOK ME TO THE SAME OLD VAT SUBMISSION SITE AS BEFORE (sorry to shout).

      That entire set of managers should be fired, by the sound of it.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now the obvious question

    So the report pretty much highlights what most of us have been slandering and guessing about with GDS since it's inception, so no surprises there really.

    What will be the actions from this report to solve those issues though? My guess is nothing and GDS will just rumble on, as is, pissing tax money up the wall on badly, ill thought out IT projects.

    (I'm crying inside as a similar web project happened here and all advice was ignored and a GDS style site has been released, although I think this organisation beat GDS by not actually doing any testing before release. I have now have months of work repairing the site before we can actually get back to doing any developments.)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The lasting legacy of GDS is a 6pt increase in the font size on web-sites.

  17. Ilmarinen

    "Make sure your insignia is good" he said

    'spose that would include the "OGL" logo too.


POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021