Friday, 8 October 2010

Yes Minister

A fascinating item was added to the OPU collection this week, Working with Ministers. I was particularly impressed with the introduction where it stated “Serving ministers can be exhilarating and rewarding: what more worthwhile work can there be than playing a part in the government?” It goes on to say however, “when roles, relationships and ministers’ requirements are unclear, the environment can become unhappy and unproductive.”
The book explains what civil servants are expected to do, from briefing a Minister to drafting Ministers’ speeches and drafting answers to Parliamentary Questions. The book has short pithy statements, which are then expanded, some of these are :
“While it is helpful if ministers understand the needs of the civil servants, it’s essential that civil servants understand the needs of ministers”;
“It falls to officials to ensure that ministers’ decisions are based on a firm foundation of fact” ;
“Standard paragraphs and standard letters should, however, be used with real caution.”
It is a practical and helpful read, there are supplements to the chapters that are very informative, such as useful phrases and sentences. The best supplement has to be words and phrases to avoid. This made me smile as I still hear these words used but these “are now deemed ugly, imprecise or simply over-used and should be avoided,” such as ball park, customer, growing forward, mission statement, to negatively impact, drivers, vision and so on.
I thoroughly enjoyed leafing through this book.

(Photo credit BBC)