Do civil servants need to be good at selling things?

Traditionally a civil servant provides advice and recommendations, which I suppose are a form of 'sell', by way of a carefully crafted submission. Internal comms team might be expected to promote values and ways of working, and policy teams may wish to raise the profile of their work with colleagues.

What about other changes within Government organisations? I am, of course, thinking about a single website for Government. is all about users. It needs to work for them, not for civil servants.

But for the project to really fly, it needs civil servants to come with it. The people who will continue to make policy and deliver information. For those people who have been comfortable with a fairly direct write-and-publish model, largely unchallenged, the idea that there will be a new way of doing things isn't entirely comfortable. A bit like when organisations are told they have to hot desk. It's not a deal-breaker, but it is disruptive and a break from convention.

Some seem to like just because it's new. Others aren't bothered either way. Some are cautious, but accepting. And for some the change brings uncertainty, which isn't comfortable.

How do you get colleagues on board?

The case for a single website is strong. But it still needs selling to bring people with it, and selling requires confidence. Confidence in the knowledge you have, and the product. Confidence that this is the *right* thing.

These talking points seem to work best, and enthuse colleagues about

  • Users first: no-one will tell you that they don't care about their audience. is user focused so there's very little not to agree with here.
  • Evidence and best practice: the research has been done, the user testing is constant. Google is most people's starting point.
  • It's personal: talk about real examples of tools and services that are better in a world. Think tax discs, red tape and crisis loans.
  • Everyone can be a part of it and provide feed back (but they need to look at it first, before commenting).
  • Reassure people that content won't just disappear from the web forever.
  • There's more to life than websites. We need to break the old fashioned 'write once, publish once' model. Where should we be telling people about this policy/service/consultation? There's a whole world of digital opportunity out there, to help us meet the needs of our audiences. Websites are only one part of that.

This may be too simplistic for some, but there's plenty more detail elsewhere for those who want it.

Do civil servants need to be good at selling things? If we want progress, then yes.