We often wish that there were more businessmen in
government. That would be good for business and good for government.
Yet the experience of those who are drafted into ministerial
office from the business community is usually frustrating.
The latest example is Digby Jones, former Director General
of the Confederation of British Industry, which represents big business in the
UK. In June 2007 he was appointed Minister of Trade by the British Prime
Minister, Gordon Brown.
He resigned in April, 2008, after less than a year in
Last week, he described his
time as a government minister as “one of the most dehumanising and
depersonalising experiences a human being can have”.
Hyperbole, perhaps, but it does illustrate the huge chasm
that lies between private sector attitudes and public sector culture – a gap of
understanding that is getting wider:
1 The public sector
is obsessed with process where the private sector’s priority is purpose;
2 In the private
sector, responsibility and authority rest in the same place, in the person of
the entrepreneur, but in the public sector it is usually unclear where they lie
in complicated structures;
3 The public sector
acknowledges little relationship between job security and performance;
4 There is a big
difference in public and private sector concepts of the “work ethic” – to put
5 Survival in the
private sector depends on the ability to face facts as they are, but promotion
in the public sector depends on the ability to say things one knows to be total
6 The private sector
demands that the individual accepts the consequences of his actions; and
7 The public sector
is all about power, but private business exists only if it gives others what