David Shields to leave GPS (the UK Government Procurement Service)

David Shields, who runs the operational side of Government Procurement Service, is leaving at the end of June, it was announced yesterday. There was no Cabinet Office main website news, just a page on the GPS website.

It also didn’t say anything about where he’s going – the wording certainly suggest it is his decision to leave, but I haven’t spoken to him yet. Indeed, I haven’t seen him since late 2012, so I have no inside information, but it is not a complete surprise. He’s been doing the job for over 2 years, it is a very challenging and full-on role, and he may have calculated that he has personally got out of the job what he can.

He has some good success stories to tell – would things be better or worse if he stayed another year or two? He also has both public and private sector experience on his cv, so I guess the likelihood is that he’s going to a private sector role. we will no doubt find out in time (comments please if anyone knows!).

The note from GPS says that Sally Collier is taking over, but doesn’t make it clear whether that is short-term holding measure or something more permanent.

Sally Collier, Government Deputy CPO, will become acting Managing Director and Accounting Officer with immediate effect. Sally will be supported in this role by Stephen Guy and the rest of the executive management team will remain unchanged. Bill Crothers, Government CPO will continue as Chair of GPS.

I would be amazed if she was prepared to move to Liverpool, where most of the GPS team are situated, given her life in Norwich, but maybe the view is she can run it at a distance – interesting that Stephen Guy gets a mention in the announcement, so perhaps he will be in charge day to day? (He joined as Sourcing Director from Arcadia about a year ago).

Collier is a really first class manager, has run pretty large teams, and may actually be stronger than Shields as an “influencer”. But (and it is a big but) she has never, I believe, been an operational procurement person. She’s been in procurement policy for many years now, which is not quite the same as managing big, difficult  tenders, thousands of suppliers, heaps of data... But good luck and best wishes to her in the role!

I’ve got a lot of time for David Shields. He can be a little direct (even abrasive) at times but is incredibly committed and hard-working, and a highly very structured, delivery and data driven manager. He has good commercial sense, and ( although this doesn’t always come through day to day) he is also an impressive strategic and long-term thinker. We interviewed around twenty CPOs and practitioners for our book a few years ago and he gave some of the most visionary forward views of the professional services market and industry of anyone we talked to.

So, a good time for him to go personally, but a real blow to Cabinet Office, is my interpretation. I don’t know if Bill Crothers – the Government CPO and Shields’ boss – realises just what a tough job it is. But he might find out soon.

And we’ll have more in a few days time on Shields’ legacy and what next for GPS.


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Voices (2)

  1. Bill Atthetill:

    Sadly, no-one will notice he’s gone. I say this knowing that David has taken the organisation further and faster in his two years of tenure than anyone had taken it previously in the last decade.

    No, I’m referring to those who’ve sat on him for the last two years, grandstanding with such powerful, ‘game-changing’ campaigns as “my boss is bigger than your boss” and ‘break-through’ organisational strategies like “it will be different when I strengthen their reporting lines to me”. Real CPOs – ones out there in the “commercial sector” – must be rewriting their manuals. It’s just a matter of time before Professor Cox (Andrew not Brian…) publishes a new book (suggestions for its title are welcome….).

    While Mr Collington drowned in his sea of data, he did, at least, understand procurement. (And it wasn’t his fault that Minister Maude preferred a CPO who liked to wear tartan skirts….) Mr Crothers, however, does not understand procurement, and with 20+ years experience in CRM, it does surprise me that he still doesn’t understand that Departments are customers – not suppliers whom he can beat up to get lower prices….

  2. Phoenix:

    David moving on is a massive loss to public service. He’s achieved an awful lot and has brought stability and assuredness when a lot was changing around him. He could be a tough guy to work with on occasions (and I crossed swords with him a couple of times myself, at some cost!) but personally I have a great deal of respect for the man and what he’s managed to do over the years. In my view GPS is all the weaker for losing him, unless, of course, they can make another big ‘signing’ soon!

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