QOTW – can public sector procurement staff succeed in the private sector?

Ian Watmore thinks so. The COO of the Cabinet Office wrote to the Financial Times last week in response to a previous piece in the newspaper on the "perceived limited employability of public servants in the private sector". Here's Watmore's analysis of why public sector folk are highly suited to private sector jobs:

Operational management? What about running a prison of sex offenders. Technology skills? Nothing comes close to the scale and complexity of the tax and benefit systems. Commercial skills? Have you ever let a contract for a science facility that accelerates electrons to near light speed? Customer relations? We serve everyone from the young and old, rich and poor, ill and healthy. Turnarounds? A failing company is one thing, a failing secondary school on a sink estate is quite another. Mergers and acquisitions? Try taking over a collapsing bank in a weekend. Human Resources? Just imagine what is involved in sending civilians to Helmand province. Security? I’d have to shoot you if I told you what our security services do on a daily basis, but, trust me, we are lucky to have them. Public relations? Well, we are always in the Thick of It!

So.. what do you think? Does this apply to procurement? Can public sector procurement professionals make the transition to the private sector?

Is there really that much difference between working as a category manager for Surrey Council or Serco? As a CPO for the MOD or Mott McDonald?  A buyer for Northumbria Police or Northern Foods? Are the skills easily transferable? And what about attitude and motivation?

Comments please; don't hold back! I hope this might be lively...

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First Voice

  1. Dan:

    As always, it depends on the personnel involved. A public sector buyer is more likely to have more transferable skills, as they tend to be involved in a far wider range of purchasing.

    On the other hand, there are a number of public sector buyers who are only really comfortable when following the mandated procurement procedures, and are a little lacking in commercial sense and flexibility…

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