Saturday, 6 October 2012

Generalist, not specialist - thoughts on the West Coast saga

The news this week has been dominated by the announcement that civil servants were allegedly responsible for the collapse of the deal to transfer operations on the West Coast Mainline from Virgin Trains to First Group. Reportedly the problems stemmed down to systemic errors by civil servants, some of whom have been suspended. This whole saga has focused attention on the civil service, and questions are being asked as to whether the system is able to generate civil servants of sufficient calibre to be able to handle immensely complex projects. Humphrey has followed the debate with interest for although he has no knowledge of the deal, nor the department in question, he does feel that this has focused a spotlight on the real challenges facing the civil service, and particularly the MOD, today.

The key issue, in the authors mind at least, is that todays civil service seems heavily weighted in favour of developing generalist desk officers, and not deep specialists. In the MOD at least career structures are theoretically built around four broad bands, listed below as an example of the career structures in place:

Grades E2, E1, D: Entry level administration work, basic management of small sections, some budgetary responsibility. Fundamentally the classic admin roles that is the stereotypical image of civil servants. Well over half of the MOD CS (some 30,000 staff) sits within these grades. Salary ranges from £15,000 – roughly £25,000 at top end of D band scale.
Grade C2 – C1: Middle management. Promotion to this grade achieved by short assessment and competence based interview. These sort of roles involve project management roles, policy making roles, some management and also home to many specialist areas such as intelligence analysts. Salary ranges from £26,000 to roughly £44,000. Roughly 16,000 MOD civil servants at this level in 2011, but this is dropping dramatically.  

Grade B2 – B2: Seen by some as the first point of ‘senior management’, but perhaps better described as the funnel between the mainstream grades and the senior civil service. Promotion to this grade is via complex assessment process held over several months. The level at which individuals are leading teams, running major projects, or acting as senior civil servant overseeing wide range of functions, particularly at some major bases. Salary range is roughly £45,000 - £55,000 for a B2, and £58,000 – almost £70,000 for a B1. There were roughly 1800 B2 and 700 B1 posts in 2011, but again, numbers are dropping considerably.

Senior Civil Service (Grade 1-4, analogous to the 1-4* system): Entry is by competitive selection through long assessment process over several months. At this point individuals sit within a much wider pan government plot, and are expected to provide leadership of wide ranging areas, run directorates, budgets and business areas. They would typically lead large teams with multiple smaller assistant heads. At the most senior levels (Grade 3 or 4) they occupy roles of strategic leadership. The MOD PUS is an SCS Grade 4. In 2011 there were 270 SCS, and this number will fall considerably.

What is immediately clear is that there are three main ‘choke points’ in a civil service career – the jump from Band D to Band C, then to B2, and finally to the SCS. The vast majority of civil servants will never get beyond Band C1 – even in 2011, there were 83,000 MOD civil servants and under 2000 were at Band B or above. (All sources taken from the DASA website – click HERE for the link)
So, why does this matter for civil service expertise? From the authors’ perspective, the problem seems to be one of growing talent internally and then retaining it. The much vaunted Fast stream, which is the most well-known entry point to the CS, brings very small numbers of recruits into the system at Band C2, then aims to have them pass the B2 selection process within 6-8 years. This produces a generation of talent who will move posts regularly (6 months – 1 year) and gain exposure of a wide range of business areas, in order to develop sufficient skills so as to be able to pass the B2 (or wider govt equivalent) assessment process. The Fast-stream is able to put money into training its staff to a high level, and sending them on a wide range of development courses and opportunities in an attempt to pass the selection process and then occupy high profile positions in the future, ahead of entering the SCS in their late thirties to early forties.
The challenge is that for the rest of the MOD, no such career management or access to training exists. Career moves are self-managed, with individuals finding posts through internal trawls and moving when it suits their interests. Site moves are usually not funded, meaning the individual has to pay a lot of money to change location to move on promotion for development. Similarly training budgets are usually the first thing to be slashed – despite best intentions, this authors personal experience is that it is nearly impossible to get training in specific roles – either the courses no longer run, or the T&S funding cannot be sourced to support a course away from the office.
What this means is that for the vast majority of civil servants, a situation has arisen where there is next to no career development opportunity, and almost no professional training. While the specifics of the West Coast situation are unknown to the author, one must ask how much training the individuals in question actually received.
So, the first lesson to take away from this experience is that the quality of the civil servant you get is directly linked to the amount you are willing to invest in training. It may be worth asking whether the civil service as a whole is suffering due to a reduced investment in training.  
Upward transfer of risk
The next challenge facing the civil service is the seemingly inexorable upward transfer of risk away from desk officers. The electronic office is a wonderful thing, enabling infinitely improved ways of sharing information and passing documents around. But, it does come at a cost – it is often much easier to pass work to colleagues, or seniors and ‘just copy them in’ to a document, rather than staff internally then issue for comments.
In some ways this is a good thing, but Humphrey worries that there is a growing tendency to delegate risk upwards. Rather than taking decisions at an appropriate level, even relatively experienced civil servants now seem to push routine matters to B2/Grade 7 level, or even higher, in an effort to get resolution or even approval. This authors’ worry is that it is a little too tempting to copy ones senior official into an email chain, and ask them for a decision, rather than actually make a decision and inform them in due course.
Is there a growing danger that as this culture increases, it will become ever harder for civil servants to actually take decisions at most working levels, without referring further up the chain? How will newly promoted B2 or SCS Grade 1 staff cope when taking up posts if for their whole careers they’ve never been in a position of real decision taking responsibility? Having spent their careers to date pushing decisions up the chain, they suddenly seem to reach the nexus where real decisions have to be made – will they be sufficiently skilled or able to cope with this?
One cannot help but wonder whether some of the more embarrassing civil service mistakes in the last few years owe something to the culture of sending information to a senior for a decision, then an overworked official who is at a nexus of receiving this sort of request, is either too overworked to make a decision in sufficient time, or without sufficient subject knowledge. Could mistakes be rooted in a culture of expecting ones senior to decide what to do, and not being willing (or able) to seize the initiative and make something happen?
Generalist not Specialist
One issue which is a challenge is the way in which the civil service seems to aspire to being a meritocracy, where all are encouraged to become generalists, transferring about the system to develop in different business areas, without putting down too many roots. In theory, someone joining the civil service today as an E Grade could, with the right support and development, aspire to become a Fast-streamer and eventually become PUS.
A common comment the author hears is that the system appears to not encourage people becoming deep experts in their fields. Rather than encouraging staff to develop long term skills and abilities in one business area, staff are pushed to move about to develop their ‘core competences’ to demonstrate their suitability for promotion. It is nearly impossible to become a C Band or B Band civil servant without moving across several business areas. This is fine for those with the funds to afford the mobility required to meet this commitment, but most people simply cannot afford to do this. Friends of the author comment that they feel their career (at whatever grade) has hit a brick wall because they cannot afford to move house or location to start a new job. Others enjoy their line of work, often in niche areas, and would like to develop within it and over time aspire to becoming a C grade head of department. But, because they have not been able to develop their competences more broadly, they are unable to do so, and would not be able to pass an interview to do so.
Here lies a real challenge in the system. Civil servants are encouraged to develop as generalists, but outside the Fast stream no funding is available to let them move location. If they do move to develop, there is no guarantee that they will ever go back to (or can afford to go back to) their first location as a more senior member of staff and use their skills and knowledge to effectively manage the business area.
The system needs to develop some way of enabling people to stay in one business area, but feel they have opportunities for career development – this way it ensures continuity of knowledge, with a credible pool of personnel who will stay in an area for years, if not decades, while feeling they have sufficient development and promotion opportunities to sustain a career. This may in turn provide a reduced chance of the sort of mistakes which occurred in other departments, as experienced individuals can spot problems before they emerge, nipping them in the bud rather than seeing them in the Sun.
If Humphrey could put forward one ‘good idea’, he would strongly advocate the introduction of a ‘specialist’ grade scheme. Allow civil servants to nominate themselves as generalists or specialists in specific areas – then nominate whether a post is a general or specialist post. For those C or B grade Posts nominated as Specialist, a different set of recruitment criteria should be applied, enabling people with technical knowledge, or Project Management skills and not generalist knowledge to compete effectively for them. This small step would reintroduce a credible career path for the many mid level civil servants who want a career, but who do not want to leave their home or area in order to do so, or who do not want to go through the years of preparation required to pass the B2 selection process. It would not undermine the Fast stream, but would ensure that the system produced genuine experts in different areas rather than relying on a generalist with a broad background. This seems to work well for the Military, where different branches have various number of tied slots of OF5 or 1* level, allowing members to credibly aspire to certain posts relevant to their own aspirations.
Avoiding the Mid Career Blues?
One major issue is that of producing a civil service with sufficient technical staff who are motivated to remain in it, rather than leaving for the private sector. One has to wonder how many errors occur because the staff that knew the answer had left to go to the private sector, rather than remain in the system.
Paying public servants more is never a popular decision, and one sure way to get the tabloid press baying for blood. But the problem remains that the civil service has to try and attract a broad range of capabilities. Personally this author thinks the challenge isn’t at the lower ends of the spectrum, where pay for E and D grade workers seems to compare very fairly to the private sector. The challenge is for those in the C and B grades – people who have experience, expertise and knowledge, but who are hitting the point in their life where their salaries are being left behind.
No matter how rewarding a civil service career is, when you are being paid £26,000 per year to do project management work, with tens of thousands of redundancies, no prospect of career development, and a frozen pay progression system, then moving to the private sector suddenly becomes a tempting prospect. The system needs to work out how to retain talent – and also how to bring it in at a more senior level too.
The author has friends who would love to come to join the civil service, and who have a superb range of skills gleaned from years in the private sector. They’ve looked into joining and realised that to transfer in (assuming there was a job opening) would mean incurring a £50 - £100,000 paycut. The very best talent at mid management level cannot afford to leave the private sector and join the civil service. Similarly, the system is not set up to recruit those with experience, or those who leave and then want to come back in later. How does one create a system of bringing in the very best external talent to work for the civil service, without using contractors, and without incurring a vastly more expensive paybill?
There is no right answer to this issue. Humphrey remains proud to be a civil servant, and its incredibly embarrassing to read of the sort of errors which occurred in the West Coast saga. To the authors minds, the issue is trying to address how one retains and develops deep experience within a system which excels at producing a small number of generalist SCS each year, but which seems less good at producing deep experts who feel motivated to remain.
Not everyone wants an MOD civil service career – many staff are very happy in their own world, doing their job and going home each day. But the system has to try to provide a means of developing staff hungry for success, and retaining their skills in the right area. The civil service is good, but with some minor tinkering it could be even greater.


  1. But that applies everywhere.
    Almost everywhere anyway, the only way you'll get relocation in the real world is if you are forcibly relocated.
    And even then, its **** all.

    I got two limited expenses paid trips to house hunt, legal fees, and movers, if I had VAT invoices.

    And they were making my role redundant!

  2. From my recent experience of recruiting 4 people from C2 - B2 one of the big problems is the need to go through a staged recruitment. Stage 0 - 4 each one after another. In the roles you are talking about it would be better to allow open recruiting with weighting to Civil Service applicants. Of course the might of the unions will not help.

    I must email you with my tales of misery.

    1. Navy Red - I think we could easily swap tales of the challenge that the process involves, although I may win on points with recent experiences!

  3. Your hierarchical description of the civil service ignores the fact that the SCS nowadays recruits from outside. Kate Mingay, currently suspended from the Transport Department, was an executive director at Goldman Sachs no less - see this report in the Guardian:
    which reveals that she is retaining the services of Mishcon de Reya!

    1. WI - thanms for the comments - the SCS does bring people in, as does the CS at all levels, but its extremely time consuming to get to the point where external recruitment can be used.

    2. I thought Mingay AND Heywood were seconded to the banking sector to gain management experience. I think they were contaminated.

  4. That's the thing. For these post we have to go to Re-deployment pool first. Not best candidate in open competition but the person in the re-deployment pool who matches the job advert and has no reason not to be offered the job at interview. We have to have a strong case not to take them. If nothing Stage 0 recruiting from within MOD CS, then recruitment from wider CS and only then if all else fails raise another business case to senior management at 2* level with all the nausea that brings to go external.

    Now for E and D bands performing admin or lower level management functions I can live with that, using the internal recruitment process to best affect but at the senior level (in this case C1 and B2) it is not the best way to recruit in to post the best person, just the person who gets lucky at the right stage of the process. Of course the stumbling block is to break this system requires Union consultation.

    1. I would personally argue that the bigger issue than not being able to recruit externally until the end of the stages is the fact it requires going through both internal and civil service wide level transfer before anyone can apply on promotion.

      This severely limits the career prospects for bright lower level staff (especially in specialist functions), since chances are you will have someone successful on level transfer from a completely different business function who meets the minimum core competencies rather than someone really good from the same business function on promotion - especially egregious when there is a good chance the lower level person has been doing the job already on temp promotion whilst a replacement is recruited. It forces people out of technical specializations just to have a chance to even be promoted and demoralizes them by seeing mediocre people of the 'right' grade taking roles that they could potentially do significantly better.

      The thing is certain specialisations do have technical career paths, where someone from that specialisation can get, for example, their B2 without the same assessment centre, but which is only valid for roles in that specialisation - Stats definitly do this, as I believe do Economists and Social Research posts - however this does not stop the people going through the regular assessment centre if they wish to take non-specialism roles. They need to open this up to other specialised functions too (Project Management, Procurement, and Analyst functions seem the most likely).

    2. Anyone who follows this blog should read the 1971 Goverment Organisation for Defence Procurement and Civil Aerospace.
      Available on National archives.
      This document although dated is worth the time. I will leave readers to reflect in their own thoughts.

  5. Hit several valid points spot-on as usual, Sir H. I second your analysis of the FS process as likely to produce generalists whose experience is thinly-spread over a range of business areas. There are indeed roles that are best filled by such types, but it's hardly ever a good idea to put one in charge of a specialist area.

    Re the hugely unfair weighting of increasingly limited training and relocation resources towards the FS: yes, quite. The meaningful training courses may as well be fenced off behind razor wire and armed gorillas, so inaccessible are they to those of us who are not in the FS yet still aspire to progress to a decent salary one day before it's too late. As for mobility and assistance with that, it's always been a source of wonder to me that we're expected to dutifully beggar ourselves in order to live within striking distance of central London, and that the MOD has been able for so long to hypnotise its civil servants into accepting without much of a murmur a London Weighting Allowance significantly less than that given to the police, teachers and NHS staff, and that civil servants obliged to work in Whitehall are denied the 'key worker' status that would open the door to a lot of housing assistance, and that we can find ourselves paying London rent we can't afford, and extortionate daily travel fares we can't afford, while some supercilious operation-avoiding military fop with a pinstriped suit we could never afford gets put up by our common employer at very little expense to himself in a rather nice apartment in a rather nice part of central London. That sort of thing somehow never gets reported by the Mail and the Telegraph, does it?

    As for pay, you express the situation accurately. For grades C to B, it's truly shameful. The government-imposed freeze on pay progression through these already pitiful salary scales is a disgrace. If only there were some way of making Osborne, Cameron et al feel what it's like to lie awake most nights trying to work out some way of putting together a shattered model of pay expectations so as to construct a retirement not led in poverty. Why is it that MOD civil servants are forced to accept pay progression stasis when progression continues as normal for - apologies for repetition - our uniformed colleagues, the police, doctors and nurses and teachers? How have we come to find ourselves being screwed doubly, if not triply, over pay and pensions? Can we have a British Spring please?

  6. In procurement, it is difficult to see how a generalist approach exists. The move to Abbey Wood sadly effectively killed the transfer between Whitehall staff from MB to Holborn buildings.

    The thing with procurement, is that politicians have, for political reasons, created all the hoops which Government procurements have to meet (all of these carry with them an unavoidable overhead in staff time and effort). The new Government has even added to them. All this at the same time as reducing the number of staff available to undertake the task.

    When it all goes wrong, the Government says it is the CS fault and brings in people like Gray to privatise it. From what I have seen, the quality of the people brought in is no better than the people already there.

    Take the case of the "very expensive lightbulb" of a couple of years ago - it was Levene who created the system that delivered that and at the same time the issue came to errr light in the Sun he was busily designing a nice new Department for his pal Fox. Similarly, Gray as advisor to Robertson is as culpable as anyone for the entirely predictable heat in the Equipment Plan, which occurs when you try to buy new everything for everyone at once as a consequence of the original SDR, which all the mad hatters friends declared as wonderful at the time.

    1. Hammer, nail, head.

  7. I didn't think it would be long before Sir Humph had his four'penneth in the matter of the Ministry of Transport's latest cock-up and very illuminating it was. A veritable cliff wall of a defense of the malaise under which the CS labours.
    First of all, I wouldn't start from here, as the saying goes, but here is where we're at! I wouldn't send my bookkeeper to a bank for work experience. It's an oxymoron. Banks have loads of experience in the sorts of things with which the CS shouldn't be meddling for fear of catching something not equitable with probity
    However, I wouldn't cut back on training in hard times. Its a typical example of the old saw that certain specialists know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. The better the training the better the soldier. Surely your beribboned colleagues would vouch for that, and training your telephone receptionist will give you better returns than sending your creme-de-la-creme to a posh bean counter. For heaven's sake send 'em to Nissan and then see how they stand up.
    It is surely no surprise that, under a cost cutting regime, every group or individual is putting forward every possible reason for being excused the knife and shining an uncomfortable light on the absurdities of the organisation.
    Because the media and opposition parties want to find fault with anything, (and anyone can), the government and the CS try to come up with a copper bottomed case of a no-fault decision. It can't be done. It just produces the thickest wad of useless paper work which no responsible politician would find the time to read. The politician AND his CS should write down on one side of an A4 sheet of paper what they want. Any potential bidder should then accept at least a third of his/her management board to be CS nominees, AT CS levels of pay, (paying top dollar doesn't get you value for money-you just get unrealistic levels of expectation).
    Finally. Put a stop to any CS getting jobs in the private sector which are quite clearly conflicts of interest. This also corrupts the system and is getting so obvious a career move at B and C levels as to be embarrassing. However, I wouldn't try to stop CS employees from successfully using their CS experience to get jobs in the private sector. That would be good for the CS as you would have friends in high places, but the cut-off must be below C level. I know it may be difficult, but not beyond the wit of Sir Humph, I'm sure.
    There seems to be an assumption that high pay is the only indicator and satisfaction for those in senior management. That's true for the banking sector, but we have all surely learned that it is no substitute for excellence and I am also proud of the Humphreys of this world who can see something of value in providing a service to the public.

  8. You have the SCS grades the wrong way around.
    gr5 - 1*
    gr3 - 2*
    gr2 - 3*
    gr1 - 4*.

    JT is a grade 1.

    Also, promotion to Band D is the main cholke point for most admin civil servants. Promotion to that grade is via a similar assessment centre to that to get to B2 (although obviously far easier). Exceptions are made for specialists and graduates who can start at Band D. Band D is the first management grade. FSers start at equivalent to a C2.

    1. Hi anonymous, sorry for the delay in responding, I've been away.
      On the grade issue, I've seen it referred to in two different ways, both the one you've cited, but also seeing 1* SCS being called SCS1, 2* as SCS 2 etc.

      My understanding on the D grade assessment centre is that it was scrapped a couple of years ago, and that any replacement has yet to emerge. There remain a variety of suitability tests, but at present I don't think the centre is running.

    2. Thanks for responding - btw, I'm the same "anonymous" that's scattered over this post. Sorry for multiple comments.

      You're right that they scrapped the band D assessment centre - I'd forgotten about that gem. However, promotion to that level is still to formal assessment, rather than interivew, and band D is the first management grade. Outside Whitehall/ABW, band D is a position with a lot of power.

      Also, SCS1/SCS2 etc. That's a different terminology again. SCS1 is a gr5, is a 1*.

  9. "The challenge is that for the rest of the MOD, no such career management or access to training exists"
    DCP runs the MIDIT scheme as an internal almost-fast stream.

    "he Fast-stream is able to put money into training its staff to a high level, and sending them on a wide range of development courses"
    Well, that's the promise. The reality, at least in MOD, is different. Which is one reason why so many fas streamers left MOD in droves - they were expected to start competing for jobs with personnel from other departments who had been given this training.

    "Rather than taking decisions at an appropriate level, even relatively experienced civil servants now seem to push routine matters to B2/Grade 7 level, or even higher, in an effort to get resolution or even approval."
    A few issues there. Firstly, if the B2 is allowing that, it's poor management. Which does happen everywhere you look. Secondly, perhaps due to a move toward accountability that had the opposite effect, many "routine" decisions require approval at B2 or SCS level. PQs, FOIs, investment decisions, etc all need (due to Govt. processes) clearance at a level higher than the people doing the actual work.

    "Could mistakes be rooted in a culture of expecting ones senior to decide what to do, and not being willing (or able) to seize the initiative and make something happen? "
    Or in believing there to be no accountability, except for Ministers. Or in believing that any bed you make is for your successor to lie in.

    1. Hi anonymous, sorry for the delay in responding, I've been away.
      I am very familiar with the MIDIT scheme, although I've held back from putting my own views on it here. I am left with an impression that the two schemes are increasingly interchangeable, albeit with the caveat that FS still remain 'owned' by the Cabinet Office.

    2. Um, for those on the schemes - no. They are not interchangeable. FSers tend to get the "black bag" jobs, whilst MIDIT get what's left. FS also have better theoretical training provision and are held to a higher standard than their grade.

      MIDIT are not subject to the same strict reviews and controls.

  10. My comments are based on listening to my partner who has just left the MOD after 20 years service. In that time she worked at five different MOD establishments in the area.

    What surprises me is how little importance is placed on qualifications, particularly at C2 and above. She had a HNC in IT studies, which she obtained on day release while working as a E1. She was not aware of any other colleagues and contacts in all her places of work having qualifications beyond O and A levels.

    To my mind, as someone who has worked in industry and commerce, C1 is a professional grade where a useful degree should be mandatory. That grade should also have a very high salary potential for technical specialists who have no or little managerial potential. Otherwise, what's the saying, everyone gets promoted to their level of incompetence, or they leave or remain frustrated when less qualified people get promoted around them to enjoy better salaries.

    Even before the pay freezes there didn't seem to be a way to move up your pay scale. Going from D to C2, my partner moved on to the lower end of the C2 pay band, while outsiders came in considerably higher up in the band. Yearly pay increases simply moved everyone up a spline or two. There didn't seem to be any merit rises.

    The problems you have highlighted are common thru industry and commerce, not everyone can get to the top. If your career is at a dead end then you need to leave, your employer can always find someone better for less anyway.

    Neither are the majority of salaries in the real world nearly as high as reported in the press, salaries in government are quite good particularly with the gold plated pensions.


    1. Thanks for the comments Ted - they are really useful in setting some context to this debate.

  11. I'm afraid you have a skewed view of Civil Service Grades in MoD and what each is required to do.

    First, you describe Garde D as mainly Admin. An engineering Grade D will have been expected to manage, for example, minor or major works programmes. He is expected to manage significant workforces within workshops; say, up to 100 staff.

    Up one to Grade C2. As above, but moving to multiple larger projects or management of 2-300 specialist staff.

    Grade C1 - as above, but 600 staff and/or manager of significant programmes, involving multiple projects. A C1 is expected to manage Cat A programmes by himself, with little or no support.

    Very often, a Cat A (£400M+) programme will be managed by a C1, with his boss (B2) actually reporting to him as he only carried out minor tasks on the programme. The C1 will have the delegated signing powers, but the B2 won't; often because he is not an engineer.

    In other words, the team pyramid is upside down!

    The problem with MoD CS is that above guidelines are not applied equally to all staff. If you are a direct entrant/graduate (C2 as first post) then you are not expected to manage staff until Grade B2. You won't be exposed to managing even small projects by yourself.

    Thus, there is a two tier system, whereby inexperienced staffs, with no training and no obligation to learn anything about the 5 grades they have missed (up to C2), are groomed for higher level posts; and when they reach that level their incompetence shines through. (This describes most of the current DE&S hierarchy.)

    Meanwhile, the experienced, properly trained staffs, who have worked at every grade, are held back because, in practice, they are the ones who dig MoD out of a hole every time the blue eyed boys screw up. As you say, MoD is getting rid of these staffs, and has been for many years. The result is a foregone conclusion.

    1. You have a point, but if only it were quite that simple. The real problem is that we are trying to make one grade structure do too many things. The MOD Civil Service is incredibly diverse because of the vast range of things we do, but we will insist on keeping trying to squeeze it into a single unified grade structure that is largely unable to provide for pay progression and professional advancement except through the medium of promotion through to management. I find it hard to see why we should expect one system to cope with the different career paths of policy/secretariat administrators, engineers, industrials, scientists, surveyors, accountants/auditors and transactional processing staff, leaving aside the separate question of business management and leadership in the SCS, which is a skill set of its own (in which we're sadly deficient). And that's a fairly small subset of the different skills, trades and professions we employ. Bands E-B don't quite cut the mustard. And 2-3 year pay and promotion freezes make the problem even worse.

  12. Woke up this morning, six hours later, in not the most robust state. Last night we saw Jonathan Chan, a 20yo violinist and pianist from Vancouver who plays the shit out of both. He's studying in London. moving to london

  13. The electronic office is a wonderful thing, enabling infinitely improved ways of sharing information and passing documents around. But, it does come at a cost – it is often much easier to pass work to colleagues, or seniors and ‘just copy them in’ to a document, rather than staff internally then issue for comments. apartments in london

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