This will be the last blog post from me as I’m leaving BDO’s Local Government team after two very enjoyable years to return to a role in local government. Inspired by the new challenge ahead, it’s a good time for me to reflect on what it has been like to work as a consultant, and the lessons I have learned which I will be able to bring to my new role as a council officer.
Experiencing a different working culture
When I worked in local government previously, friends would often ask me how it differed from working in the private sector. I had to respond honestly that I didn’t know as I had nothing to compare it with! Now I’ve worked on both sides of the fence, and while there are differences, I don’t think they are as profound as they are generally assumed to be. One general observation I would make is that people in the private sector seem to be more comfortable with constant change. Obviously local government is going through huge amounts of change at present and is coping admirably well, but in my experience people in local government tend to be less comfortable with change and sometimes seek to resist rather than adapt. This is often because they feel a more direct personal commitment to the services they deliver, and that in itself is one of the best qualities of the local government workforce. I hope that in my new role I’ll be able to offer that level of devotion and belief in the work I do, but combine it with the ability to accept and respond to a future that may look very different.
Keeping the client happy
Every piece of consultancy work we are commissioned to carry out by a client starts with a specific scope, intended objectives, timescales and budget. The existence of that agreement with the client is an incredible driver in terms of keeping me focused on doing exactly what the client wants me to do, not getting side tracked and keeping pace to make sure deadlines are met (within budget). It may sound self-evident but in the past I’ve seen many well intentioned projects in local government lose their way because they lack clarity on one or more of these aspects, or because the accountability lines for delivery are unclear or conflicting. I hope to bring this discipline to the projects I take on in my new role.
Putting my head above the parapet to look at what is going on elsewhere
One of the most valuable experiences from my last two years at BDO has been the opportunity to work in different types of local authority and learn from local government officers from all parts of the country. I have learnt an incredible amount about the range of different ways that similar problems can be approached. Even when a project seems entirely new and innovative, chances are another authority somewhere has tried it already, or at least aspects of it. Who better than officers who have already ‘been there and done that’ to point out the potential stumbling blocks, or necessary prerequisites. The number one lesson I’ll take away from my time at BDO is not to be too introspective. Wherever possible I’ll look for opportunities to connect with a wider network of local government officers and learn from and build on their experiences.
I’d like to say a big thank you to my colleagues at BDO for the support and opportunities which I’ve been given during my time here. I feel I’ve learnt a lot from this bunch of very talented people, and I look forward to putting it all into practice in my new job!