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Paul Madden

British Ambassador to Japan

Part of UK in Australia

14th November 2011

G.O.D – UK Civil Service Head in Canberra

Last week I accompanied Sir Gus O’Donnell, Head of the British Civil Service for some calls in Canberra on his way back from CHOGM.

He met Australia’s “200 Group”, a collection of the country’s top 200 federal civil servants, and gave a fascinating talk drawing on his experience of delivering change, and improved performance across the public sector, in the context of tough financial pressures. He referred to his famous 4 Ps mantra – Pride, Pace, Passion and Professionalism as values for the civil service.

Britain’s top official, Gus is very definitely not the stereotypical Whitehall mandarin. In fact, in my experience, such stereotypes are nowadays confined to the re-runs of “Yes Minister” TV shows (the West End stage show based on the series is just about to come to Australia). As Gus said, for modern civil servants, policy formulation is not enough, excellent delivery is absolutely essential. He started life as a professional economist, and continues to draw on an economic frame of reference in analysing policy issues. He has worked closely with the last four prime ministers, Conservative and Labour.

His Australian counterpart, Dr Ian Watt referred to Gus’s “wondrous interpersonal gifts”, quoting his Wikipedia entry, and he certainly lived up to the billing. He has a knack of addressing complex issues with great clarity and with telling examples drawn from his direct experience. British and Australian officials face many similar challenges, particularly in dealing with so called “wicked problems” that have complex interdependencies that run across the responsibilities of several ministries. There is no single right approach, so we have much to learn from each other. I spoke to one young Australian official who had recently returned from a secondment at the Cabinet Office in London, who was full of enthusiasm for the benefits of such exchanges. In a world where the public sector in all countries is sometimes unfairly maligned, it was good to be among a group of senior professionals taking such an obvious pride in their vocation.

1 comment on “G.O.D – UK Civil Service Head in Canberra

  1. Shame Gus hadn’t risen through the FCO ranks, instead of GCB, the old GCMG gag would’ve had even more resonance!

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About Paul Madden

Paul Madden has been the British Ambassador to Japan from January 2017. He was Additional Director for Asia Pacific at the FCO in 2015.He was British High Commissioner to Australia…

Paul Madden has been the British Ambassador to Japan from January 2017.

He was Additional Director for Asia Pacific at the FCO in 2015.He was British High Commissioner to Australia until February 2015. Prior to this he was British High Commissioner in Singapore from 2007-2011.

A career diplomat, he was previously Managing Director at UK Trade and Investment (2004-2006), responsible for co-ordinating and
implementing international trade development strategies to support
companies across a wide range of business sectors.

As Assistant Director of Information at the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office (2003-2004) he was responsible for public diplomacy policy,
including managing the FCO funding of the BBC World Service, the British
Council and the Chevening Scholarships programme. He led the team
responsible for the award-winning UK pavilion at the Aichi Expo in Japan

He was Deputy High Commissioner in Singapore from 2000-2003 and has
also served in Washington (1996-2000) and Tokyo (1988-92). Between
1992-96 he worked on EU enlargement and Environmental issues at the FCO
in London.

Before joining FCO he worked at the Department of Trade and Industry
(1980-87) on a range of industrial sectors and trade policy, including
two years as a minister’s Private Secretary.

He has an MA in Economic Geography from Cambridge University, an MBA
from Durham University, studied Japanese at London University’s School
of Oriental and African Studies, and is a Fellow of the Royal
Geographical Society. His first book, Raffles: Lessons in Business
Leadership, was published in 2003.

Married to Sarah, with three children, he was born in 1959, in Devon.