Having joined the Fast Stream and Ministry of Justice (MoJ) directly from University and having no management experience, I always assumed that my time in the Civil Service would be spent in policy and corporate roles. For the first two years this assumption held true. My first posting was a traditional policy post within Her Majesty's Courts Service and for my second posting I worked in Corporate Finance for the Financial Planning, Reporting and Analysis Team. However, by the end of my second year I had a desire to undertake an operational posting. While I enjoyed working in HQ I was keen to gain a greater understanding of front line delivery and undertake a posting where I would have a very real impact on people’s lives (hopefully for the better). In October 2010 I therefore became the Deputy Court Manager for the South East Surrey Court Group, and was put in charge of two County Courts, one Magistrate’s Court, the Centralised Listing Office for Surrey and fifty members of staff.
My operational placement so far has delivered everything I could have wished for. Every day offers fresh challenges and while it sounds like a cliché no two days are the same. One day I will be liaising with my District Judges on listing matters, another I’ll be dealing with a customer’s complaint or reviewing the latest performance figures and looking at where there are concerns and how we can address them.
One of the factors that has made this posting so beneficial to my own personal develop is that unlike at HQ I was given a lot of freedom to “just get on with the job”, as my manager put it. If I thought a system could be improved I just went ahead and changed it. However, an operational placement can be a very hard placement. As a manager you might have to make unpopular decisions or implement unpopular orders. For example, I had to close a County Court, which did result in a large number of agency and fixed term staff being let go.
One of my most interesting moments in operations came two weeks into the job. I was still trying to get my feet under the table and gain the respect of the fifty members of staff I managed when I was asked if I knew anything about the enforcement of Employment Tribunals through the County Court. Luckily, reforming the enforcement process for tribunal awards was a key part of my first policy posting. Being able to sit down and explain it to my colleague certainly helped me win him over and highlighted to me the impact decisions at HQ can have on the front line.