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Objectives & Methodology

The survey examined how civil servants rate their organisation’s ability to adapt to change and new circumstances, and how they might improve.

We also identified areas of international best practice that governments can learn from and apply to their strategic planning and operational delivery, as well as identify barriers to progress.

This is a pilot study designed to inform a wider annual project that will extend in scope, coverage and usefulness each year.

This inaugural report focuses on a select group of nine countries that known to have developed effective civil services. It features assessments by senior officials of their own organisations in each country. In five of those countries, we expanded the research to include self-assessments by managers and more junior staff.


Fieldwork was carried out via email invitations to take part in the online survey to Global Government Forum’s network of civil servants in each country, as well as telephone interviews with leaders in the Nordic countries.

The survey was open for 11 weeks, from 10 May 2021 to 23 July 2021; it received 873 responses, including 133 from senior officials. This group had been identified as being in ‘a position to know’ about their organisation’s strategy and performance at a top level (see box below). Respondents were incentivised to take part by a charity donation pledge; GGF has donated £4,809 to Unicef as a result.

Questionnaire design

GGF and PA Consulting designed a self-assessment questionnaire based on Marvin Weisbord’s Six Box Model to assess an organisation’s ability to respond to change.

The survey comprised a series of 54 statements plus one overarching declaration. Respondents could answer their degree of agreement on a scale as follows: entirely disagree; mostly disagree; somewhat disagree; neither agree nor disagree; somewhat agree; mostly agree; entirely agree; plus: I don’t know; and not applicable.

Data analysis

Once data collection was complete, we grouped the 54 statements into categories (see box below).

The ‘agreed’ category includes all those who entirely, mostly or somewhat agreed, and likewise for ‘disagreed’. ‘Strongly agreed’ includes those who entirely or mostly agreed, and likewise for ‘strongly disagreed’.

Some of the charts and references in the text depict the results of weighted mean scores across the answers; this enabled us to gauge the collective strength of feeling on a statement from a particular cohort and to visualise how they compare by country and/or seniority group.
Readers should note that statistical significance was not calculated, and the results show self-assessments made by self-selecting civil servants in a diverse range of organisations. The data therefore illustrates themes covered, on which further research can be carried out.

Definition of the leadership group

Job titles of the senior group the leaders data are broadly equivalent to those within the senior civil service in the UK. Examples are:

  • Secretary-general/vice minister/permanent secretary/chief executive/chairman
  • Director-general/managing director/chief technical officer/chief operating officer/chief information officer/chief procurement officer/chief financial officer
  • Director
  • Deputy director
  • Head or director of departmental unit