Changes to Civil Service practices, culture and skills in the 1980s form an important stage in the development of the Civil Service. The Efficiency Unit was established in 1979 election by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to look for ways of saving money in departments, but developed a pattern of work that would also seek to tackle skills and culture, with some hope of thereby reforming the system itself.

Looking at its methods and intentions in particular, the Efficiency Unit in its early years under Derek Rayner, and its subsequent role in the Next Steps report of 1987, is a classic example of the way governments have attempted to use reforming internal units to improve their own effectiveness.

The Efficiency Unit was more an attempt to change-through-action, driving change from within. It also laid the basis for the Next Steps reforms, which followed a similar method of review but moved more towards the underlying structural problems, and whose implementation would ultimately prove more far-reaching, even if not entirely achieving what the authors intended.