“Public service” are words we toss around, perhaps without really thinking about what they mean. The passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has brought public service into sharp focus. Coverage over recent days has reminded us that she was very thoughtful about her public service, pledging on her 21st birthday the following: “I declare before you that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong”. One of the many lessons she has offered to us – to take the time to reflect on what public service means for you. I know that I am.
Kay Booth, Executive Director
Do Ministers Receive Enough Training and Support To Do Their Jobs?
IPANZ and the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) recently ran a panel on building great relationships between ministers and officials. The key points are summarised in the forthcoming journal.
The panel considered the question – do ministers need training? The answer overall was a no. It was considered that the freshness of a new minister and learning on the job was more effective. And they do get induction support from central agencies.
IPANZ was interested to read the contribution of the Institute of Government in the UK who provide a range of services for ministers which are impartial, evidence-based and confidential. The service includes specialist one-off briefings, away days and workshops (e.g. how to manage major reform), some one-to-one support and even 360 degree appraisals. All taking place away from the glare of the Party or the ministerial office. Could such an arrangement through an independent agency contribute effectively in Aotearoa? How well does it actually work in the UK?
Radical Shifts To The Status Quo Ahead
Observing the Tory Leadership race in the UK, Martin Kettle notes “the Tory leadership contest has confirmed that calls for sacrifice are no longer part of the 21st century government’s repertoire.”
This deep dilemma eloquently articulated in this article has significance beyond one country and one party. Here in Aotearoa, we face the imperative of long term and irreversible changes to the status quo – whether caused by climate change, cost of living and energy prices, the implications of the war in Ukraine, or other drivers.
When politicians fight for power, they have difficulty acknowledging that the problems facing the country cannot be solved without inconvenience, cost and disruption. The public could well be on board for sacrifices, more than we appreciate. But taking New Zealanders on this disruptive journey requires courageous leadership.
Political contest that diminishes acknowledgment of uncomfortable trade-offs creates pressure for public servants. But public servants, fully respecting the environment of political contest, can and must contribute to this leadership.
Focus On Practice And Culture To Further Collaboration, Not Structure and Functions
You may have watched the webinars run by IPANZ in May on collaboration. In the forthcoming Public Sector journal, we have an excellent summary prepared by Bill Ryan who attended all the webinars.
l note two overriding shifts will be at the heart of changing practice and culture towards real collaboration:
Local level experiments need to precede and lead central system-focused developments.
This requires that collaborative accountability, rather than single agency accountability, predominates. Local experiments so often involve multiple agencies. People at the front line are already leading this work but may need more devolved decision rights and budget holding.
Understanding that a culture of permission and senior manager support for experimentation, risk, failure and success is critical.
The priority is getting higher level managers to ‘loosen up’ and encourage removal of blockages in the middle. It is now the essential way to lead, creating a space, resetting …. “an agile (not a waterfall) way of working”.
Maybe central agencies are already monitoring progress in relation to these two drivers of collaborative work.
Asking Hard Questions Where Business Interests And The Public Good Conflict
As the climate crisis intensifies, New Zealand faces some serious questions, for example
- Should lobbying be controlled?
- Should the advertising of carbon-intensive products be banned?
- When should business be excluded from government committees?
- How should the public be better informed about the environmental performance of industry?
- What sanctions should apply to scientific disinformation?
- When is it not acceptable to take funding from carbon-polluting companies?
This article, published in The Conversation, suggests that some dramatic measures, perhaps regulation or legislation, may be warranted. Others assert that using the Emissions Trading Scheme provides the most effective impact on business.
Own It, Fix It, Learn From It - Wise Words Not Always Easy To Do
There was heartfelt apology for the actions of the public service in relation to young people in care ….in this respect it was indeed “owned”. In terms of “learning from it”, time will tell as we hear what sort of changes will be implemented to avoid such profound harm again.
It is hard to “fix” this harm for the people who suffered such devastation. Acknowledgement and apology is indeed a start, but just a start, and for some too late.
Of course, the lawyers for the Crown have protected the financial risk to the Crown – it is their job. But as Una Jagose KC, Solicitor-General, said “the Crown, as litigator, has not always been survivor focused”. Does it have to be like this?
If the public service can more quickly “own” it, it can be “fixed” quicker, although fixing will take a very long time for these people and only by applying a deeply restorative process which would ideally be embedded in the culture from the outset.
You may wish to read the articles written by Aaron Smale from Stuff who has been enquiring into state abuse of children for some time. Many public service leaders will study all that has been said, as they will never ever want such harm to happen again.
Learn more about H2R here
Public Sector Reform: What This Means for New Professionals - 19 September 2022, WELLINGTON
Public Sector reform is high risk and resource-intense. It requires a clear vision, strong leadership, and a strong understanding of the things that have and have not worked in previous public sector reform. IPANZ New Professionals have assembled an expert panel to discuss their perspectives on public sector reform, how reform impacts New Professionals, and answer some Q+A.
Read more and register here
Vision For The Future Public Service - 27 September 2022, WELLINGTON
With the 2023 General Elections just around the corner, have you thought about how a change of government might impact the sector?
IPANZ has invited the Public Service spokespeople from the opposition parties currently represented in Parliament to share with you their party's vision for the future of the Public Service and what changes are possible should there be a change of government! Confirmed speakers include - David Seymour - ACT Party, Jan Logie - The Green Party and Simeon Brown - National Party,
There will be an opportunity for Q&A with our speakers.
An External Event Which May Be Of Interest -
Employee Attitudes Towards Workplace Ethic During The Covid-19 Pandemic - Tomorrow, Wednesday 14 September, 12.30-1.30pm, WELLINGTON
Our colleagues at Victoria University are conducting a public seminar “Employee attitudes towards workplace ethics during the Covid-19 pandemic”. Presented by Professor Grant Michelson and Professor Karin Lasthuizen it will be held at the Wellington School of Business and Government, Rutherford House, Bunny Street, Room MZ06 (mezzanine floor).
In this seminar, data from the Ethics at Work employee survey collected in 2021 will be presented to explore the views and attitudes of employees in Aotearoa New Zealand towards workplace ethics. We compare these findings with data from the previous Ethics at Work survey in 2018 to highlight key trends in workplace ethics from a pre-pandemic to a pandemic-oriented employment context.
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more about The Johnson Group here
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