Latest Public Sector News

28.08.18

Management: Hard to be agile?

Source: PSE Aug/Sept 2018

Peter Stansbury, lead author of the Agile Business Consortium’s Agile Digital Services (AgileDS) training course and qualification, recommends leaving behind traditional management techniques and embracing a forward-thinking behaviour in the public sector.

The establishment of Government Digital Service (GDS) signalled the UK’s commitment to delivering online, user-focused services. Great progress has been made, but more work is needed to both equip the public sector with the skills needed to effect digital transformation and to develop the type of culture that embraces more agile ways of working.

This is acknowledged in the Government Transformation Strategy 2017-20, which pledges a “change of working, of culture and of disposition” in the Civil Service and calls for “strengthening our leaders’ skills in agile project and programme management.”

Cultural transformation in public sector organisations needs to start with the leadership. The challenge is to change mindsets that have been formed by a tradition of hierarchy, risk aversion and onerous governance, replacing them with an approach to work that is better able to respond effectively to a fast-changing world.

As Daniel Thornton, former programme director at the Institute for Government, puts it: “The processes and accountability requirements of the public sector, interaction with Parliament, the fact you have so much legacy legislation and processes along with legacy IT – all of that makes it very hard to be agile in government.

“Senior people in the Civil Service and ministers need to appreciate that successful transformation is not all about control, it’s about creating the right environment. Set long-term objectives, certainly, but don’t specify how you are going to do something a long way in advance, because you need to interact with citizens and find out what they want, and then test and learn in rapid cycles.”

Leadership for organisational adaptability is different from traditional leadership, and in agile thinking consists of nine principles, amongst them:

  1. Actions speak louder than words. Agile leadership is about not only driving and promoting change, but also about being the change you want to see;
  2. People require meaning and purpose to make work fulfilling;
  3. Leadership lives everywhere in the organisation. Realising the leadership potential of all its people helps accelerate the organisation’s ability to learn and adapt;
  4. Leaders devolve appropriate power and authority. Empowering individuals is a necessary skill of the leader as they balance the emerging needs and tensions of the organisation;
  5. Great ideas can come from anywhere in the organisation. People who are close to a problem usually have the best ideas about how to solve it.

This may be uncomfortable territory for senior people schooled in traditional management techniques, but embracing this kind of behaviour is essential if the public sector is to truly rise to the challenge of meeting the modern needs of the country.

Developing the appropriate skills is a crucial step on this journey, and the AgileDS handbook and accredited training integrates GDS guidance with the long-established Agile Project Management approach. The first prototype (private beta) course was delivered to Newcastle City Council and the Ministry of Justice. Using this feedback, it was tailored and then trialled with a further 12 public sector organisations. AgileDS is set to be publicly available later this year.

The course is accredited by APMG and leads to qualifications at foundation and practitioner level. It aims to enable government departments and other organisations to develop a consistent approach, a common language, and a skilled workforce for the successful design and delivery of digital services, whether through evolving improvements or a step-change in transformation.

 

Enjoying PSE? Subscribe here to receive our weekly news updates or click here to receive a copy of the magazine!

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

public sector executive tv

more videos >

last word

Prevention: Investing for the future

Prevention: Investing for the future

Rob Whiteman, CEO at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance (CIPFA), discusses the benefits of long-term preventative investment. Rising demand, reducing resource – this has been the r more > more last word articles >

public sector focus

View all News

comment

Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Bei... more >
How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

19/06/2019How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trust Network, argues t... more >

interviews

Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need ... more >

the raven's daily blog

Northern Powerhouse Partner aims to connect the North once again

02/09/2019Northern Powerhouse Partner aims to connect the North once again

In February this year, official Northern Powerhouse Partner, Cognitive Publishing, delivered EvoNorth 2019.  The two day event was designed to amplify and highlight futur... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this feeling of imminent change than the article James Palmer, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, has penned for us on p28. In it, he highlights... read more >