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This is a challenging time for public sector HR. New solutions are needed if community needs are to be met with reduced resources. There will be new operating models and deep culture change. We will need to sustain engagement and increase productivity. We know that the public sector and its HR community offer a great deal of innovation and good practice but there is a lot to do

A key challenge for public sector managers is to achieve greater efficiency and productivity. Culture and behaviours have an important part to play in that.Remember that public sector organisations are, by their natures, bureaucracies. And there is a self serving driver in all bureaucracies. So our managers need to guard against that as they re-think and challenge existing service models.  They need to be equipped and supported to challenge and to pose difficult questions like: have our service models become too bureaucratic?  Can we see examples of over-professionalism? We need to be alert too, to the instinct for self-preservation and guard against the very human inclination to hold onto the past.

Questioning the way business is done, and engaging in radical review, is both an art and a science. Alongside reviewing business processes, systems and other technical inputs, we need to take account of the culture of the organisation and the leadership styles and behaviours that will be needed going forward.

There are many elements involved in doing things differently. Take a recent example in the health service. To address the growing incidence of diabetes, a scheme is being trialled where people with early indications of diabetes are buddied up with people who already have diabetes with the aim of passing on good advice about diet and lifestyle.

The hope is that this early intervention might prevent these individuals developing diabetes, improving the lives of those people, and at the same time saving future costs for the NHS.  Just think about some of the different elements involved in this and the lessons it suggests:

  • It involves the “professionals”, the clinical experts,  being prepared to think  beyond traditional parameters and to contemplate a non clinical intervention
  • It involves a preparedness to invest resource in early intervention
  • It involves a willingness to put the “patient”/service user in control
  • Critically, it will have involved a manager or management team somewhere being open to a new idea and encouraging and supporting its development!

Approaches like this which focus on “public value” are less about process and much more about ways of working and behaviours. There are a number of factors that play into this:

  • The importance of having clear “permission” from your organisation to think, work and act in a different way
  • The need to appreciate the importance of language, particularly between different professions, and find ways of creating a common language in support of common goals
  • The need to appreciate how organisational “rules” on issues like data sharing can act as significant barriers to more effective working 
  • The fundamental importance of respecting and valuing people’s professions and organisations
  • The significance of different professional cultures and philosophies, more significant often than different organisational cultures
  • The very different leadership and management challenges presented when people are asked to step outside their organisational leadership responsibilities and lead beyond that.

We are witnessing a distinctive shift from significant state and public sector provision to a much smaller state and a Big Society. This requires public sector organisations-and their staff-to think in quite different ways. There are many ramifications of this change, but one thing is for sure- things will never be the same again!

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Written by Anne Gibson   
Thursday, 14 April 2011 08:34
Last Updated on Friday, 15 April 2011 10:27


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