2 June 2011

State sector agencies were well represented among 125 senior officials taking part in a Wellington seminar yesterday coordinated by Mai Chen (Chen&Palmer). The focus was on responding to the Government’s call for good advice, change and new thinking from the public sector. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet website now has a page where these “Better Public Service” expectations of the Government will be posted.

Coincidentally, on Monday the Ministers of Finance and State Services announced a need to reduce the number of agencies as the Government pursues better value for money, less duplication and improved co-ordination across the sector. This reinforced the pertinence of seminar discussions about the shape of  government.

A heartening characteristic in a number of presentations by chief executives was the importance they place on integrity and values when leading change. This emphasis on values when restructuring varied from an unquestioned expectation, through a movingly sincere recitation of the place of values , to a passionate advocacy of their ubiquitous necessity.  They were emphatic that restructuring requires strong leadership and that leadership is inseparable from agency values.

Speakers were also unanimous that if restructuring is unavoidable, it is important that change proposals are very well thought out, are followed by wide and responsive consultation, and are then promptly and ethically implemented. Interestingly, none of the speakers referred to the “spirit of service”.