Case Study: Programme for the Management Team of the Head of The Civil Service

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Our experience of conducting programmes at middle management level highlights the difficulty of extending the success of these programmes into the wider civil service without top management's active support. We have concluded that our focus should be on doing programmes at the top of the civil service. Ideally we should start with the cabinet and their cascade of the National Plan but this presents challenges which we would prefer to face after engaging with top civil servants through a programme for the Head of the Civil Service and their management team of Chief Directors.

The aims of this programme would be to;

  • Develop the leadership capabilities of the Chief Directors. The vehicle will be the cascade of the Country's National Plan into each ministry under the leadership of the Chief Director.
  • Develop and implement a performance management system (PMS) for the whole civil service to drive the strategy cascade process. These plans will contain agreed priorities, objectives, measures of performance, process and quality management approaches and initiatives to ensure effective delivery of services to the people. The President and senior Ministers would need to drive this process.
  • Develop effective management across the admin/political interface.

The cascade of the National Development Plan is very difficult to deliver. It needed a process to drive it into the organisation. Putting an action leaning envelope around every step in the process can deliver a successful cascade.

Developing the implementation capability to deliver the National Plans is THE problem.


Programme Structure

The programme will last for 12 months and could carry a diploma qualification with credits to a masters degree. The programme would be based on the 4 key elements of action learning, ie group projects, individual projects, personal development plans and customised workshops. It will consist of five, 2/3-day modules with project and personal development work in the periods between each module. The Programme Director will visit the country every 8 weeks to conduct a module with specialists in improving the performance of civil services worldwide. During these modules he will facilitate workshops, supervise group and individual projects and help individuals with their personal development plans. The programme will be launched by:


Module 1 (week 1)

This start-up, 3-day workshop will be attended by all the Chief Officers and the HOCS. The President and key Ministers should be involved for part of the time to sanction the programme and commit the Chief Officers to delivering its aims.

The aims of this initial workshop and subsequent ones will be to;

  • Achieve a consensus among participants around the problems the programme is to tackle and, in particular, what they have to do to implement the national plan.
  • Provide a vehicle for identifying which aspects of 'best practice' in international public service are most appropriate to the local situation. For example, case studies of successes and failures in 'civil service reform' and the implementation of national plans will be featured. In particular, we will deal with how to implement a performance management system (PMS); the leadership of change; quality management, the internal and external customer, process management and the removal of waste; how to improve productivity in the public sector given the need to achieve more with less in situations of scarce resources; examples of how the political/admin interface has been improved. These and other issues of importance to participants will be discussed and appropriate learning extracted for inclusion in the project reports.
  • Define action learning and its development and, in particular, how it can produce sustainable change in organisational and individual performance and agree how the HOCS team of Chief Directors can become the driving force for change and the implementation of the national plan in particular.

What has each Chief Director to DO to implement the National Plan in their Ministry?

In the first workshop participants will be put into 4 group project teams of 5/6 individuals. These groups will become action learning 'sets'. The task of each team should be to solve a strategic problem such as the implementation of the National Development Plan. If this was the case then the groups could be based on 'clusters' of activities, eg an infrastructure cluster, a welfare cluster, a wealth creation culture etc. The aims would be to;

  • Coordinate the implementation of the National Development Plan across the areas represented by cluster groups of Chief Directors from similar ministries (eg infrastructure, welfare, wealth creation). They will share their experiences during the group meetings and learn from this.
  • Define how they think the National Development Plan should be implemented and what problems have influenced its cascade over the past few years, eg has the political pressure to implement the Plan been sufficient? Is a performance management system (PMS) useful in this cascade?
  • Identify how other countries have implemented their plans and what can be learnt from this.
  • Define how their ministry/department has responded to date to the need to cascade the national plan and how successful have they been?
  • Analyse whether relationships at the political/admin interface help or hinder the implementation process and what needs to change.
  • Define what needs to be done to build the capacity to implement the plan effectively.
  • Identify precise learning points from their experiences gained in the group project teams and preserve these for future use.

This group project task will be done at the same time each Chief Director is doing their individual project which is to define and implement the strategy for their ministry/department and ensure the PMS reaches the most junior level in the ministry.

The programme will improve relationships and performance at the administration/political interface

The work of the 4 group project teams will be discussed in meetings of the HOCS management team and, when coordinated effectively, will set the scene for the effective integration of the national plan which the President will hold the HOCS responsible for coordinating. The President will hold each Chief Director and their Ministers responsible for the actual implementation of their ministry strategies.

The focus of the whole programme will be on delivery of national and ministry plans and on developing the leadership capabilities of each Chief Director. These themes will feature in;

  • Workshops 2 to 5.
  • The meetings of the group project teams held during the workshops and between workshops.
  • The individual projects and how Chief Directors involve their management teams in cascading their ministry annual plans and driving performance management down to the lowest levels possibly by doing action learning programmes for their top management teams.
  • The personal development plans of each Chief Director.

THE key to the success of the strategy cascade process is the effective delivery of the action learning process which is grafted onto and envelopes the day-to-day operational activities. This will combine integrating best practice at each level in the organisation with the capacity building and learning process needed at all levels. This will ensure the cascade process works well and individual managers are competent and committed to perform their roles with excellence and their officers are motivated and empowered to continuously improve their performance and that of their departments.



The Cascade into Ministries

The above programme for the HOCS's management team should cascade into action learning programmes in each ministry. For example, the Chief Director of the Ministry of Health will have worked with his/her management team to produce the Ministry strategy for the HOCS management team programme. It will then be the responsibility of the Chief Director to implement this plan within an action learning envelope. The workshops of this programme will deal with the key performance issues being faced by the Ministry and, in particular, the delivery of the Ministry of Health's objectives such as;

  • Improve access to quality maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health services.
  • Improve institutional care including mental health service delivery.
  • Strengthen governance and improve effectiveness and efficiency of the health system.

Action learning programmes for specific parts of the ministry and the major hospitals could then be defined. CBS faculty have had considerable experience of health care in the UK and the developing world. For example, when Dr Kinder was a Malawi Civil Service Commissioner he did a detailed case study of the Ministry of Health and the two largest hospitals in the Country (see Health Care case study).

Programmes feature improving working practices and individual leadership capability

As mentioned earlier, CBS faculty have delivered action learning programmes for specific ministries in the UK (Benefits Agency), Barbados (Foreign Affairs) and India (Highways and Urban Development). They have also designed programmes for several ministries in Uganda, Zambia, Ghana and Nigeria. The design of these programmes is as in the one described above. Workshops consist of 'technical' and 'managerial' issues of direct concern to the ministries. Group and individual projects feature delivery of improved operational processes. PDP focus on improving leadership of Ministries and their departments.



The Cascade into Infrastructure Projects

The culmination of the cascade of the National Development Plans into each ministry will be the effective delivery of priority projects. One of our priorities is to develop action learning 'envelopes' to put around every stage in the delivery of infrastructure projects in the water, power, ports, housing, health and other sectors.

This programme if executed effectively will lead to;

  • The effective delivery of the National Development Plan and ministry strategic plans.
  • Developing a 'critical mass' of leaders able to launch a renaissance in the reform of each civil service.
  • Improving the cost, quality and delivery of infrastructure and other projects of critical importance to economic development.