Part 5: The Senior Leadership and Management Development Strategy

The State Services Commission: Capability to Recognise and Address Issues for Māori.


In this Part, we consider the capability of the Commission to identify, analyse and advise on issues for Māori in a major policy project. For this purpose, we chose the programme of work that produced the Senior Leadership and Management Development (SLMD) Strategy. This process tested the Commission’s Māori capability in relation to a significant Government initiative.

What We Did

We considered whether the Commission adequately considered issues for Māori in drawing up the SLMD Strategy, having regard to the key steps necessary for good policy development. We considered:

  • the background to the strategy;
  • how the project was managed;
  • how the Commission identified the problem, assessed policy requirements, and integrated the SLMD project with other ongoing policy work;
  • research into leadership theory and models;
  • the Commission’s consultation with stakeholders, including Māori; and
  • how the programme has been designed to focus on diversity as a key policy outcome.

We discussed development of the SLMD strategy with relevant Commission staff, and reviewed documentation relating to the policy development process. We sought the views of the Leadership Development Centre on the strategy, and on its role in implementation.

What Is the SLMD Strategy?

Under the State Sector Act, the functions of the Commissioner include –

To provide and maintain in association with chief executives a senior executive service for the Public Service.

Further to this statutory requirement, a Senior Executive Service (SES) was established by the Act to develop a group of senior executives with the ability to manage departments of the Public Service.

However, for a variety of reasons, the SES was unsuccessful, creating the need for a revised senior management development strategy to take its place.

In July 2001, the State Services Commissioner and Public Service chief executives met to discuss leadership in the Public Service, and agreed that current arrangements were not working and should be changed.

In November 2001, the Review of the Centre Ministerial Advisory Group noted in its report that there were not enough people with the mix of skills and experience required to provide effective leadership of the departments and agencies of the State sector. The Ministerial Advisory Group also noted that current devolved arrangements were inadequate to produce the number of skilled leaders required, and advocated more active leadership development.

In response to that report, Cabinet agreed, in December 2001, to a number of initiatives designed to improve leadership and management in the Public Service. The SLMD project is one of 14 linked “People and Culture” work streams arising from the Government’s decisions on the report.

Cabinet agreed to the elements of the proposed senior management development strategy in November 2002. In January 2003, the Commission completed a business case in support of funding for the strategy. The Minister of State Services launched the Executive Leadership Programme10 and the new Leadership Development Centre in July 2003.

The Government is seeking amendments to the State Sector Act to give the State Services Commissioner a clear mandate to promote guidance and standards for the development of senior leaders and managers in Public Service departments. Chief executives would be required to have regard to guidance issued by the Commissioner, and to co-operate in giving effect to initiatives and activities associated with the Executive Leadership Programme.

The Main Features of the SLMD Strategy

The SLMD strategy consists of a number of related initiatives designed to improve the quality, quantity and diversity of candidates for appointment to senior roles within the Public Service. The main features of the strategy are:

  • a Leadership Capability Profile that will set the Public Service-wide standard for developing future leaders;
  • a Leadership Development Centre (replacing the former Management Development Centre) to promote the development of senior managers and leaders;
  • an information base to monitor the development progress of individuals and the leadership pool;
  • a process for assessing candidates for entry into the development pool;
  • a pool of public servants with long-term personal development plans who have access to a range of tailored programmes and resources; and
  • a strategic alliance with a tertiary provider for the provision of research and training resources.

The SLMD strategy has been initially focused on the Public Service, but will be progressively applied to the wider public sector.

How Was the Project Managed?

The Commission’s approach to managing the project was to secure agreement and commitment from departments early in the strategy development process. Recognising the roles that would be played by departments in implementing the strategy, the Commission drew on external expertise to supplement its own resources – using departmental human resources staff on secondment or as members of project teams in an advisory capacity.

Work on designing and implementing the strategy was broken down into ten related projects. The Commission assigned to the project teams a mix of its own, Management Development Centre (MDC), and departmental human resources staff. These teams were co-ordinated and overseen by a project office. Diversity was identified as a discrete SLMD sub-project, and this work was subsequently incorporated into a project on leading a development culture.

The project manager produced a monthly update of progress with the project. The Commission kept the Minister of State Services and the Government informed about progress with design and implementation of the strategy, and sought Government approval to the key elements of its proposed strategy.

Identifying the Problem, Assessing Policy Requirements, and Integrating the SLMD Strategy with Related Policy Initiatives

The Commission recognised at an early stage the need for a senior management development strategy to replace the failed Senior Executive Service, analysing the reasons for its failure, and identifying leadership development needs drawing on that experience. Discussion papers recognised that diversity considerations would influence the design, implementation and long-term management of SLMD initiatives. A key goal of the SLMD strategy is to increase the diversity of candidates available for senior leadership roles in the Public Service.

The Commission examined Māori-specific issues (such as giving effect to the Treaty) as part of its consideration of diversity. In identifying policy needs and developing its strategy, the Commission drew on the results of its analysis of the 2002 Career Progression Survey to identify obstacles to the participation, advancement and development of Māori in the Public Service. It noted that Māori (and other groups) were poorly represented in senior management. Few Māori applied for management positions, and there were few measures to target their development.

Integrating the SLMD Strategy with Related Policy Initiatives

The SLMD strategy was aligned to the Government’s broader strategy for enhancing public sector performance. The need for a new approach to senior management development was closely linked to the findings of the Review of the Centre (ROC), and was incorporated in the Commission’s “People and Culture” work streams emerging from the ROC report – including work on a strategic human resources framework for the Public Service.

SLMD strategy development and its focus on diversity were also linked to other, ongoing policy work under way or planned in the Commission. This work included policy initiatives to address issues for Māori in the Public Service – such as proposed work to analyse and better understand employment issues for Māori, including recruitment and retention and career development. SLMD work was closely related to the work of other branches or groups, such as the Commission’s Strategic Development Branch, Deputy Commissioner Teams, the Chief Executives Branch, and the Public Sector Training Organisation (PSTO).

Research into Leadership Theory, Diversity Models, and Māori Needs

The Commission examined diversity models and approaches in countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The Commission was able to draw on this analysis and research to consider options for promoting diversity within the SLMD programme through leadership profiling, selection, and development.

The Commission drew on its own research and the expertise of consultants to define the various dimensions of diversity, using literature reviews and considering various models. This research noted the expectation that the public sector would need increasingly to give effect to the different aspects of diversity, and analysed possible approaches to enhancing diversity which could be incorporated into an SLMD programme.

Research identified those aspects of managing and promoting diversity likely to influence the selection and development of leaders from within the Public Service. It also suggested likely critical success factors, and possible measures for assessing the success of the programme.

The Commission also drew on empirical research into the views of current leaders, including an assessment of challenges facing chief executives in the public sector environment.

Factors influencing the public sector environment included demographic shifts, devolution of service delivery, and pressures for increased diversity in the workplace. In this environment, chief executives noted in interviews that they faced a number of challenges in implementing Government policy, including:

  • identifying diversity in needs and approaches to service delivery; and
  • growing expectations of stakeholder involvement and participation – for example in consultation processes and decision-making related to the Treaty of Waitangi and responsiveness to Māori.

To target the specific needs of Māori public servants, the Commission drew on analysis of results from the Commission’s Career Progression Survey, and the views of Māori public servants (we discuss the Commission’s consultation with stakeholders in more detail in paragraphs 5.27-5.33 below). The Commission used the results of its research to support its business case to the Government.

Consultation with Stakeholders

Consultation was critical to the success of the SLMD strategy, in order to:

  • identify issues to be addressed through the strategy;
  • secure the support and commitment of stakeholders; and
  • test the proposed strategy and programme design.

The Chief Executive Reference Group

The Commission recognised early the need to consult, and secure the commitment of, key stakeholders – in particular, departments and the MDC. Lack of stakeholder involvement was identified as a key risk for the success of the programme.

In developing the SLMD strategy, the Commission consulted a reference group of departmental chief executives, representing Public Service leaders and acting as champions of senior management development in their own departments. This Group included the chief executive of Te Puni Kōkiri. The chief executives group examined draft SLMD strategies as they were developed by the project teams.

Consultation with Māori Public Servants

In October 2002, the Commission sought the views of a Māori and Pacific Island Reference Group on the proposed SLMD strategy. In May 2003, the Commission held two workshops with Māori public servants to gather views on the draft Leadership Capability Profile (LCP), and to test the relevance of the proposed SLMD programme.

Consultation with Departments and Other Agencies

The Commission consulted closely with the MDC as project teams developed the SLMD strategy. The Commission also consulted the PSTO on the draft SLMD strategy. The PSTO is designing leadership qualifications linked to the LCP, to guide the early development of potential senior leaders.

In August 2002, the Commission sought the views of chief executives on their leadership experience, and obtained feedback on the draft LCP. These meetings revealed a range of issues facing leaders in the Public Service, including:

  • the importance of relating effectively to stakeholders (including Māori);
  • addressing the implications of the Treaty of Waitangi; and
  • responding to various Māori interests in the work of the department.

The LDC is beginning (and will continue) to make use of stakeholder working groups to test different parts of its programme.

Incorporating Diversity into the SLMD Programme

An important measure of the Commission’s Māori policy capability was its ability to incorporate Māori diversity considerations into the SLMD programme.

As early as 2001, the three dimensions of quality, quantity and diversity had been identified as key objectives for senior management development. Diversity was recognised as a critical dimension of a senior management development programme, and an area where achievements had been limited – with various groups (including Māori) being under-represented in senior leadership. Encouraging people from under-represented groups to become credible candidates for senior management and chief executive positions was a key objective of the policy initiative.

An understanding and knowledge of Treaty of Waitangi principles was identified as a necessary element of leadership culture. Chief executives interviewed by the Commission in developing its strategy identified diversity, Treaty issues and Māori responsiveness as being among the key future challenges for Public Service leaders.

Commission papers to the Minister and Cabinet noted enhanced diversity among Public Service leaders and within departments as a key desired outcome from the SLMD strategy.

Leadership Capability Profile

The SLMD strategy is based on the qualities expected of future Public Service leaders. These qualities are embodied in the LCP, which sets a standard against which future leaders will be identified and developed – helping to identify the required attributes, abilities, experiences and pathways for leadership roles in the Public Service now and into the future.

The LCP supports the delivery of the Executive Leadership Programme and lists among the leadership abilities:

  • understanding the debates and practices surrounding the Treaty of Waitangi;
  • developing, building and maintaining effective relationships with Māori, respecting Treaty obligations, working to improve responsiveness to Māori, and interacting appropriately with Māori; and
  • enabling people from diverse backgrounds to work together to effectively reinforce culturally sensitive behaviour and foster a culturally safe working environment.

The LCP expressly recognises diversity considerations – including that Public Service leaders are responsible for developing and maintaining their department’s Māori capability, and therefore must understand the debate around the Treaty and engage with Māori.

Other Elements of the SLMD Programme

Diversity considerations are reflected also in the design of other leadership development programmes within the SLMD strategy.

Candidates for leadership development will need to meet certain requirements. The criteria for entry to the development programme are to include the ability to recognise Treaty principles and the significance of the Treaty in the context of public sector management, and to actively include diversity in their management styles. Diversity elements are to be incorporated in the assessment process.

Mentoring was identified as a key activity for leadership and development, particularly among under-represented groups in the Executive Leadership Programme. The SLMD strategy is also designed to extend the experiences of leaders to build their understanding of issues for stakeholders from a broad range of backgrounds – including ethnicity.

The LCP recognises that there are diverse pathways to becoming a Public Service leader. These pathways include roles as Māori policy advisers and roles with iwi and hapu.

A Partnership Agreement between the LDC and the Commission records their agreement that they will jointly clarify how diversity issues and Māori responsiveness will be addressed in the implementation of the SLMD strategy and delivery of the Executive Leadership Programme.

Evaluating the SLMD Programme

In June 2003, the Commission reported to the Cabinet Committee on Expenditure and Administration on critical success factors for the SLMD strategy.

The report noted that a central desired impact of the strategy was the development of a diverse group of senior managers – in particular, Māori and women – as a pool of potential candidates for future chief executive and other leadership roles. Diversity benefits were expected to become apparent after five years.

A more diverse senior management group was identified as a key success factor. The Commission’s advice to the Government consistently identified increased diversity as a key goal for the strategy.

The Commission has identified a key indicator over time as the diversity of the leadership pool. Diversity will be measured by an increase in the number of people from different backgrounds (including Māori) coming forward for development activities and programmes. These measures include the proportions of Māori ready for, short-listed for, and appointed to chief executive and senior leadership roles. An information database will enable the Commission and the LDC to monitor the quality, quantity and diversity of the leadership pool.

Indicators of increased diversity are reflected in the Partnership Agreement between the LDC and the Commission. The success of the programme is to be evaluated over five years. The evaluation process will include two independent assessments – in 2005 and 2008. In addition, reviews of chief executive performance will include assessment of their action towards achieving the goals of the programme.

Our Views

It was important for the Commission to have established a sound project management framework that enabled it to draw on the necessary skills and expertise, oversee progress with the project, and achieve its policy goals. Sound project management also involves keeping the Government informed – obtaining Ministerial or Cabinet approval for policy proposals as necessary.

5.52 The Commission established a sound project management framework. Drawing on departmental human resources expertise for its SLMD project work:

  • enabled the Commission to supplement its own staff resources;
  • added additional skills, expertise and experience; and
  • promoted departmental agreement and commitment to the Commission’s policy proposals.

Identifying and analysing issues for Māori was an important aspect of policy development, particularly in relation to diversity issues. The Commission incorporated Māori needs into the policy process for developing the SLMD strategy, built those needs into the programme framework, and established appropriate performance indicators to evaluate whether the policy achieves positive outcomes for Māori.

The Commission analysed the reasons for the failure of the Senior Executive Service, and assessed the necessary components of a senior management development strategy to take its place. From the outset, diversity was a key focus of the proposed strategy. Diversity considerations encompassed specific issues for Māori – such as promoting responsiveness and working towards higher Māori representation in Public Service senior management.

To ensure a consistent approach to Government policy, it was important that the Commission integrate the SLMD strategy and resulting programme with other ongoing policy work. Creating linkages between related policy projects was necessary for co-ordination of Commission efforts in implementing the recommendations emerging from the Review of the Centre.

The SLMD initiative was well aligned to the Government’s strategy for enhancing public sector performance, and the programme was well integrated with other policy work arising from the Review of the Centre – such as the development of a strategic human resources framework for the Public Service. SLMD strategy development was also linked to other Commission work in progress or planned to address issues for Māori in the Public Service.

Research was an important component of the policy development, as the Commission refined its policy requirements and began designing the SLMD strategy. We expected the Commission to have carried out theoretical and empirical research in drawing up its policy proposals.

The Commission carried out or obtained this research. Interviews with chief executives provided valuable insights into challenges facing public sector leaders. The results of the research enabled the Commission to refine its policy requirements and the design of its SLMD programme, and provided useful support for its business case to the Government.

Research into diversity models, and approaches taken in other jurisdictions, gave the Commission an understanding of the way in which diversity considerations related to leadership capability. This research highlighted growing expectations of stakeholder involvement in decision-making – for example, by Māori in matters relating to the Treaty. To target the specific needs of Māori, the Commission drew on analysis of the results of its Career Progression Survey, and the views of Māori public servants.

The Commission needed to understand the various dimensions of diversity, how these related to leadership capability in the Public Service, and how possible policy solutions would address any specific Māori needs.

In order to increase diversity within the senior Public Service leadership, the Commission needed to consult widely (including with Māori public servants), in order to identify the challenges faced.

The Commission consulted a wide group of stakeholders on the proposed strategy and programme, drawing closely on the views of departmental chief executives as it developed policy proposals. These discussions revealed a range of issues facing Public Service leaders in the work of their departments – including:

  • the challenge of relating effectively to stakeholders (including Māori);
  • addressing the implications of the Treaty; and
  • responding to various Māori interests.

Two workshops gave the Commission the opportunity to gather the views of Māori public servants on the quality requirements of senior Public Service managers, and to test the relevance of the proposed SLMD programme to Māori needs.

We examined elements of the SLMD programme for references to diversity as a key focus. In particular, we looked for evidence that programme components (where appropriate) sought to meet specific Māori needs, or would enhance the capability of Public Service leaders to address issues for Māori in their various roles.

We sought evidence that diversity had been identified as a key policy outcome, and reflected in advice given to the Government. Responsiveness to Māori and Treaty of Waitangi awareness are desirable senior leadership attributes, and thus should be reflected in the components of the proposed SLMD programme.

Diversity considerations are incorporated in key proposed SLMD initiatives, such as the LCP and criteria for entry into the senior leadership development programme.

Components of the SLMD strategy reflected diversity considerations, including the recognition of Māori needs. Responsiveness to Māori, understanding of Treaty issues, and the ability to build and maintain relationships with Māori, have all been identified as key leadership competencies.

The Commission drew up critical success factors by which to evaluate the impact of the SLMD strategy. These factors include growth in the participation of Māori in senior Public Service management. The success of the programme is to be formally evaluated over five years.

10: The Executive Leadership Programme is a central part of the Government’s SLMD strategy.

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