Leadership is a critical aspect of any successful public service reform initiative. CES is delivering a new leadership programme for senior civil servants in Northern Ireland. The Leadership Programme is one of nine projects that we are supporting as part of the Goal Programme for Public Service Reform. Seven government departments in Ireland and Northern Ireland are working with CES on the GOAL Programme, to bring about significant changes in public services in areas such as education, health, mental health, and children and young people’s services.
The entire Grade Three cohort of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, (equivalent to Assistant Secretary level in Ireland) is completing the Leadership programme in two separate groups. The programme aims to build cross government working, and to support the implementation of Northern Ireland’s draft Programme for Government which has a strong emphasis on outcomes. Sir Malcolm McKibbin, Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS), and Dr Andrew McCormick, Permanent Secretary at the Department for the Economy, addressed the groups at the launch of the programme earlier this year.
Exploring leadership needs
The Programme was informed by a feasibility study which we undertook together with the Northern Ireland Civil Service in 2016. It draws on key findings about leadership from research literature, along with the lived experience of senior civil servants. The development of a new outcomes-based Programme for Government has provided an important focus for the Northern Ireland Civil Service to explore leadership needs and the potential for the programme. Issues raised in a recent OECD report into public governance in Northern Ireland will also be addressed.
Building leadership that lasts
Modules address topical themes such as engaging with staff, collaborative working and leading complex change. The programme has a practical, real world focus where officials taking part will undertake projects to apply their learning to their work. Training will be supported by coaching. By focusing on leadership across the Civil Service in Northern Ireland, the programme aims to create change that is sustainable and that ultimately brings about real benefits for people using public services.