Transformation was the theme of the Public Chairs’ Forum annual conference in the UK, supported by The Boston Consulting Group’s Public Sector Practice. The Public Chairs’ Forum represents around 60 public bodies and exists to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the delivery of public services in the United Kingdom.
A major priority for public chairs was working together more closely and effectively with their sponsor government department. The UK government’s lead non-executive director, Sir Ian Cheshire, said non-executive directors, were key to closing the gap between departments and public bodies. Non-executives were now more confident in challenging ministers, he said.
The chief executive of the Civil Service, John Manzoni spoke about the importance of making government more efficient. HM Treasury is asking departments to model two scenarios, of 25% and 40% savings in real terms, by 2019-20. He also announced a review of regulators across government – of which there were 60-70, he said.
Cabinet Office minister, the Rt.Hon. Matt Hancock MP, said that government needed to also improve diversity in government. He challenged the chairs to examine how they are appointing people into their own organisations. He also said transformative leadership skills were needed.
And the Centre for Public Impact’s executive director, Adrian Brown, hosted a session on leading transformation in the public sector and the lessons from international experience. Vikram Bhalla, head of BCG’s Leadership and Training Enablement Centre in Singapore (LTEC) spoke via a video link about how leaders can lead successful transformation programmes. Having helped over 60 transformation programmes across the world succeed, his advice came in handy.
Our panel then discussed the UK specific challenges in leading transformation. Sir Peter Housden, former permanent secretary in Whitehall and in Scotland who guided the Scottish Government through the referendum campaign, spoke about how to transform and maintain high standards of service. He said leaders needed to stay focused, be authentic, credible and have a strong narrative with all stakeholders. James Page, is Head of Transformation and Strategy in Children’s Services at the London Borough of Haringey, a borough that has been under intense media scrutiny for its standards in safeguarding children. He is managing a major change programme which will redesign services for children and families and spoke about the importance of the right leadership teams with those who can step back and see ways to help you move forward.