In conversation with Graeme McDonald: aligning talent with organisational objects

The public sector tends to develop leaders to perform management roles within organisations. However, what is increasingly needed are individuals that can foster innovation and change. How do you think such individuals can be attracted to and developed within the public sector?

It is really important that we recognise the huge amount of talent already working and succeeding within the public sector. Significant amounts of innovation and change is already being delivered and delivered well. However, increasingly change within our own individual organisations can only deliver so much. This is still valuable but we increasingly focus on systems and places rather structure. With this approach so much more can be achieved beyond our traditional professional silos.

I think this makes a hugely attractive place to work either directly or as a strategic partner. But its important that people develop and progress through their careers in the same manner. Historically we have developed individuals in professional and organisational silos, so its is important that we change that approach so that public servants learn together so they are better equipped to work together.

The operating model for public sector organisations was established before rising demand and constrained resources. In your view, what can public sector leaders do to manage this shift?

 Our organisations need much greater flexibility locally in order to respond to this shift. Localised decision making enables services to respond much more efficiently to local need. But it is also true that imposing 21st century digital solutions on to organisation constrained either literally or culturally by 20th century legislation is not effective. This includes the ability to generate resources. Our local services can paid by an outdated finance system and local communities can’t choose to raise funding in different ways or from different sources. Real devolution can enable that to happen for places that choose to innovate.

How do you think public sector leaders can ensure their recruitment strategy is properly aligned with the needs of their organisation?

Good recruitment starts with an organisation that understands what is it and what it is able to achieve. This clarity means that a strategy can be developed that identifies the skills that are required, what can be developed for within the organisation and what can be brought in from outside. But without that clarity of purpose those other elements are either misdirected or missing.

What will be your key priorities at Solace for the remainder of the year?

Our focus is on support our members be the best professionals they can be. That means continuing to develop and deliver a range of learning and development programmes for apprentices and graduates, through to seasoned CEOs that provide significant value to them in their careers. We want to increase the amount of resources we share online so learning can go to where the individual needs it but also develop more collaborative learning opportunities so groups can learn across traditional organisational and sector boundaries. Finally we will continue to talk to Government about sharing the tools to make real change possible in local government. The focus of this will be on local government finance as councils come under increasing pressure and we approach the Rubicon of the next spending review.

Graeme McDonald is the Managing Director of Solace, and will be speaking on “Collaborative approaches to leadership” at the Public Sector Solutions Expo on 20 November. To register or find out more, please click here.