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Chairman's Blog - Public Sector reform requires transparency to engender trust...

Chairman's Blog - Public Sector reform requires transparency to engender trust...

“Major overhaul of civil service planned” was the JEP’s take on the news that the States of Jersey has appointed a new CEO. I must advise that if a new CEO was appointed in any organisation, let alone the States of Jersey - and no overhaul planned - one would hope that the media would scream even louder!

I admit, when I read the news initially, I had mixed opinions. Positive to see an experienced CEO with a track record of major Public Sector change accolades for improving Education levels and public service appointed but this was tempered with my concern regarding the additional appointments which will total the princely sum of circa £700k (£1,350 x 4 people x 5 days x 26 weeks), for the initial six month period.

Then I started to reflect upon the recent IoD debate where Industry once more critiqued the States of Jersey, constructively. The consensus of the audience was:

"Government is not agile, efficient or effective”

...Which must be a hard pill to swallow.

Upon reading the surrounding press releases though, this comment seems to be consistent with the new CEO’s take on what he is inheriting. You have to think that our Chief Minister and his colleagues have provided a relatively truthful 'situation report' which might go some way to justifying the additional hires.

Change is challenging for anyone involved in it. Much like a death, you have to go through the stages of mourning – Denial > Anger > Negotiation > Depression > Acceptance.

At the moment, I would say that the Union have reacted understandably and strongly in defence of their members. They are in the first stage as, despite it being in the public domain that a new CEO was joining the States in the summer to replace a retiring CEO (John Richardson) sometimes it is simply easier to deny the inevitable truth of an impending change. I admit, if I were a civil servant right now, I would be concerned by some of the media comments about perceived cuts but as we all know, the States of Jersey is a pretty resilient beast when it comes to change.

“In recent history, when cuts have been made to, rather than with the SoJ employees, the scars still show, ensuring the employees remember the pain but the skin simply gets thicker and more resistant to change…”

But why am I writing this?

I believe that the new CEO, Charlie Parker, has a real opportunity to improve services and importantly, staff morale by genuinely engaging with his excellent colleagues.

I am somewhat concerned by the lack of transparency in the process, by bringing in a ‘crack team’ to surround himself with, Mr Parker may well isolate himself from the process and the 'human element' which means he may well be effective at ‘radical change’ but not necessarily engaged with the colleagues that will be here for the long-term thus any change may not be sustainable or outlive his tenure… With a career history that appears to consist of “hit hard, change & move on” you have to assume that the new CEO has been appointed with a significant remit. This will naturally engender fear across the organisation and do little for the ‘culture of trust’ that an organisation requires to follow a leader with a shared purpose to deliver a better Organisation and embrace, rather than fear change.

Coming back to the positives, we are all contributors to our Island economy and customers of our Government. A fresh pair of eyes with experience of what ‘excellent looks like’ should drive really tangible and visible service improvements, not intangible hidden efficiencies which Islanders cannot see. We, the IoD, expect to see some of the long-awaited goals of Government whether eGov and service reform through to excellent Education and Healthcare. All are very public and ‘touchable’ objectives which Islander’s will derive real benefits from and all are frequent areas that the IoD and Islanders have raised as needing to be addressed.

“If Mr Parker focusses on driving joined-up Government reform, supporting the pillars of a thriving economy with an overarching eye on quality, efficiency and effectiveness then I am sure we will all see a significant improvement in the services we receive”

As such, Islanders, business owners and States' colleagues will benefit from a clearly stated purpose, which in turn can drive improved staff morale.

These goals are sound and the IoD are keen to support the Government with any positive reform that improves services, removes bureaucracy and red tape yet improves the lives of Islanders - surely this must be something that we should all get behind and provide support to, rather than to immediately assume the position of ‘armchair critics’?

If a positive change culture can be achieved in the next six months and evidenced to our members and Islanders alike, no further scrutiny will be required from the IoD, the Chamber of Commerce, Unions, the media and Islanders, I am sure.

We look forward to seeing Mr Parker’s 100 day plan (or equivalent) and the benchmarking measures that his team are no doubt starting to collect, so that we can see the tangible benefits Islanders will expect from a new CEO leading the largest employer in the Island, supported by the Council of Ministers to drive ‘real and positive change’ across the Public Sector.

In fact, to ensure transparency, we the IoD will extend an invitation to Mr Parker today, requesting that he provides a progress report to Industry in March 2018 at our inaugural mid-year review. This event is intentionally scheduled ahead of the May elections, enabling us all to reflect upon the conversations held at this year’s annual debate which was so expertly captured in the storyboard at the top of this post as a record of the commitment to drive successful change across the Organisation.