Ministry for the Environment

Restructuring management roles and boosting employee training delivers more efficient and effective services.

Effective management key to effectiveness and efficiency

Ministry for the Environment logoDeveloping their managers’ skills and capability has significantly improved the efficacy of the Ministry for the Environment.

The Ministry has undergone significant change in the last few years, and it decided at the outset that getting the right leadership in place was essential to be able to drive other changes needed around capability and a new strategic direction.

Recognising that effective management is fundamental to any organisation, Human Resources Director Sue Quirk says they knew that the Ministry was not fit for purpose in 2008, and the organisation set out to do something about it.

“The initiatives were about gearing the organisation to the future. The primary driver was about getting the right people in the right place and developing them in a way the new management needed to operate.”

As part of a major restructure in 2009, many management positions were disestablished and new third- and fourth-tier management positions were created. A rigorous selection process was put in place for the new positions.

Efficiency and effectiveness are about doing things right. They are about getting value for money, having an impact, and making a difference.

Once the new appointments were made, a programme to improve the efficiency and performance of managers was established. The Building Capable Managers Programme sought to build common understandings and a strong foundation of management skills. Directors at the Ministry also completed a similar programme.

Although the programme was very beneficial to most new managers, when asked to identify a lesson that hindsight has afforded them, Ms Quirk says the programme could have been more targeted to individuals’ development needs.

“Due to the rigorous selection process, some of the appointees were already exceptional and didn’t need that level of intervention.”

The Ministry has starting working with other agencies in the natural resources sector to collectively build management and leadership skills, participate in leadership development programmes, share experiences, and network.

Recently, the Ministry gathered multi-source feedback on its deputy secretaries, directors, managers, team leaders, and principal analysts using the State Services Commission Leadership Capability Profile. The feedback was used to identify the development needs of individuals, including any “mission critical” competency gaps. The data has also been used to prepare a Leadership Development Framework.

To complement this, the Ministry has concentrated on improving the interaction between managers and their staff and between members of the management team. An open-plan work space has been created for all staff, including the management team and the Chief Executive. This has ensured regular interaction between managers and their staff, as well as between members of the management team.

This new performance and development system puts a strong emphasis on regular conversations between managers and their staff to give feedback and direction. “It is well known that people leave an organisation due to their manager, not because of the organisation itself,” says Ms Quirk.

The Ministry teams have delivered a busy work programme throughout this period of significant change, and informal feedback from Ministers indicates they are happy with the Ministry’s work.

A GallupQ12 survey, a tool widely used in the public service to assess staff commitment, indicated much improved employee engagement. This is attributed to more effective management, including improved contact and communication between managers and staff members.

In addition to these marked improvements within the Ministry, the Building Capable Managers Programme won a platinum award at the LearnX Asia-Pacific 2011 Awards for e-learning and training.

Ms Quirk says the initiative as a whole has been very successful.

“Any organisation that is looking to make significant improvements to their effectiveness must invest in management capability.”

Based on an interview with Sue Quirk, Human Resources Director, on 18 June 2012.

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