15 Jun

I've been fortunate to work in several organisations, large and small, across many differing sectors of the economy, and I frequently wonder why there is a supposedly big divide? People often comment on the differences and appear baffled at workplace behaviours or seemingly very different drivers behind strategies. 

What often strikes me more though, are the similarities between a major company and a major government department, NHS organisation or charity, rather than the differences. 

Both public sector, private and third sector organisations care equally about the service they provide for customers or citizens, that their staff feel engaged, happy, able to deliver and develop career-sustaining capabilities.

Similarly, a great deal of Board, Senior Leadership Team, Governing Body and Corporate Committees’ time is devoted to ensuring that the IT deployed works, can be scaled, upgraded and adapted for staff, service users and customers/citizens, that costs are controlled properly, with clear leadership around corporate decision-making and governance.

So what are the real differences and what does this suggest in terms of learning across the supposed divide? A few thoughts on what each sector does well.

Thinking primarily about the longer-term cost vs benefits ratio over and above the initial outlay of investment.

Diverting resources from low priorities to high, quickly
Developing a structured rationale and business case for investment with supporting evidence, stakeholder views, risks

Business cases that can stand up to ministerial, Parliamentary, media scrutiny.
Innovating out of necessity of scarce, donation/grant-based funding

Partnerships for delivery maximising scale from relatively small networks
Judging how value is created throughout all customer touchpoints, not just point of sale

Inviting customer feedback ‘without fear of reprisal’ learn, adapt, improve move on, fail forwards faster!
Thinking upfront about hard to reach citizens, minority groups and ensuring services are accessible to them from day one
Devoted customer service, always going the extra ten miles
Quick, focused decisions by a small group, often discussion-based on potential opportunity, rather than lengthy tomes of evidence.

Rapid creation of teams to deliver with focus on resource realities, capabilities required and excitement!

Deliverers encouraged to lead, take ownership and celebrate success early on to build momentum and engage others
Consensus-based and considered, inclusive of others outside the organisation with shared targets for delivery.

Recording decision-making and sharing discussions held widely across the organisation.
Ensuring a real mix of experience from a variety of backgrounds is present on the Board

Not being afraid to patch in new relevant experience to move the organisation forward
Not being afraid to let the technology drive new ways of doing business,

Playing with new kit to see how it can improve business
Not being afraid to replace roles with technology and retraining

Thinking ahead how existing staff could be redeployed into better, more value-added roles with more career certainty
Appreciating that social media campaigning can bring about debate and change
Knowing when to call in the big players to speak to Ministers or use the Party machines to influence pre-manifesto
Knowing instinctively how to influence a new policy or regulation at an early stage at official level to ensure it is shaped for different groups, business, employees, regions
Knowing how to maximise Party conference season and Fringe events to build support from a cross-party group of MPs

So what does this tell us about how we develop leaders in both the private, public and third sectors to build high-performing attractive workplaces? 

  1. Ensure leaders are developed to have enquiring, learning mindsets, able to see potential in what works in other settings, how to adapt and deploy approaches that can work in their own organisation
  2. Build in opportunities for leaders and emerging leaders to spend time in other sectors, to mix across sectors, workplaces and cultures and share perspectives with a mixed peer group to develop better understanding
  3. Encourage leaders to reach out to others to share their knowledge and experience, ensuring those in non-competitive organisations benefit from their expertise
  4. Ensure HR teams think outside their own sector and provide the opportunities for future leaders to increase their knowledge base and networks.

What else do you think leaders can learn from each other? If you are looking to develop a different type of leadership programme, equipping people with a broader mindset for a post-Brexit World leave a comment or email me at alison@walkerfairway.co.uk

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