ORP Report on Civil Service challenges by nnl21265

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									                                            ORP Report on Civil Service challenges

    CHAPTER

                              Civil Service challenges
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Introduction
The purpose of this chapter is to identify certain Civil Service wide challenges which emerged
from the Departments being reviewed in the first phase of the Organisational Review
Programme (the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Department of Enterprise,
Trade and Employment and the Department of Transport). The aim is:
            To provide an insight into some of the most important organisational issues facing the
             Civil Service generally in terms of its capacity to meet the challenges of the future;
             To identify issues which need to be resolved by Departments themselves and centrally
              by the Department of Finance and the Department of the Taoiseach; and
            To allow Departments which have yet to be reviewed under the Organisational
             Review Programme to assess to what extent these issues might affect them and then
             take any action required to address them.

It is not a summary of the challenges described in the reports on the three Departments; instead
it focuses on some of the issues which surfaced during the reviews of the Departments and
which are likely to be challenges across the wider Civil Service.

These issues are grouped below under the three broad headings — issues for Departments
generally, issues for Departments and the Centre, and issues for the Centre.

Issues for Departments
Internal leadership and communications
Discussions at the workshops, as well as the results of the staff surveys across the three
Departments, showed that the staff tend to be significantly more satisfied with the leadership
displayed by their immediate managers than that displayed by the top management at
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Management Advisory Committee (MAC) level. While one might expect, especially in a large
organisation, that staff might regard the MAC as a little remote from front -line staff, it is
somewhat surprising given the face-to-face contact between management and staff required by
PMDS, as well as the increased consultation involved in the business planning and Statements
of Strategy processes, and the operation of Partnership Committees that this should have featured
to the extent that it has in all three Departments.

There is a clear challenge for managers at all levels to develop good two -way communications.
Departments should consider the introduction of regular structured meetings at loc al level
involving all staff, as well as the use of newsletters, and they should ensure that the MAC
members become more visible within Departments through their participation in cross -grade

4
    The top management group in Government Departments is typically made up of the Minister(s), the Secretary General and
    the Assistant Secretaries. It is invariably referred to as the MAC or the Management Board.


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team building and social events and by networking widely. Departments also need to ensure
that leadership and communications are clearly valued in the context of HR strategy and are
focused on by training and development policies. The performance assessmen t process for
managers should encompass the conduct of meetings as well as the levels of engagement between
managers and staff.

    Action point for Departments: Internal leadership and communications within Departments especially
    at MAC level need to be prioritised in promotion, deployment policies, induction and training
    generally, and the partnership process also needs to be deepened and reinvigorated.

Performance measurement, output and outcome measures

The Civil Service has come a long way in terms of building a culture of performance
measurement at both the individual and corporate levels. The introduction of the Management
Information Framework provides a structure for performance measurement, while St atements
of Strategy, Business Plans and PMDS link together and require a focus on identifying goals,
deliverables and suitable performance indicators at both corporate and individual (PMDS) level.
Nevertheless, performance measurement is not as deeply embedded as it might be. Output and
outcome measures are rare or at an early stage of development in many areas. Departments need
to intensify their efforts in developing appropriate output and outcome indicators; and they
should also develop these indicators in conjunction with their offices and agencies, taking
account of the OECD Report’s views on the governance of offices and agencies.

    Action points for Departments: While work on output and outcome measurement is still at an
    early stage, a clear focus on measurement and on output and outcome indicators needs to be
    developed by all Departments (and with their offices and agencies) to enable them to evaluate the
    impact of policy, VFM, etc. Departments also need to make better use of the Management
    Information Framework system and improve their own knowledge management and data retrieval
    systems.

Horizontal co-ordination

The increasing complexity and volume of issues dealt with by Departments, as well as the in -
depth sectoral knowledge and expertise held by Departments, means that there is a strong case
for line Departments to take the lead in their sectors on issues affecting a large number of
stakeholders rather than, as can be the case at present, looking to the centre for leadership on
horizontal issues. Such leadership might involve developing networks of stakeholder groups
which would include bodies, offices, agencies, public, private and not-for-profit organisations.

    Action point for Departments: Secretaries General and other senior managers need to:

         Be highly visible champions of change in their Departments;

         Identify opportunities to exercise greater leadership within their sector, as well as to secure
          more horizontal co-operation; and

         Consider the skill sets (for example, brokering, influencing, negotiating, etc) required by
          senior staff arising from the increased emphasis on leadership.

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Issues for Departments and the Centre
Managing performance
The management of performance is a challenge within Departments. Since the introduction of
the Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2005, and the associated Disciplinary Code, as well
as the introduction of the revised model of PMDS, the legal and system supports are in place
to allow managers to manage performance and to address underperformance. However, despite
this improved clarity and certainty in terms of structures and processes, cultural barriers remain.
The action being taken to tackle underperformance is not regarded as robust amongst staff at all
levels. As managers are proving slow to adopt the new procedures, they need to be incentivised
and supported so as to address this issue and to create new expectations about performance.
    Action points for Departments: HR units need to ensure that managers are fully aware of the
    mechanisms available to manage performance and to tackle underperformance; HR units also need
    to support individual managers involved in the process of tackling underperformance. Secretaries
    General need to launch initiatives to roll out awareness and to drive a change in culture.

    Action points for the Centre: The Department of Finance should monitor progress on the embedding
    of PMDS and standardise its application and on the management of underperformance across the
    Civil Service. The undertaking of the system-wide review of PMDS in the Civil Service specified
    in General Council Report number 1368 of 4 May 2000 should assist in this regard.

Performance dialogue with agencies and offices
There are a wide variety of agencies and offices under the aegis of Government Departments,
generally established to take on a specific role. In the three Departments reviewed, there is no
overall consistency to the governance arrangements that exist between Departments and their
agencies and offices in setting goals and targets and reporting in a structured and regular way
on progress made over time in achieving the targets. Between Departments, even where
agencies and offices are working within the same sector, there is no standard policy in terms of
setting and agreeing performance targets with their agencies and offices.

Without robust, well thought through governance arrangements which focus on outputs and
outcomes and which bring the Department to a much closer insight into their bodies’
performance and into their customers’ satisfaction levels, the ability of Departments to evaluate
effectively the performance of their agencies is greatly restricted.

    Action points for Departments: Issues in relation to the governance of agencies and offices, including
    those raised above, were referred to in the recently published OECD report Ireland: Towards an
    Integrated Public Service. In response to both that report and to the comments in this review,
    Departments should review their existing relationships with their agencies and offices to ensure
    improved accountability and performance management. Agencies and offices should also be required
    to produce Output Statements.

    Action points for the Centre: At the Centre consideration should be given to developing new codes
    of corporate governance. The planned revision of the new governance and performance frameworks
    and any necessary legislative provisions should be brought forward. There is also a need to consider

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    what are the most appropriate models for agencies and offices, what are the most effective governance
    arrangements for them, and what is the scope for their rationalisation; in addition clarity is required
    as to how their boards are appointed and held accountable as well as the legal responsibilities of
    Ministerial representatives on boards.


Reporting to the Centre
An issue which emerged is the perceived burden of the reporting to the Centre (Department
of Finance and Department of the Taoiseach) which all Departments are required to make. The
central reporting requirements have grown over the years and it is timely to take stock of what
information is required and for consideration to be given to how this can be simplified and
reduced. It would also be timely for Departments to review their own knowledge management
systems to ensure that their capacity to respond to requests for information is such that the
additional burden of such requests is minimised.

    Action point for Departments: Each Department should review its knowledge management systems
    to ensure that key information is easily retrieved and that its internal co-ordination processes are
    optimum.

    Action point for the Centre: The Department of Finance and the Department of the Taoiseach
    should work together to quantify the scope and frequency of reports requested with a view to seeing
    how they can be simplified or streamlined.


Family-friendly working
Family-friendly working and the flexibilities it brings are popular with those who avail of it and
it has served to help attract and retain staff (in particular female staff) in the Civil Service. Many
managers expect that the take up of family-friendly work options is likely to increase in the
future. The implications of these policies in terms of job design, work planning, service del ivery
and operational requirements are not seen to be reflected in the extent and type of work patterns
that have developed. In some cases continuity of work and knowledge management are lost
when structures to support handovers of work do not exist. The c omplexity of managing in
this environment may require explicit management resourcing and attention, and the service
delivery implications also need to be examined.

    Action point for Departments and the Centre: Departments should assess their capacities to manage
    flexible working and address issues such as job design and planning in order to ensure that, through
    balancing customer needs and staff demands, there is no reduction in the quality of the service being
    delivered to their customers. Given that it is not an entitlement and is subject to business
    requirements, Departments should also consider whether they should adopt formal limits on the
    extent of flexible working.


Rebalancing resources
In undertaking the necessary measures to control public spending and deliver on the
Government’s agenda, a more flexible and targeted approach should be taken to reb alancing the
allocation of staff across Departments and within Departments so as to focus on the areas of
highest Government priority. This flexibility has been demonstrated in times of particular need

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in the past with, for example, the EU Presidency and the Foot and Mouth crisis. However, it
should be possible to redirect resources more flexibly and on a more regular basis than is
currently the case.


     Action point for the Centre: The Department of Finance should initiate central negotiations to
     enable the flexible redeployment of resources across all administrative, professional and technical
     boundaries — both within Departments and across Departments — in order to address Government
     priorities in the most effective manner.

Definition of customer
Government Departments serve Ministers, the Oireachtas and members of the public including,
for some Departments, individuals and businesses to whom they provide direct services. In the
three Departments which have been reviewed, the services to an end user are delivered in some
cases by an independent agency on behalf of the Department.

In certain areas there is a degree of ambiguity about who the Department’s customer is — some
members of staff and management of a Department will define the customer in the traditional
way as those who directly deal with the Department, while others may see the end user as the
customer, even where there is no direct link with the Department. This absence of clarity
contributes to a lack of focus on the needs of customers and on the role of the Department in
relation to customers who might be described as indirect customers. Considerable work has
been done on improving direct customer service, including the adoption of Customer Charters,
but the ambiguity between direct and indirect customers can lead to a failure to fully embed
the necessary customer focus in policy making and service delivery.

Where customer service is delivered through intermediaries — such as offices, agencies and
commercial bodies — there is a real challenge for Departments in keeping sight of the customer.
If appropriate governance and information flows are not in place, then the web of bodies can
make it difficult for a Department to keep in close touch with its customers’ needs.

    Action point for Departments: Departments need to pursue agreed customer service targets and
    indicators with the bodies under their aegis, especially in the commercial area where public subsidies
    are involved or where the targets are not determined by sector regulators.

    Action point for the Centre: The Department of the Taoiseach should work with line Departments,
    offices and agencies to deepen the Quality Customer Service ethos and to ensure that they draw up
    and implement action plans which will enable them to clearly identify their external and internal
    customers and, by using customer research techniques, to identify their customers’ requirements.


Issues for the Centre
Specialist skills
Traditionally the Civil Service has largely been staffed by ‘generalist’ staff coming from a range
of backgrounds. Some senior managers indicated that as the business, economic and social
environment becomes more complex and demanding, there is an increasing need to ensure that
a wider range of skill sets is available within Departments. This will require first a clear


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understanding of what skills will be required in the future, and then a more strategic approach
to recruitment, deployment and training, as well as skills transfer from consultants who have
been used for outsourced work.

The case of ICT is a particular one affecting most Departments in similar ways. The ICT
management skill set is in short supply in the wider market place. So it is no surprise that some
Departments examined in this review (especially those with small ICT functions) find themselves
challenged. When something new or difficult has to be tackled in the ICT area, there is a
tendency to hire in consultants or contractors to do the job. This has proved expensive and it
can lead to a hollowing out of technical skills and confidence levels within Departments, and it
can also involve a lack of skills transfer back to Departments. However, bought-in expertise has
its place and the objective should be to get the balance between the use of consultants and in -
house staff right.

     Action points for the Centre: The Department of Finance should work together with all
     Departments to develop robust skills needs analysis measures so that Departments can identify
     skills gaps and decide how they can be addressed. In relation to ICT, the Department of Finance
     should consider how best to ensure that staff and managers in ICT areas across the Civil Service
     have the required skill sets to operate effectively in a fast changing and specialised environment,
     including considering the merits of establishing a Civil Service wide career path for ICT staff.
     Similar approaches may also be required for other professional and technical streams.

HR management function
Decentralisation affects Departments and offices differently depending on whether any, some or
all of the work is being relocated. Even Departments and offices not decentralising are affected
by the turnover of staff, as some staff move to decentralise and others not decentralising are
assigned to those Departments and offices. Decentralisation is posing significant challenges to
the HR, training and ICT functions in Departments and offices. Overall one of the impacts of
decentralisation is to intensify the HR management challenges previously mentioned such as
managing performance, training and development, managing family-friendly working and
structured mobility policies. In addition, the very significant challenge in managing business
continuity and skills transfer was commented on by a number of senior managers.
    Action point for the Centre: Improved mechanisms for supporting HR managers should be
    developed by the Department of Finance in conjunction with the Decentralisation Implementation
    Group.

EU dimension
Historically Ireland’s officials are valued as being effective negotiators and constructive problem-
solvers in the EU arena. However, there are some concerns now that Departments may be
drifting down the scale of effectiveness at EU level. The EU is an important input into policy
and strategy development for all Member States and as a result it is essential that Departments
are in tune with what is happening in Brussels and are able to exert influence when it counts;
for example, global issues such as climate change, peacekeeping and WTO negotiations require
Ireland to engage effectively at an EU level.


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The changes in the EU landscape — for instance, the enlargement of the EU to 27 Member
States as well as the shifting focus of influence within the EU — mean that Ireland’s relationships
must keep in step. The management of this more complex environment brings with it an
additional resource requirement, and it will be essential to manage this requirement in a more
strategic manner, selecting and supporting appropriate staff and ensuring that they have the
required skill sets (such as negotiating and networking) as well as technical competence i n
relation to their functional areas. The management of the nexus between Departments and our
representatives in the EU will also continue to be important. It will, in addition, be necessary
to devote more energy to the European Parliament and to supporting Ireland’s MEPs.

One avenue, which helps give individual staff a good understanding of the operation of the EU
institutions, is the placement of Irish Civil Servants as National Experts within the institutions,
and Departments should consider a managed strategic programme of placement and where
necessary support of suitable staff.
    Action point for the Centre: The Department of Finance, the Department of the Taoiseach and
    the Department of Foreign Affairs should work together with line Departments to draw up and
    implement an action plan to address these EU challenges.




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