It is highly unlikely that this idea would have come to my mind late last year if not for the pandemic. To be frank it took a little time to sell the concept to my colleagues at the PCF but significant momentum was gained after I involved the DCMS Permanent Secretary who is civil service lead for the PCF. Hopefully, the judging panel will see the ground work which has been completed over the last few months since I conceived the concept as an advantage as it will enable relatively fast practical application. It is serendipitous that the online participation of busy Chairs and CEOs is not as time intensive as face to face interactions would be and only requires, say, four one hour slots per person p.a. to deliver significant leadership development benefit. Not only will the programme deliver morale and high quality leadership education benefits for civil servants but I can attest to real benefits from actually delivering the Masterclasses in terms of my own personal development from preparing them, learning from the participants and personal satisfaction and so it is a win; win situation. The format for the sessions and topics will need to be agreed in the planning stage outlined below. During the pandemic topics have included COVID-19 relevant ones, eg I did one on Resilience and Adversity and another on Leadership and Transformation (with one on Purposeful Leadership already prepared). Once established the potential of the programme is to deliver 26,000 leadership development/training hours to civil servants at relatively little direct, although of course some opportunity cost. Of course if the sessions were videoed and posted online on the civil service intranet then growth in training hours would be exponential.
I consider the following 4 key actions will be needed, among others, to capitalise on the opportunity:
+the fact that a pilot programme has just been completed means that focus can be on practical implementation rather than theoretical feasibility. But in a reportedly favourite phrase of Sir Jeremy Heywood – it will need to be gripped. Although the PCF is a member led organisation it might be necessary for the Cabinet Office to encourage the PCF to roll out the programme and market it to all 450 ALBs rather than just the 15% or so which are members of the organisation. Such an approach might also be required in order to roll out the Cabinet Office led pilot diversity mentoring scheme which was recently launched with PCF when the pilot is completed in about a year. This scheme, not my idea although I am a mentor, has ALB Chairs as mentors with the objective of ensuring more people from underrepresented groups get positions on public body boards;
+an overseeing board will need to be established, perhaps initially comprising the DCMS official (involved by the DCMS Permanent Secretary) who led the pilot, the Henley Business School representative involved in the pilots, representatives from PCF and the Association of Chief Executives (the sister organisation to the PCF which shares management resource), perhaps someone from civil service learning. This board will need to set the strategy to include: distilling lessons from the pilot; setting a financial budget and any funding requirement; develop the programme outline, eg the format for sessions (lecture, interactive, or ‘conversation with’) and selection of topics; sorting logistics including admin support to match Chairs/CEOs with Departments and arranging the sessions (PCF and ACE does not have spare capacity to provide this support). Consider a number of options, eg with Cabinet Office influence to get civil service fast stream secondments – Sir Jeremy was himself a fast streamer, seek pro bono support from Business Schools such as Henley or Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government or management consultancies, test the commercial sponsorship opportunity; setting measures of performance; and exploring education qualification potential for participants in the programme;
+getting buy-in to the Leadership Masterclass programme from a senior member of government, including attending the launch even and showing ongoing interest;
+without putting unnecessary strain on Chairs or CEOs of ALBs, given the limited time commitment involved in the Masterclass concept, explore other ways to exploit this top level human capital. For example, whether there is a soft power opportunity for BEIS and or the Foreign Office to use ALB Chairs and CEOS on an ad hoc basis to lever the world leading reputations of some of the public bodies (even small ALBs such as the Sports Grounds Safety Authority which I chair have such reputations) and whether, say, the top 100 senior civil servants could also deliver leadership development programmes and added to the scheme (perhaps by involving the National Centre for Public Sector Leadership). In order to evaluate these and other opportunities the ALB Chairs themselves feasibility work will be required. The proposal is to try to do this work on a no-cost basis (rather than employing expensive consultancies). A number of the Chairs, like myself, have management consultancy experience with leading firms (at least two of us from KPMG) – I would be happy to contribute if thought appropriate and on a pro bono basis.
One final point. If I received a prize I would donate the monies to the Windsor Leadership Trust bursary fund to enable participation by public, charity and faith leaders who otherwise could not afford to attend Windsor Leadership programmes. The top prize would fund 5-10 of these leaders, depending on the programme, pro rata for lesser amounts. Perhaps this could be named the Heywood Foundation Bursary.
Naturally, if the competition rules permit, I would be happy to expand on any of the points I have made.