Professor John Diamond (Director of the University’s I4P), reflects on the need for executive education programmes:
A key point I want to make from the outset is a declaration of interest – I am the co-editor of an international journal which is committed to publishing essays and research papers from academics and practitioners engaged in the education of public leaders and managers.
Teaching Public Administration, published by Sage, carries papers overwhelmingly from outside the UK. They highlight the shared and overlapping interests of leaders and managers in the UK, and they confirm (I think) why we need to raise the question of how we support those involved in managing complex organisations across the public sector.
That statement of interest over, I think there are three key points to make: firstly, that there are very evident shared experiences and agendas – managing change in a context of declining resources but rising expectations from users and politicians. It is not a cliché or a sound bite to say ‘you / we need to do more with less’.
Secondly, there are a group of overlapping issues which cut across public / private and not for profit – questions of governance and accountability. It seems to me that whilst we think we understand the accountability question, and I am not sure we do, there is a real issue over governance. Seeking to ensure that leaders and senior executives engage with the governance question is vital if we are to begin to address the questions raised in my first observation. I think that senior leaders need support, from external mentors or critical friends, it doesn’t matter what we call them, but what is needed are individuals who can support them in their critical self-reflection and personal learning so that they are better able (more confident as well as more reflective) in their practice to think and act strategically as well as understand the local or the domestic too.
Finally, good quality executive education is also about learning to make transitions work too. And I think that understanding that is also about connecting the internal world with the external environment and focussing on what the longer term ideas are. And that requires setting those thinking and learning activities in a set of values and principles which can be shared and recognised. I have a particular interest in how we encourage individuals and organisations to work across their institutional boundaries and silos. These are themes I will return to.