Bringing Practical Leadership Tools to the Public Sector

Thursday, Mar 17, 2016 Category Education

by Lawrence Greenspun

The Drucker Institute's mission is strengthening organizations to strengthen society, a wording and focus we came to over time. When I first arrived at the Drucker Institute in 2009, we understood our mission as "Stimulating effective management and responsible leadership across all sectors of society." It was easy to see then how we pursued that mission in the private sector through our CEO Forums and corporate training initiatives. Non-profit leaders also attended our forums, and we leveraged the annual $100,000 Drucker Nonprofit Award to help teach non-profits how to embed habits of innovation within their organizational DNA.

But when it came to the public sector, other than a lone government official who attended one of our forums, we really didn't have much going on. Determined to justify the "all" in the "all sectors of society" part of our mission, I volunteered to develop a Drucker-based program for the public sector.

Investigating the public sector professional development marketplace, I found a glaring lack of basic and practical management and leadership training. Search for public sector training opportunities online, and you'll find no shortage of programs and courses that focus on Big Data analytics, transformative innovation, and Black Belts in change and lean management. But for the countless, dedicated public sector supervisors, managers, and executives—many of whom have moved up the ranks after years of service or come to the public sector from other endeavors—this is like offering a crash course in brain surgery to a first-year medical student. Without a foundation in the principles and practices of effective management and responsible leadership, there's nothing to hold up that Black Belt.

As a student of Drucker, I was working from the premise that all public sector employees fill leadership roles of one kind or another and that effective leadership is a marriage of vision, management, performance, and character. By vision, I mean the ability to realistically look at the past and present as well as envision a better future—whether that's for a specific project, program or policy; a team, department, or agency; or a community and its people. By management, I mean the tools, policies, and procedures to systematically plan for mission-centered results. By performance, I mean the ability to put management plans into practice to produce positive, mission-centered results. And by character, I mean the personal and organizational integrity, principles, and values that lead to socially responsible results for the common good.

Using this Drucker-influenced conception of leadership, we developed the "Drucker Playbook for the Public Sector," a practical and tools based training program for government employees. The Playbook debuted in South Bend, Indiana, where the city's entire Department of Community Investment (DCI)—from its director to is part-time administrative assistant—participated in 12 monthly, live, in-person training sessions developed in consultation with the department's leadership team.

As a result of the training, South Bend's DCI became "more effective at identifying priorities, managing time, setting goals, and communicating both internally and externally with its customers," according to South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Taking what we learned in South Bend and looking for ways to reach more public sector customers, the Drucker Institute partnered with the National League of Cities in 2014-2015 to share a revised Playbook remotely through synchronous online sessions with government officials in Louisville and Memphis. CPS HR Consulting, on the nation's premier public sector human resources consulting firms, was brought in to conduct a third-party assessment of the Playbook's long-term impact and outcomes.

As in South Bend, we learned that one of the keys to helping Playbook participants move from ideas to action to results was to provide ongoing contact and assistance. This commitment to continued direct support has helped lead to some astounding results. In a survey conducted by CPS HR Consulting more than three months post program, Playbook graduates from Louisville and Memphis reported a 48% increase in their "personal effectiveness with the people [they] manage" and a 49% increase in their "personal effectiveness with [their] external customers," as well as a 55% improvement in their "overall job performance."

Participants who noted an increase in individual, team, and/or agency-wide productivity since the training attributed 72% of that increase as directly resulting from the Playbook engagement. Sixty-nine percent of the increase in morale noted was attributed directly to Playbook participation, and was 64% of the increase in project completion.

Convinced by the results and feedback that we were addressing a real need in terms of public sector professional development, we were determined to find a way to share the Drucker Playbook with as many government workers as possible. At the same time, we remained committed to the idea of personally and directly supporting anyone looking to follow through on the Playbook's lessons to produce positive change in their government agencies and the communities they serve. Creating an online, recorded version of the Drucker Playbook not only allows public sector employees to move through the training at a time of their choosing and their own pace, it allows us to add resources not well suited to synchronous training, whether live or remote.

This version of the Playbook, available in the spring of 2016 through the Drucker Institute's online educational platform, will include animated case studies, excerpted and adapted Drucker readings, and original audio and video recordings of the late Peter Drucker himself, as well as the many hands-on, ready-to-be-implemented lessons, activities, and tools that were part of the Playbook pilot sessions in South Bend, Louisville, and Memphis. Each module also comes with a scripted Discussion Guide that will help team leaders facilitate a deeper dive into the material and promote follow through on opportunities for implementation.

The Drucker Institute's mission has gone through several iterations between the "all-sectors-of-society" version that pointed us toward the public sector and today's "Strengthening organizations to strengthen society," that has us thinking about opportunities for promoting cross-sector effectiveness. But as Peter Drucker wrote, "The ultimate test is not the beauty of the mission statement. The ultimate test is your performance." Through the Drucker Playbook, we hope to raise not just our own performance but that of public sector officials around the world.

To learn more about the Drucker Playbook for the Public Sector, please visit the Drucker Institute's Drucker Playbook page​ or contact me directly at Lawrence.Greenspu​n@cgu.edu.

Lawrence Greenspun Lawrence Greenspu​n is a senior program developer and manager at the Drucker Institute, where he is responsible for the Institute's Drucker Playbook for the Public Sector. Lawrence also co-teaches a graduate course in leadership for the ESTEEM Master's in Entrepreneurship program at the University of Notre Dame and volunteers for the American Prairie Reserve, which is building a prairie-based wildlife reserve in Montana.