Victoria launches new academy to lift leadership capability

By Harley Dennett

September 6, 2016

© Kit Haselden Photography

From 2017 all Victorian Public Service executives will receive independent assessment and a tailored development plan for their career. It comes as the government launches the new Victorian Leadership Academy.

From 2017 all Victorian Public Service executives will receive independent assessment and a tailored development plan for their career. This comes as the Special Minister of State launches the new Victorian Leadership Academy.

Gavin Jennings marked the launch of a new model for leadership development across the Victorian Public Service, saying the VPS needed to leave no stone unturned to make sure it has the capability now and into the future.

“Public sector leadership is essential to transformation, to meeting demand pressures, to innovation, to the way in which we rise up collectively to the challenges our citizens confront each and every day and to the expectations they hold of us.

“We need strong leadership within the public sector, the capability coming through, the knowledge, the skill base, and the active encouragement to develop best practice, drive innovation and bring technology to bear, to actually make sure that we do not rest on our laurels.

“We need to dive into the public sector, to find talent, to cherish it, to nurture it, and to make sure that we have the analytics to understand what our skill mix is at the moment, and to actually identify what our skill deficiencies may be.”

The Victorian Leadership Academy, established by the Secretaries Board, is designed to ensure this is done in a systematic way in recognition of the increasingly complex and changeable environment in which the public service operates.

It follows a review of the former Victoria Leadership Development Centre, led by Carmel McGregor.

“The Academy goes to the heart of understanding more clearly the sector-wide imperatives,” McGregor says, “matching those challenges with the best talent assessed by evidence based techniques for a collective future, and providing the opportunities to build the long term capability of leaders”.

The launch of the Academy recognises that good government calls for senior leaders who are adaptable, connect deeply with the community, collaborate effectively with each other, and are in a position to make the most of new advancements and technologies to improve the government’s working relationships with citizens.

The Academy intends to make a significant contribution to the government’s commitment to delivering on its priorities for Victoria.

The Academy is modelled on emergent practices in other jurisdictions and the private sector. The Academy will lift leadership capability across Victoria’s public service by facilitating an interconnected set of strategic, targeted activities for participants, with a focus on providing development opportunities that are specifically tailored to the needs of the service and the individual, with experiential learning as the central, defining force.

Gavin Jennings, Carmel McGregor, Belinda Clark and Chris Eccles
Gavin Jennings, Carmel McGregor, Belinda Clark and Chris Eccles

Belinda Clark, the Victorian public sector commissioner, says the Academy’s model of leadership development will ensure our public service leaders are equipped with the right skills and capabilities to lead an effective and impactful public service.

“The Victorian Secretaries Board will set a four-year strategic plan for public service leadership, which will articulate current and emerging public service needs. The  plan will detail where our capability gaps are, and where the risks lie, and identify the specific leadership qualities that are required to deliver on the government’s current and emerging priorities”.

Commencing in 2017, all Victorian public service executives will undergo independent assessment and receive a tailored development plan aligned with the Victorian Leadership Capability Framework.

The assessment process will produce rich data and analytics, providing a comprehensive picture of the public service and what it needs from its leaders, now and into the future. It will also provide a strong evidence back for making decisions about leadership, talent and succession.

A small number of executives will be selected each year for highly targeted, centrally coordinated development through the Academy.

The Academy aims to build a pool of credible candidates for senior leadership roles, with dedicated streams for departmental secretary, deputy secretary and equivalent roles.

The Academy approach is underpinned by four key principles: a focus on system need; a commitment to evidence-based decisions; appropriate governance; and an emphasis on experiential learning.

  1. A focus on system need. The new model takes a sector-wide view. It focusses on the needs of the system, rather than on the needs of individuals or individual agencies. This requires a mindset shift from both agencies and individuals, with top talent to be viewed as assets of the public sector, rather than of their agency alone.
  2. A commitment to evidence-based decisions. In collaboration with independent experts, the Academy will produce an evidence base for making decisions about leadership, talent and succession, drawing on the results of the assessment of all public service executives. Data and analytics will be used to identify and address areas of leadership risk, including capability gaps, retirement risks, workforce shortages and emerging Government priorities, as well as to drive initiatives that can improve the diversity of the Victorian public sector’s leaders.
  3. Appropriate governance. The Academy is a joint initiative between the Victorian Public Sector Commission and the VSB. The VSB will govern and steward Victoria’s senior leadership cohort. It will collectively make all decision in relationship to leadership, talent and succession, based on a sound, independent, evidence base. The Victorian Public Sector Commission will act as facilitator, clearing house and shared resource.
  4. Emphasis on experiences. Finally, the Academy will have a strong focus on experiential learning, which will involve participants tackling the genuine challenges facing the sector. Experiential learning will take a central place as the defining experience of leaders’ development.

This targeted leadership development approach represents a move away from a traditional model where participants are developed across a common curriculum. It will provide an interconnected set of strategic, targeted interventions to lift leadership capability across the Victorian public sector. Offering diverse experiences will assist break down institutional silos and deliver leaders with greater breadth and understanding.

The Academy will also make learning opportunities available to a wider audience, and encourage participants to share what they learn.

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