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Criticaleye's Community Updates are read each week by Members, registered users, and subscribers globally. Click on any of the topics below to see the corresponding newsletter. If you would like to comment further on any of these topics, write to us via info@criticaleye.com.

Public Sector CEOs

The recent flow of public funds into private institutions has certainly blurred the boundaries between public and private sector organisations. But what are the real issues facing public sector leaders in the current climate? And will the relationship between private companies and their public sector counterparts change in response to our new economic circumstances? We recently held a breakfast for public sector CEOs to discuss their concerns in the current climate. 

So what are the biggest challenges for public sector CEOs in the downturn? Paul Markwick, Chief Executive for the Vehicle Certification Agency, points to the need for strong leadership: "We are working in a time of great change and increasing fiscal pressure, in many ways comparable to our private sector peers. It's under these circumstances that true leadership abilities will be tested."

Mary Jo Jacobi, Non-Executive Director and Trustee for several international not-for-profit organisations and Associate for Criticaleye adds to this, "This environment cries out for strong leadership in which the public can be confident. The current turmoil demands creative public sector management to continue delivering services and meeting expectations."

Clearly, effective communication is crucial, especially when dealing with Government Officials. As Richard Laing, Chief Executive for CDC explains, "We must remember that what we as CEOs think is vitally important may not be so to them. They have different objectives and are under different pressures so open and clear dialogue is critical."

As our CEOs discussed at the breakfast, the transition from private to public sector, a move which many had made, can be difficult. Heightened bureaucracy and different ways of working is often a source of frustration for leaders. But, as Clive Ansell, Senior Advisor to the board for Royal Mail explains, "The reality is there is a continuum of roles from private businesses to public appointments. And right throughout the continuum, the challenges of transformation in a hostile environment, combined with the reliance of all stakeholders on successful transformations, has never been greater."

Tom Taylor, Chief Executive for The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust describes how the difference in culture can create difficulties for public sector leaders from private organisations: "I think there is a significant challenge for private sector leaders making the transition to the public sector, not because one is better than the other but because they are very different environments in which to operate. For example, I have to hold all of my Trust Board meetings publically with the media present, not to mention the political environment, both locally and nationally, in which we operate."     

But when it comes to lessons in leadership, public and private heads have much to teach each other. As Mary Jo says, "The two sectors are understanding the need to co-operate more and work more closely. The government can't just spend its way out of the recession and impose heavier regulations. And the private sector needs to jointly work with the government to deliver better long-term solutions, clearer thinking and a more pragmatic approach."

Nick Goodall, Chief Executive for the Renewable Fuels Agency adds, "Recognising that the public sector has an often very different culture is an opportunity to harness its distinctive strengths. Fusing these strengths with the best aspects of the private sector makes for a powerful combination."

Tom Taylor expands on these sentiments, "If we can combine the business skills of the private sector with the services ethos of the public sector, we have a fantastically powerful model."

Public Sector CEOs Insights

As always, we have some great Insight on the issues in this week's newsletter. Pursuing High Performance in Public Service Through Sustainability explores the concept of sustainable business practices to boost public sector performance and value for economic growth. Transformation in the Public Sector explores the civil service of tomorrow, how organisations are managing change, and what the main challenges are in these times of reform and best practices. And The Role of Private Sector in an Evolving Healthcare Strategy details a Discussion Group we held towards the end of 2008 where participants discussed the importance of partnerships between the NHS and business so it can achieve long-term strategy.

Matthew Blagg, CEO, Criticaleye