By Dimis Michaelides
I presented a keynote on innovation at the 9th Quality Conference recently in Malta. Different public sector organisations from most EU countries were represented and 40 or so cases were presented in mini workshops. I was impressed by the array of topics and actions and offer some snippets from the workshops I attended.
The Principal of a high school (age group of Cypriot lyceums) in Finland presented governance in her school and the thematic organisation of learning. The collaboration of teachers and students in governance helps increase their control over the activities of the school and is continuously evolving.
I learnt that teachers in Finland are obliged to work at least 100 hours outside school every year and that often students are the most conservative group when it comes to accepting changes.
Full reorganisation of the drivers’ licensing system in Crete happened with the help of a small army of unemployed people paid a minimal fee via an EU scheme and motivated by weekly excursions and pizza chill-outs.
They digitalised all archives, reduced administrative steps from 16 to four and eradicated at least six potential sources of corruption.
The President of the Belgian Ministry of Social Security spoke about how, over 10 years, the Ministry is handling 10 times more work with less than half the people.
There are no longer compulsory working hours and people may work from home or the office and they are free to do personal business at the office. Performance is peer reviewed in teams and the physical workplace has been entirely redesigned to have spaces for solitary work, small meetings, bigger meetings and drinking coffee.
A strong case was presented by the EU for digitalisation as a catalyst for transparency in government. Another case showed how an entire police force was retrained from top to bottom on matters of sensitivity to personal rights and data protection. Another group of participants outlined a new role for HR in talent management via a centralised civil service system.
It was a refreshing conference which showed that public bodies are perfectly capable of rising up to innovation challenges. However, I longed for some debate on more radical questions.
What if public officials reorganise themselves out of a job? What if government nourished an entrepreneurial spirit in the public service and treated every public service as a start-up?
A final point: at the Malta conference nobody was present from the government of Cyprus.
*Michaelides is a consultant, speaker and trainer on leadership, creativity and innovation