An agency or Public Service leader with a natural responsibility in an area of government performance leads the system with support and commitment from PSLT.

The basics

  • When to use this tool

    • An agency with a clear/natural responsibility for improving a specific area of government performance
    • Either representing a demographic group or function of government
    • Giving an agency or group power to direct other agencies is not an appropriate solution (discharge role through influence, transparency and so on)
  • How to agree goals/outcomes

    • Plan proposed by CEs to PSLT
    • PSLT (revise and) collectively agree to plan
  • Governance model required

    • PSLT to agree the mandate of the role and be updated on progress where necessary
    • PSLT to hold each other collectively responsible for agreed actions/behaviour
  • Ministerial relationships required

    • May have no ministerial relationship
    • Where this does exist, leader to balance direct accountability to own minister with collective agreements with PSLT
  • Incentives required

    • PSLT to set clear expectations for actions/behaviour
    • Voluntary guidelines and best practice set by leader
    • Standards proposed by leader and agreed by  PSLT
    • Recognising good practice (at PSLT or elsewhere)
    • Focus on performance information as a lever – reporting to PSLT, to ministers, and/or to the public.
    • Recognition for CEs
  • How to manage the funding

    Any combination of:

    • Leader to fund own activities from baseline/own appropriation
    • Club funding where required for collective-good activity
    • System fund or dedicated appropriation for cross-agency work

About this model

Functional leadership is a mechanism to secure economies or efficiencies across departments, improve services or service delivery, develop expertise and capability across the Public Service, and ensure business continuity. Functional leaders can include ‘heads of profession’, who lead the development of a profession or occupational group within the Public Service, such as legal or finance.

Case Study: Government Legal Network

Formed in 2011 and led by the Crown Law Office, the Government Legal Network (GLN) links more than 800 lawyers across all government departments, enabling professional mentoring and the sharing of knowledge and expertise essential for the provision of high-quality, trusted legal advice to the Crown.

The GLN came into being as the solution to the problem of a perceived lack of consistency and quality of legal practice across agencies and a lack of professional peer support exacerbated by the large number of small departments with small legal teams. In other jurisdictions a centralised approach where the Solicitor-General is the employer of all government lawyers was seen as a solution to similar problems. As an alternative to the ‘shared functions’ approach, the GLN was considered a middle solution that could act to improve the quality and consistency of practice without the cost and disruption of centralisation. It is a model of stronger centralised leadership enabling the continued independence of agencies.

In April 2016 Cabinet approved the permanent establishment of the GLN. Through taking on a system leadership role the GLN has forged strong networks with the government legal sector. Through these networks the GLN has sought to deliver to the Government the full coordinated value from its in-house legal resource.

With a core focus on advancing capability and engagement, all government lawyers are encouraged to participate in GLN initiatives and the GLN Director works closely with chief legal advisors, chief executives and deputy chief executives to identify ways in which individual departments can demonstrate their expertise and leadership ability. A collaborative approach towards mobilising talent and optimising technical excellence across the sector is key.

Key features of the GLN are:

  • A shared workspace, hosted by the Department of Internal Affairs, is a popular facility with GLN members.
  • GLN Online functions as an e-portal where public sector lawyers can upload their profiles, download legal resources, participate in discussion forums, advertise jobs and promote events.
  • An active events calendar — running professional development and ‘lessons learned’ seminars of general interest, in conjunction with programmes specific to specialised legal practice groups.

The GLN is funded through a multi-category appropriation administered by Crown Law (Vote Attorney-General).  The related performance measures include:

  • the number of CPD hours provided to government lawyers
  • reports to Crown Law through the GLN legal risk reporting mechanism
  • the satisfaction of chief legal advisers and other members of GLN.

 Home — Government Legal Network

Further reading

The Policy Project is another example of a system leadership commitment model in action. There is a range of useful information about the Policy Project on the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet website.

About the Policy Project — Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet