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Part One: Leadership and Direction

Purpose, Vision and Strategy

How well do the staff and stakeholders understand the agency’s purpose, vision and strategy?

How well does the agency consider and plan for possible changes in its purpose or role in the foreseeable future?

Performance Rating: Needing development need development - big.

Leadership and Governance

How well does the senior team provide collective leadership and direction to the agency and how well does it implement change?

How effectively does the board lead the Crown entity? (For Crown entities only)

Performance Rating: Needing development need development - big.

Values, Behaviour and Culture

How well does the agency develop and promote the organisational values, behaviours and culture it needs to support its strategic direction and ensure customer value?

Performance Rating: Well placed well placed - big.

Review

How well does the agency encourage and use evaluative activity?

Performance Rating: Needing development need development - big.

Purpose, Vision and Strategy

Education NZ’s purpose is to take New Zealand education experiences to the world for enduring economic, social and cultural benefits. The Leadership Statement for International Education is the founding document for Education NZ and defines the vision as “New Zealand’s quality education services are highly sought after internationally, and expand our international social, cultural and economic engagement”. The vision and the purpose are underpinned by the three goals specified in the Leadership Statement. Education NZ has a fourth goal which is an internal continuous improvement goal.

The purpose is very well understood by staff across all functions and at all levels. Goal 1 (Student Attraction) is equally well understood. The second and third goals (International Delivery and Working for New Zealand) are well understood by management and to a lesser degree by other staff. This reflects the strong emphasis on Goal 1 for most staff over the four year life of Education NZ. The goals are seen as motivating and collectively referred to as our ‘light on the hill’.

Staff readily and enthusiastically respond to questions on the purpose and goals and how they link to the Government’s priorities. Staff were less clear on the underpinning strategy, value proposition and operating model. The long term objectives as set out in the Leadership Statement and associated metrics are well understood as are the one-year targets set out in the 2015/16 Education NZ Business Plan. The PIF Self-review notes a lack of clarity around strategy, focus and evaluation in assessing performance in the other two core business areas.

Education NZ is acutely aware that the accelerating pace of change in education generally will impact its ability to achieve the medium to long term outcomes set out in the Leadership Statement. Disruptive education models embraced by Generation C/Millennium Generation learners will mean that new technologies, digital products and services and mobile apps will play an increasing role as the pace of change in the education sector rapidly gathers momentum. Capacity and absorption of international students coming to New Zealand to study will require collaboration with institutions and considered planning. There is an understanding from senior leadership within Education NZ of the need to diversify and focus on all three goals if the industry is to deliver on the Government’s BGA.

Awareness of the need to adapt and move into the international delivery and working for New Zealand space is also high amongst the sector policy and monitoring agencies. There is agreement that Education NZ has made definite progress since it was set up four years ago and that having established a strong credible base it can now accelerate the pace of change and develop a more constructive and purposeful way to support strategic direction, ensure customer value and drive growth in the sector. There is strong support from most people we spoke to for Education NZ to step into a more proactive leadership/stewardship role and take responsibility for the development of a unifying strategy that provides clarity of purpose for all contributor agencies. The self-described journey that Education NZ has been on (see diagram below) needs to accelerate rapidly from building credibility to strategic thought leadership for the international education sector.

Our Stages of Evolution

 

Working deliberately towards more interdependent practices with the sector central government agencies will foster collaboration and the ability to work more effectively across agency boundaries with openness and candour. Interdependent cultures and practices are characterised by the assumption that leadership is a collective activity that requires mutual inquiry and learning.

In our discussions with the sector central government agencies and key stakeholders there was strong support for and an understanding of the need for a strategy development process across all three goals. Collaboration and alignment will be essential to development of the strategy as will a well-defined business model that sees Education NZ taking a clear stewardship role for the industry as a whole, a value proposition for learners that defines long term value and an operating model that defines how to deliver the strategy.

Leadership and Governance

In general there was support and in some cases strong support for individual members of the leadership team in relation to their leadership styles and leadership of the functions. There has been some churn and disruption over the last two years as Education NZ has worked to build competency and capability in New Zealand and in international markets. A new Chief Financial Officer has been appointed and very recently a new General Manager Marketing. Despite the changes staff do feel supported and report high degrees of satisfaction with the opportunities Education NZ and the wider education sector provide for career development.

The leadership team when they come together generally acknowledge that they operate more as a group of individuals rather than a leadership team. The word silo was used a number of times by staff to describe the way the leadership team functions. The focus has been described as tactical and operational with no real sense of a collective leadership agenda or collective mandate to drive growth. Collaboration has also been noted as weak. The leadership team has been alerted to these observations in engagement surveys and some staff have noted differences in behaviour since the last survey, which is very encouraging. The leadership team’s efforts to work together more effectively and to present a united front with staff are being noticed. Once implemented, the Country Activity Plans should provide further opportunity for working collectively.

An independent functional focus may have been appropriate during the start-up phase of Education NZ’s organisational lifecycle, but the next phase of more complex strategy and execution across a range of stakeholders will require a strong interdependent leadership team to work collectively and with impact and influence across the sector. A more open system with permeable boundaries that enhances communication flow is critical for staff located offshore and particularly where staff are co-located and have to integrate within other agency cultures.

The Education NZ Board provides governance over Education NZ’s strategy and future operating intentions. Internal and external perceptions are that the Board is strong, credible and has provided effective governance over the establishment of Education NZ.

Over the next four years, Board composition will remain critical to embed the capabilities and strategic leadership required for Education NZ to achieve the success outlined in the performance challenge. High level governance skills remain relevant as does experience in the education sector, specifically interest and experience in disruptive education models. There will be an increased need for intelligence and insight experience, digital marketing and commercialacumen generally.The Board will be critical to the strengthening and capability building required across the leadership group with a particular focus on ensuring the group operate as a team, setting collective strategic priorities and reallocating resources internally across areas of responsibility.

Similarly the Board has an important role in guiding and supporting Education NZ as the agency works to apply interdependent leadership skills to improve active collaboration with a range of agencies involved in decision making across the international education sector. The Board’s role in ensuring a healthy tension exists between its role in influencing the necessary positive disruption of the New Zealand sector and the need to have strong linkages with provider partners will be important.

A Stakeholder Advisory Group is in place. The group has struggled to find clarity of the value it adds to date. Consequently there is a desire to re-purpose the group and agree a fresh mandate to focus more strategically on the growth challenges facing Education NZ. If this group is to make a valuable contribution, Education NZ must be really clear precisely how and what it wishes the group to consider and contribute.

Values, Behaviour and Culture

Education NZ leadership developed a purpose, focus and spirit ladder (values) three years ago. The purpose has been retained in new work being completed this year aligning the external brand values (Think New) and existing internal values. Staff were heavily involved in the process and a new set of values incorporating many of the old has been developed. This is referred to as Education NZ Ways of Working (Think Bold, Think Open, Think Team). Early evidence suggests that staff are enthusiastic and enjoyed participating in the development process and have embraced the new values that are beginning to be expressed in everyday language and situations. The new and inclusive value set will be an important linkage mechanism as Education NZ expands its strategic direction and international customer value proposition. Once the strategy and value proposition work is completed, it will be important to work with staff to assess the need for change in response to the renewed focus, particularly the emphasis on student customers.

A large proportion of staff we spoke to are clearly committed to education and the wider benefits of international education, and see their roles as contributing in a meaningful way to New Zealand’s long term growth and prosperity. Equally staff are motivated by being part of an entity that has global reach and is an important part of the New Zealand growth story.

The staff in our focus group sessions were keen to discuss and share their views. There was a high degree of openness, honesty and enthusiasm and a willingness to put forward ideas for improvement. We asked a number of external and internal stakeholders to describe the culture. The most consistent comments were around Education NZ being supportive, positive and open and in particular “an enjoyable place to work”. We did not observe too many of the entrepreneurial characteristics often seen in a start-up though as previously mentioned we certainly met staff who were enthusiastic and passionate about their roles. Work/life balance was mentioned several times as being available and valued. As a small agency with a global footprint Education NZ may wish to begin to subtly shift the conversation from work/life balance to work/life integration as a more sustainable and equitable approach.

Performance management processes generally are strong. There is a clearly linked flow down from the business plan into individual key performance indicators (KPIs). Metrics for operational staff are mostly time, quantity and cost based when they relate to Goal 1. The few relating to Goals 2, 3 and 4 tend towards being more subjective and indirect. Functional staff metrics leaned more towards being qualitative and subjective. The process links clearly through to performance evaluation and to remuneration through remuneration policy. Roles and responsibilities are clearly delineated and documented.

Review

The PIF Self-review notes there is a firm desire for Education NZ to become a stronger learning organisation. It speaks of the range of market intelligence Education NZ has from data analysis, by virtue of having in-market staff and through the commissioning of surveys and research, but expressed concern about how it is used and shared across the organisation to plan and evaluate its activities. Off-shore staff are particularly keen to be more involved in Education NZ’s planning and decision-making processes. They see greater opportunities for their in-market intelligence to influence international education regulatory environment policy discussions and Education NZ’s strategy and resourcing decisions.

This will need to be supported by the corporate systems and capabilities to be a knowledge based organisation. Some encouraging steps are now occurring to build deeper capability in data and intelligence and the supporting systems. This will assist Education NZ’s mandated role to provide industry and student customers with targeted information and intelligence. Importantly it can be the basis of evaluative activity to assist Education NZ as it considers its interventions and assesses where it is having an impact and where it is not. Better targeting and prioritising of Education NZ’s activities and identifying new services and products will follow. This links closely to work discussed in this report to better understand Education NZ’s value proposition.

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