Occasional Paper No.2. State Services Commission, October 1998, Crown copyright. Provides generic, good practice standards for building senior management capability in the New Zealand Public Service.


The key to a high performance public service organisation lies in well-qualified and professional staff at all levels. These guidelines provide generic, good practice standards for building senior management capability in the New Zealalnd Public Service.

The successful implementation of government strategies depends largely on the capability and performance of public officials. Well qualified, capable and committed senior public servants are central to a high performing Public Service.

It is important that capability is maintained at all levels of the Public Service. This document is particularly concerned with the development of senior managers to facilitate effective performance in current roles as well as effective preparation for future Public Service roles.

It is recognised that the diversity of Public Service departments means that there will be variance across agencies, and that all these standards will not be appropriate for all departments. These guidelines are therefore presented as generic good practice standards.

Definitions and objectives

Public Service senior managers are second tier executives. Because of the diversity of the senior executive population this definition includes those who manage significant resources in the organisation and have staff responsibilities, those who operate at a strategic management level, and those who report directly to the chief executive in a managerial capacity.

Succession planning is defined as developing a strategy to replace key individuals. Succession management is actively managing this process.

In the context of the Public Service, senior management development and succession refer to developing the capability of senior managers to work effectively, not only in their current department, but also to ensure effective performance in other positions within the Public Service.

The main objectives of senior management development and succession for the Public Service are to:

  • ensure the development of a corps of highly qualified senior managers capable of performing effectively at senior levels in the wider Public Service
  • create a pool of credible candidates who are available for consideration for appointment to chief executive positions
  • ensure that the senior levels of the Public Service are representative of society.

The key participants

Senior managers are responsible for attending to their career development in consultation with their chief executive.

Chief executives are responsible for taking a view broader than their own department when training and developing staff for senior management and providing for executive succession.

The State Services Commissioner is responsible for giving assurance to government that senior management development and succession management is being carried out effectively. The Commissioner reviews chief executives' performance in management development, including their contribution to Public Service-wide development and succession.

Support and advice

The Management Development Centre's role is to provide support, advice, coordination and practical tools to assist chief executives to fulfil their management development responsibilities.

Good practice suggests . . .

Commitment from the chief executive officer

Chief executives demonstrate commitment by:

  • expressing their commitment to training and development throughout the organisation
  • actively supporting senior managers in meeting their training and development needs
  • modelling good practice through the on-going identification of their own development needs, and attending to their own careers by seeking out and undertaking appropriate interventions.

A strategy is in place

A department has in place a strategy for senior management development succession which:

  • aligns with the overall human resource strategy within an organisational strategy designed to deliver on the department's Key Result Areas and outputs in the short to medium term, and the Strategic Result Areas in the long term
  • supports training and development policies that will result in effective development interventions for senior managers
  • is operationalised through flexible individual training and development plans
  • ensures there is a means of identifying high potential staff early in their careers, and provides planning for their development.

Senior managers have personal development plans

Each senior manager has an individual development plan that has been developed in consultation with their chief executive. These individual development plans are the result of careful assessment of the senior manager's performance against competencies and their development needs, and an analysis of the capability needs of the department. This assessment also takes into account the capability needed to operate in the broader Public Service. Each individual's plan:

  • identifies the senior manager's current levels of competencies *
  • identifies areas in need of further development
  • identifies the most effective means of addressing those development needs, and sets objectives
  • indicates the time and resourcing allocation for achievement of the development objectives
  • is regularly reviewed and evaluated for achievement.

* While it is recognised that not all departments use a 'competency model', good practice suggests that there will be some method of assessment. The NZ Public Service Senior Executive (Manager) Competencies developed by the Management Development Centre, and the Public Service Chief Executive Competencies, are available for those departments which do not use their own competency sets.

Opportunities for development are created

Chief executives and senior managers create opportunities for development. These opportunities can be created through a range of ways, and the most appropriate will depend on the development needs of the individual manager. Some managers will require more formal management education. However, some of the most effective interventions include on-the-job development opportunities that stretch the manager's skills and provide the chance to work in areas broader than that of their particular expertise. Creating those opportunities includes:

  • providing 'stretch' assignments for staff showing potential, and support for these staff
  • exposing staff to work which will expand their knowledge of the wider Public Service perspective and develop expertise in working at the political interface
  • releasing staff to take up appropriately targeted formal training and/or education
  • releasing senior staff to take up secondments in other departments
  • releasing senior staff to work on inter-agency projects
  • providing for job rotation, and secondments, and facilitating staff into acting positions
  • bringing in senior staff from other departments to take up specific roles (in some instances in preference to employing external consultants).

Training and development is evaluated for effectiveness

Evaluation of training and development interventions, whether formal courses or on-the-job opportunities, is conducted.

At one level this assessment focuses on the specific strengths and weaknesses of an intervention. A comparison is also made between what the senior manager knew, or could do, prior to the intervention, with what they know, and can do, following the intervention.

At a more analytical level, the assessment focuses on whether the intervention has addressed specific senior manager competencies and had an impact on behaviour. It also assesses whether unintended consequences have occurred. Increasingly, evaluation centres on finding ways to demonstrate that the intervention has had an impact on the 'bottom line', or at least on the key operational results, of the department. Evaluation of the transfer of training to on-the-job behaviours and performance is critical.

Copyright: Crown copyright

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