25 years on: How the Public-Sector Management Program shapes the leaders of tomorrow – Part 1 of a 2 part series with John Currie

John Currie - 25 Years teaching the Public Sector Management Program

John Currie – 25 Years teaching the Public Sector Management Program

In 2017, the Public Sector Management Program or PSMP as it is known, celebrates its 25 year birthday. As an institution of Australian Public Sector middle management training and professional development, the program prepares and upskills managers for personal and career success in the public sector and non-government environment. John Currie has been facilitating the program for 25 years and shares his knowledge, wisdom and experiences with us today to give us an insight into the program’s deep history and bright future.

Part 1 of our interview with John Currie.

Looking back 25 years ago, is the original aim of the program – “To develop an understanding of the role of the public sector in the governing of Australia and to develop management capacity” still valid and of value to the organisations?
PSMP gives managers a systemic understanding of the government public sector in a pretty complex constitutional democracy that is the Australian federation. The Majority of managers coming into the program, while they are deeply experienced in the agencies, they don’t have a similar deep of understanding of the nature of government and governance beyond their agencies.

It still amazes me that so many participants comment on the impact of the program in allowing them to better understand how the various departments and agencies contribute to the public good of the nation.

The program allows public sector managers to deeply understand their own management style, philosophies and how to apply it to their work, both with their colleagues, the teams they lead and the citizens and clients they serve.

The validity and value of the PSM Program is reinforced to me by the value of the workplace project. The project reinforces and ties together important lessons from the four units and gives managers the confidence to apply the knowledge and experiences they’ve gained throughout the program in a structured fashion to deliver change that contributes to the strategic goals and betterment of their organisation in enhancing public value to the community they serve.

How you think the program develops strategic thinkers?
The PSM Program develops strategic thinkers because of what it covers, the structure of the curriculum in terms of the concepts, theories, the examples and the assessments used. The interaction and learning that comes out of the workshops is absolutely critical to the programs ongoing success and the opportunities that it gives participants for formal and informal reflection and thinking of themselves as being part of a larger government system.

Over the 25 years you’ve been teaching in the program has your style remained the same or has it changed?
When you think about when the PSM Program was born in its first iterations, participants had a wide range of learning activities throughout the content, but it was content heavy materials, where they were accompanied by an additional volume of additional readings that went with each unit.

Today there is an expectation that students pace their learning and have more understand of the unit concepts before they turn up to the workshops which allows for greater opportunities to discuss the significance of issues and approaches for public sector management.

There is still a need for face to face teaching, but it is much more facilitative than it probably was in the past. The discussions in class are extremely valuable to the individual and whole group to better understand the similarities and differences across sector and agencies dealing with a similar ranges of issues, dilemmas and challenges, so while there are some similarities to the themes in the program there are also some important improvements that reflect the needs of the learner and the context in which they work.

In 25 years of teaching what major shifts have you seen in leadership and management approaches used in the public sector?
The PSM Program has always been up to date in giving students a sound theoretical and conceptual grounding in effective leadership and management of the public service. That’s what we started doing and that’s what we continued to do throughout. It’s highlighted over time the shift from the traditional bureaucracy with in house service delivery, to a move that has been termed ‘new public management’ where it’s emphasis is efficiency of resource use and outcomes and now to the importance of the public service contributing to and creating public value.

The result of this assists the participants to reflect deeply on the professional environments and the impact, influence and appropriateness of different theories and trends in the public service and developing their abilities to critically reflect and analyse the role and operations of the public service.

In doing so we’re making a valuable contribution in creating informed leadership throughout all levels of the public service across Australia.

I am aware that you have stayed in touch with some of your students and many have progressed to very senior roles in Government.   You invite some of them as guest speakers.  What are some of the key learnings they share with the students?
It’s personally very enjoyable that students have wanted to stay in touch and some of them are people I’ve been in contact with for many, many years and it shows that hopefully I’m doing something right. It’s really satisfying to hear how they’ve built upon their PSMP experience to make a difference to the outcomes of their agencies. They are able to practically utilise their understandings to really make a difference and in this they’re often fortunate to have been recognised by their organisations and gain significant promotions themselves over time.

What the guest speakers do emphasise is the importance that the PSMP has played in forming their world view in forming their government and the public service and the way that governments work and the impact of government and the public service on the lives of people. They also emphasise the importance of the PSMP in helping them to become better managers, of people, of clients, of resources, of governance procedures so they’re accountable and aligned to the organisational strategy so they can productively create the kind of outcomes they want to try to produce.

They also emphasise the importance of the PSMP in helping them to become better managers, of people, of clients, of resources, of governance procedures so they’re accountable and aligned to the organisational strategy so they can productively create the kind of outcomes they want to try to produce.

Part 2 of this blog article uncovering:

  • some fun and memorable moments from 25 years of the program,
  • the networking power of the Public Sector Management Program,
  • future challenges for the public service, and
  • what excites John about the future of the program will be available in June, 2017.

QUT would like to thank John for sharing his 25 years of experiences and insights with students in the program and in our blog. We thank John for his continued contribution to the program and shaping 25 years of leaders in the Australian Public Service.

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