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Government staff split over CEO's "exemplary" leadership

Government staff split over CEO's

Monday 24 June 2019

Government staff split over CEO's "exemplary" leadership


Split views of the government CEO Charlie Parker’s brand of leadership have emerged in a new report marking his performance as “exemplary”, while also revealing “an unhealthy dependence on interims” and feelings of intimidation and pressure among staff.

The findings came in an appraisal report conducted by Dr John Nicholson from consultants Nicholson McBride.

Amid questions over the £250,000-a-year Chief Executive’s Key Performance Indicators, Dr Nicholson’s appointment as Mr Parker’s “assessor” was announced in late November last year, with government officials stating that he would be responsible for preparing a report to be sent to the Chief Minister measuring Mr Parker’s progress against six general objectives. Mr Parker’s contract states that he will gain residential qualifications upon five years of “satisfactory” performance in his role.

Express later revealed that Nicholson McBride had been involved in Mr Parker’s appraisal process in his previous role as the Chief Executive of the London Borough of Westminster.

Last week marked the release of Mr Parker’s first appraisal report after 18 months in the role. Its author explained the findings were based on Mr Parker’s own self-assessment, as well as comments from 18 third party stakeholders including “a mixture of senior colleagues (Directors General and Directors), politicians and some leading figures in the community.”

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Pictured: The report described Mr Parker's performance amid the OneGov restructuring, which has involved the creation of a new HQ, as "exemplary".

The report painted a largely positive picture of Mr Parker’s leadership in the first 12 months of his ‘OneGov’ restructuring, which has involved the creation of new departments and merging of others in what has been the largest ever shake-up to the public sector since the introduction of Ministerial government.

“In summary, Charlie Parker’s performance in his first year as Chief Executive of the States of Jersey has been exemplary. Appointed with a mandate to lead a programme of transformational change, he has pursued the task with determination, gusto and imagination. He has accepted responsibility for the consequences of following the logic of his diagnosis and introduced a robust methodology for engineering the necessary changes – the One Government programme,” it read.

Particular praise was given by third parties to reforms implemented in the area of finance and Health, while another commenter lauded the creation of a “complaints strategy”, which didn’t previously exist. Prior to Mr Parker, “complaints have just been ignored,” they noted.

Mr Parker’s changes also appeared to have been welcomed by the island’s business community, with one comment stating: “The Chamber of Commerce and IoD [Institute of Directors, ed.] rate him highly.”

However, Mr Parker’s approach wasn’t well received by all, the report revealed.

“Did we really need to set fire to every part of the organisation? At times it feels reckless, out of control,” one person queried of the sweeping ‘OneGov’ changes.

Others spoke of the pressures arising from the scale and pace of change demanded by Mr Parker. 

“I know it has to be done quickly – but it is exhausting!” one said.

A member of the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) spoke of meetings that are “very task focused with over-stuffed agendas. This affects our ability to anticipate problems.” 

Some EMT members expressed feelings of intimidation, stating, “Charlie still tends to overawe some of us” and, “We’re still frightened about giving Charlie bad news.” 

Drawing from these comments, the assessor concluded: “Charlie Parker’s influence in Year One has sometimes felt overwhelming. It was almost as if the organisation became paralysed by a discussion of his wishes and motivation. There is also concern that much of the scaffold – especially in HR and IT – is still too fragile to sustain the pressures of change. As a result of changes made in Year One, the organisation now has a more highly skilled senior workforce and a growing understanding of organisational mission. Against this, there is still an unhealthy dependence on interims, and continuing delays in the introduction of key improvements in infrastructure.”

Among the political ranks, backbench politicians were said to feel dissatisfied with the level of engagement from the Chief Executive – something the report recommended being improved.

“In terms of back-benchers, there has been no support, no office space, no resource teams. Coupled with the feeling of being dismissed by senior officials, you can understand why backbenchers have been feeling a bit paranoid,” one comment noted.

The report closed by suggesting that Mr Parker should work on improving morale by particularly working on his communications – by “play[ing] more positive ‘mood music’ – i.e. how good the future can be, rather than how poor the past was”, in addition to:

  • "Creating more distributed leadership; 
  • Focusing on wins and successes; 
  • Communicating more effectively across the organisation; 
  • Introducing local Target Operating Models, explaining the links between them and ensuring that they do not lead to a new siloism; 
  • Strengthening the relationship and rapport between himself and the Chief Minister;
  • Focusing on winning over the organisation, starting at the top: convince long-serving Directors General and Directors that his purpose is to improve their organisation along with the lives of islanders; 
  • And recalibrating the balance between listening and talking: more of the former, less of the latter."

Following the report, the Chief Minister commented: “I am more than satisfied with the Chief Executive’s performance last year, and indeed in the work he is doing in 2019. He has embarked on a significant and long-overdue undertaking, but I have confidence in his modernisation plans and that he has the experience and capability to guide the public service to deliver them. I am confident that during 2019 the Chief Executive will build on the work he has already achieved in supporting Ministers to lead, and enabling them to deliver on their strategic priorities.”

He added that he had given Mr Parker a number of priorities to deliver:

  • "The Government Plan 2020-23;
  • Establishing and making rapid progress on the new hospital project;
  • Delivering sustainable long-term efficiencies while ensuring that appropriate governance and checks and balances remain in place;
  • And creating an investment vehicle for reviving our Island’s infrastructure."

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