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State Services Commission

The State Services Commission (SSC) advises Ministers on the performance of the State Services and its shape and future direction, standards of conduct and integrity and development of senior leaders. The Commission's executive management practice undertakes Chief Executive recruitment, appointment, induction and performance support, but other initiatives and interventions delivered by SSC such as the Performance Improvement Framework, Continuous Improvement and leadership development work programmes are also aimed at supporting Chief Executives and agencies to deliver strong performance for Ministers and for all New Zealanders, now and into the future.

More information on the Commission's services can be found here:

How does the SSC contribute to investment/the investment system?

The SSC has an ongoing role in advancing the Government's Better Public Services reform agenda. An amendment to the State Sector Act in 2013 created the State Services Commissioner's role of Head of State Services, broadening his mandate to encompass reviewing and advising on sector, and system-wide performance as well as on individual agencies.

Other amendments to the Act extended the responsibilities of Public Service Chief Executives to be responsive on matters relating to the collective interests of government, including system-wide opportunities and connections, and introduced a range of “stewardship” obligations that require chief executives to focus on their departments' longer-term sustainability, organisational health, and capability. Good stewardship of a department includes positioning it to meet medium- and long-term objectives as well as ensuring that appropriate infrastructure, management systems, and succession planning are in place to enable it to do so.

In setting performance expectations for Chief Executives, the Commissioner places a strong emphasis on their stewardship responsibilities, as leaders in the system and leaders of their individual agencies. Investment decision-making, programme delivery and securing the benefits, whether improved financial sustainability, better service performance, or commonly both, is a key feature of good stewardship. SSC works closely with other central agencies and functional leads to monitor major investments, often with a focus on leadership capability, governance and organisational change implications.

What do you think the biggest improvements/achievements were for the system from a stewardship perspective in the 2015/16 year?

A few things stand out for me. First, it was good to get the results from the first tranche of Investor Confidence Ratings for investment-intensive agencies. On the whole, these results indicated that investment management practices in these agencies were of a good standard, reflecting the considerable effort made by agency leaders, supported by central agencies and functional leads, to improve this aspect of performance.

Second, it was encouraging to see the good progress being made by several agencies undertaking ICT-enabled transformational change and doing this whilst maintaining high level of service performance for their customers and users.

Third, there is increasing evidence of agencies learning from one another, sharing their practical experience of delivering change and working together to consider wider sector and system opportunities that may emerge from individual investments. Central agencies and functional leads are well-placed to initiate and support these endeavours, as we are able to look across the investment portfolio and identify themes and connections. At the same time, a range of communities of practice are emerging from within the system as agencies increasingly recognise that others are grappling with similar challenges.

What do you see as the main challenge going forward?

I'd highlight three things. The first is not a new challenge, and is the constant reminder that there is no substitute for thorough and robust investment planning and if necessary pushing back on pressure to move forward at pace in order to do this. While good planning can seem costly in terms of time and other resources - with little tangible product - it sets the foundation for well-informed investment decision-making and execution and will almost certainly lead to better and faster delivery when decisions are made.

A second challenge is to keep moving towards planning and managing investments at the sector and system level, not just within individual agencies. This is not to suggest there won't continue to be a case for agencies undertaking investments for their own benefit, nor to underestimate the challenges of planning and delivering investments across more than one agency. At the same time, there's a lot in the old adage “a problem shared is a problem halved” and a range of potential upsides - for the system, customers and providers - from more cross-agency collaboration.

My third challenge would be to those of us in central agencies and other system-wide leadership roles operating monitoring and other performance assurance processes to think about how we can evolve these, to keep abreast with a changing environment (including greater system maturity), to reduce unnecessary clutter and to make better use of the information generated to apply our collective efforts where they can add most value.

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