Thursday, June 23 2022

Public administration plays a major role in the governance of modern society. Government without the support of competent public administrators is like a vehicle without wheels. Public administration is very different from the management of private sector organizations. While the public sector is largely authorized and controlled by law, its mandate is ultimately the collective public good, and it has a long-term horizon; the private sector uses the market as the source of creation and control, the customer as its focal point, and has a short-term horizon. The functions of public administrators are manifold and often very complex. Public administrators around the world are under increasing pressure to deliver and deliver quality services with ever fewer resources and face additional stress resulting from increasing global economic, social, political and cultural integration.

Meeting the demands of public administration requires a unique combination of knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors, commonly referred to as competencies. Competency-based management is today adopted as an effective tool by public organizations in various countries. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) of the Government of India initiated the project entitled “Strengthening HRM in the Civil Service” in 2011 in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). (GRH is the abbreviation of human resources management). One of the main outcomes of this initiative has been the creation of a “skills dictionary” (Government of India-UNDP 2013). The Skills Dictionary was developed in consultation with a large number of central and state government officials. These included Indian government secretaries, government oversight cadres, chief state secretaries and recipients of the prime minister’s civil service awards. The overarching objective of developing a skills dictionary was to promote a more effective, efficient, transparent and accountable public administration at national and state levels. To this end, the Civil Services Competency Dictionary has identified 25 core competencies in the various roles and positions of public service employees. Core competencies have been divided into four categories: ethics, ethics, fairness and efficiency.

Recently, the author participated in a study conducted by the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) – the nodal institution for the training of Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers – to identify the skills needed for public administrators. at the district level (called district magistrates, or DMs, in India). Based on focused group discussions and a survey of 218 IAS officers, the study identified eight competencies out of the 25 core competencies listed in the Civil Services Competency Dictionary, namely people first ; lead others; integrity; decision making; planning, coordination and implementation; problem solving; self-awareness and self-control; and innovative thinking. The eight skills have been grouped under four meta-skills, namely stakeholder analysis and decision-making, change and innovation management, team building and the positive personality of the administrator ( the study was published in the Journal of Asian Public Policy. A detailed description of the behaviors included in each meta-skill is provided next.

The first meta-skill was “Stakeholder Analysis and Decision Making”. To be successful, a public administrator must be able to listen to the voices of multiple stakeholders and make a decision based on their diverse perspectives. Understanding the multiple needs of citizens, listening to the views / perspectives of others, and then being able to balance the priorities of different interest groups is essential behavior of an effective public administrator. Decisions and solutions must be taken in a way that takes into account not only the short-term but also the medium and long-term interests of citizens and those affected. A proper analysis of the pros and cons of the alternatives is necessary before a decision is made. Efforts should be made to collect relevant data for decision making. A public administrator should be able to sift through a large body of information, break down complex problems into smaller ones, identify critical elements for decision making, and find solutions to problems. In times of conflict, the public interest should guide the administrator in decision-making.

The second meta-skill that emerged was “Managing change and innovation”. While leadership is an important driver of change in the public sector, little attention is paid to his study of the process of organizational change in the public sector. Being ready for change and eager to redesign and innovate in public delivery systems is an important characteristic of an effective public administrator. They need to be on the lookout for situations where innovations can be made to existing public delivery systems. The use of technology to bring about change / innovation, in rigorous analysis of data for decision making, in forecasting the impact of decisions and in monitoring the effectiveness of public systems is essential for a successful implementation of the change.

“Team Building” was the third theme that emerged. Today, the context of leadership in the public sector is inter-organizational and moves away from a focus on hierarchy, towards a focus on networks and partnerships that transcend traditional boundaries. Almost all IAS agents interviewed stressed the need for teams in public administration. Public administrators need to empower their managers and team members, listen to their perspectives, be open to new ideas and counterpoints, encourage original thinking, share information with team members, understand the power dynamics between team members and inspire them to achieve the goals set before them. In order to inspire the team, an administrator must lead by example; Be a role model; and establish a culture of openness, honesty and integrity.

“Positive administrator personality” was the last meta-skill that emerged. Often the pressures and constraints on public administrators are very high. Considering the same, they should be able to honor the commitments they make and should be ethical. They should be able to work under conditions of enormous stress / adversity and show determination when under pressure or faced with uncertainty. They should be able to handle the complexity and uncertainty inherent in the work of a public administrator. They must be resilient in the event of failure or great difficulty and must be willing to keep working even when the going is not very conducive to action.

The skills and meta-skills identified in the study can help training academies and consultants who often struggle to identify appropriate behaviors that can ensure effective public administrators. The development of training modules around these skills should lead to a better return on investment and will make the training programs more useful for public administrators. The set of identified skills can also be used to assess the performance of public administrators. Officers who exhibit such behaviors in the course of their duties may have a greater chance of achieving better results. Alternatively, the list of behaviors presented here can help officers understand the possible reasons for their failure and determine corrective actions. Assessment agencies can review the skills inventory, rate and provide feedback to officers on how often they each display the behaviors reported in the respective skills. This can then help them better understand the areas in which they can improve.

Vishal Gupta is Associate Professor in the field of Organizational Behavior at the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad.

This article presents the personal opinions of the author and should not be interpreted as representing the position of the institute on the subject.

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