Innovation in the Irish public sector

O’Donnell, Orla


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Dokumentart: Bericht / Forschungsbericht / Abhandlung
Institut: CPMR- Committee for Public Management Research
Schriftenreihe: CPMR discussion paper
Bandnummer: 37
ISBN: 978-1-904541-52-3
Sprache: Englisch
Erstellungsjahr: 2006
Publikationsdatum: 28.03.2009
Originalveröffentlichung: (2006)
DDC-Sachgruppe: Öffentliche Verwaltung
BK - Basisklassifikation: 88.30 (Öffentlicher Dienst), 88.20 (Organisation staatlicher Einrichtungen, Management staatlicher Einrichtungen), 88.10 (Öffentliche Verwaltung: Allgemeines)
Sondersammelgebiete: 3.7 Verwaltungswissenschaften

Kurzfassung auf Englisch:

Introduction Innovation is a widely used term, but one that seems to give rise to ambiguity in a public sector context. In part this occurs because there is a myriad of definitions on innovation applying to business models but few specifically defined for a public sector context and, secondly, the parameters for implementing innovation in a public sector context are quite different to those operating in the private sector. As Mulgan and Albury (2003) suggest, successful innovation is ‘the creation and implementation of new processes, products, services and methods of delivery which result in significant improvements in outcomes efficiency, effectiveness or quality’. To achieve this outcome, a number of critical factors require to be put in place, as outlined in Chapter six. Research overview This study attempts to assess the critical factors necessary for public sector organisations that are implementing innovation programmes. The research also identifies the critical steps and cultural change needed of government departments and public sector organisations in order to benefit more effectively from, and develop, innovation potential. The study also seeks to provide a useful guide to organisations undertaking innovative initiatives by learning from good practice case studies included in the study. The major challenge for the public sector is to develop a culture of innovation, to move from ad hoc initiatives to developing a comprehensive strategy for innovation underpinned by funding arrangements, by leadership from senior management and by reward for managers who lead by example, drive innovation and provide support for staff when they encounter project success and failure. The development of a reward system for innovators should percolate specifically through the PMDS system. The need for this has been given further impetus by the proposed linkage of the PMDS and Performance Related Pay (PRP). The roll-out of the decentralisation programme and further developments in the human resource management, financial management and knowledge management areaswill also shape the innovation agenda in the public service over the coming years. Key action learning points Based on the evidence from the case-study organisations reviewed in this study, a range of action learning points emerge relative to innovation. These action points can act as a guide with which to develop specific organisational initiatives: 1. Innovation needs to be driven by senior management and supported by management in times of success and failure. 2. A feasibility study of innovative projects should be undertaken at the outset to ensure core-funding. A consultation programme with stakeholders should also be conducted to ensure effective implementation. 3. Encouragement of innovation reward schemes or exceptional performance awards at all levels will engender an innovative culture in the organisation. 4. Further develop PMDS to encourage innovation and change by linking it to PRP and provide promotional opportunities, by ensuring line managers identify staff in their sections for future promotions, and, moreover, provide for additional annual increments to exemplars of innovation. 5. Develop a comprehensive, rather than an ad-hoc approach to innovation across the public sector through a systemic Practitioners’ Forum for innovators, change managers, who are developing or implementing innovative initiatives across the public sector. Confidentiality is paramount to development of the Forum, to provide a safe environment for practitioners to discuss successes and failures in the development of innovative projects and initiatives. The suggestion for a Practitioners’ Forum originated from the Revenue Commissioners and was supported by all organisations interviewed. Key informants suggest this forum should be outside of funding bodies or departments and be more a practical exchange of information and knowledge-sharing rather than a policy think-tank. 6. Establish innovation indicators for organisations to meaningfully compare innovation across the public sector. Existing performance or service indicators do not provide a sound basis for comparison of the extent of innovation undertaken in organisations, nor do they meaningfully provide a true comparison of one organisation to another. There is a need for an assessment mechanism which would aim to measure the extent of innovation in the public sector. It would classify and apportion a weighting scale of accrual of efficiencies which could then be used by central departments when evaluating proposals submitted to them. 7. Structural obstacles and the cultural challenge should not be underestimated. Development of a supportive entrepreneurial and innovative culture, where successful innovation is rewarded and management supports individuals in times of failure, will enable lessons to be learned without individuals who take risks being undermined. Perhaps a risk neutral attitude should apply to innovative project development in the public sector as opposed to the prevailing situation of a risk averse attitude? 8. It is important to acknowledge that innovation is costly. It is necessary to allow teams to pull back to an extent from activities at the ‘coal-face’ to provide time and space to develop new projects. Dependent upon the organisation, innovation occurs organically within the organisation, with the use of cross-functional teams, work flexibilities, reward schemes and various incentives. In some organisations a small full-time organisational development resource works with different parts of the organisation to examine issues of concern in an objective way and identify opportunities for innovation. 9. Similarly, it is important to invest resources in regular technology scans to keep abreast of technological developments and identify opportunities for the organisation. Concluding remarks This study has sought to enhance understanding in relation to innovation in the public sector and also to provide lessons from initiatives implemented to date in the Irish public sector. ‘What we need now is the entrepreneurial imperative. Innovation has to be the end in itself if we want to survive. It’s not sufficient any more to see innovation as a means to an end. It has to be built into everything we do’ (Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum cited in Marc Coleman’s article in The Irish Times, Friday, May 12th, 2006). The challenge now for the public sector is to develop an innovation culture underpinned by a comprehensive innovation strategy, to provide a supportive environment to develop ‘enterprising leaders’ for the modern public sector rather than 'loose cannon-balls’.

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