This month I would like to share an article I recently wrote, which focuses on the challenges facing the public sector in Israel. It was published in the Haaretz newspaper, in The Marker section, which ran a series of articles on the public sector.
The JDC Institute for Leadership and Governance aims to help in addressing some of the challenges stated in the article. We work closely with our government partners to bring senior civil servants to work together, break silos, and form collaborations which are oriented towards making an impact.
The Institute’s Center for Public Leadership and Management provides programs for senior civil servants, with the goal of enhancing the government’s capacity: learning programs (including the Program for Senior Civil Servants, and the Program for Senior Managers in the Ministry of Finance), the development of forums and networks (such as the Forums for Regional Directors of Government Ministries), programs for graduates, and additional initiatives (such as the Strategic Seminar for National Planning). In the future, we plan to increase the number of civil servants involved in our programs.
Below you will find the translated version of the article, please feel free to be in touch with any questions or comments.
The Key to Changing the Public Service is in the Hands of the Government
Israel is a country in formation that faces extraordinary challenges: although we have completed the establishment phase, we haven’t yet become an institutionalized state. This means that the challenges facing the government in Israel are much more complex than maintaining the present, namely regulation and providing services. The challenges facing the government, elected officials and senior civil servants, are connected to shaping the future of Israel as Jewish, democratic, prosperous and sustainable. No other developed country copes with challenges of this magnitude, which are largely in the hands of the government.
Planning and designing the long-term is critical, and requires the commitment of senior government officials to take the time to think about the long-term on a regular basis. Wonderful people serve in the government. We often hear that the problem of the public service is the quality of its people. This is a serious mistake. The senior civil servants are exceptional people, who could easily have led businesses to great achievements, and some do so after finishing their period of public service.
Our public service has outstanding doctors who make exceptional hospital directors, outstanding cadets in the Foreign Ministry, courageous military commanders, and other brilliant talents. Moreover, in recent years, government cadet programs have brought a promising young generation to join the public service. However, a few years on, still passionate to make an impact, they are worn out. This is because of the huge challenges and great difficulties in leading changes in the system, and not because of the quality of human capital.
The complexities of our government systems stem from the fact that we are a small country, with a diverse population that has different needs. In recent years, the complexities have grown even more, due to the increasing dynamic pace of life, the emergence of new disciplines, such as environmental protection, and new needs, including the need to stabilize a coalition by multiple government ministries and portfolios.
These complexities, together with the barriers and differences that exist between the government bodies, greatly reduce the ability to plan and implement cross-system changes. The inability to execute is great, and makes managing and leading changes in the public service much more difficult and complex in comparison with the business or the third sector.
Therefore, infusing the government with high-quality people is not the sole solution. The challenge facing the government is twofold: on the one hand, turning the systems into collaborative and holistic, with continued growth and development of human capital, and taking care of the present; and on the other hand, transitioning into an orientation of long-term planning and design which will lead the State of Israel forward.
This challenge is critical – without a government we have no state and no future.