I am taking this opportunity to reflect on my experience during the second Wexner Senior Leadership (WSL) Program, earlier this year at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). As a select group of 39 senior civil servants from government ministries and agencies in Israel, we participated in a month-long tailor-made leadership program in one of the most prestigious academic surroundings in the world.
During the program, nine public issues were addressed: Housing; Healthy Living; Employment of People with Disabilities; Employment of Lawyers from the Ethiopian Community; Government Spending Review; Executing National Priority Projects; Ultra-High Speed Communication; Public Private Partnerships and Mobility Mechanisms for the Public Service. We worked in groups and were guided by Harvard Professors Mark Fagan and Brian Mandell. This is the first program dealing in a structured way with Cross Boundary Collaboration (XBC) within the Israeli Public Sector.
At the concluding session of the program, representatives from each of the nine teams presented issues related to the main problem, as well as recommendations for dealing with the problem.
Senior representatives from The Wexner Foundation and five Directors-General (DG’s) from various Israeli Government Ministries participated in the session and were actively involved in the open discussion and conclusions about the work we had done and what lays ahead for us back in Israel.
This was a unique experience and one which is (almost) impossible to generate during our day-to day working environment.
The program was exceptionally well structured and included team work, negotiation sessions and collaboration simulations, as well as many interesting lectures related to senior leadership (including “Principles of Persuasion”, “Evidence Based Policy”, “Strategic Management”, “Collaborative Governance” among others). On a practical level, there were many valuable lessons and I would like to mention — in particular, the “Negotiation” exercises conducted by Professor Brian Mandell.
In addition, as part of the program, various social and cultural events were organized by The Wexner Foundation, including a night at the Symphony, a visit to the Massachusetts State House, a Boston Celtics basketball game (what a game!) and a guided trip around Harvard Square. There were various guest speakers, as well as activities with Boston’s Jewish community. On behalf of the group, I would like to thank each and every one of the staff who put together this life changing experience — they were great!
Where do we go from here? The 3P’s Approach.
Firstly, The Wexner Foundation has created a unique working and social network of senior representatives from a variety of public sector organizations in Israel, a group of people that had, at the most, minimal previous connections and are now the WSL ’16 group. We join the first group (WSL ’15) and together with them, we form a group of about 80 senior leaders from the public sector in Israel. Another group of 40 is planned for the forthcoming year and, within a number of years, this will form a large network of people with a common background that have benefited from the singularly excellent experience of the WSL Program. This is my first “P” –”People” — both friends and colleagues.
Secondly, most of the XBC projects were based on priority issues in Israel prior to the program and the work we have done regarding these issues during the program can only support the Israeli public service. One major lesson learned is the need to recognize an XBC project, a project which necessitates cross-boundary collaboration and how to re-imagine working in separate branches or previously siloed parts of the public sector in order to deal with it. This is my second “P” — “Professionalism”.
Thirdly, at HKS we invested many hours learning and practicing “Negotiation” – communicating back and forth in order to reach a joint decision.
This is my third “P” – referring to Professor Gary Orren’s teaching on Persuasion.
I believe in the 3P’s approach — People, Professionalism and Persuasion/Negotiation. They are all key elements to generate better working values within the public sector in Israel.
Our XBC projects — including our 3P’s XBC project on Public, Private Partnerships — may take longer than expected. As discussed during the program, in most cases we are dealing with “Adaptive Challenges” — they are different and complex and take time. But I am eager and hopeful and feel most of my new colleagues feel the same.
Charles Solomon, an alum of the Wexner Senior Leaders Program (’16), is the Senior Deputy Director General for Economics and Planning in the Ministry of Transport. He has a Bachelors in Economics and a Masters in Operational Research from the London School of Economics. In 2008, Charles was elected as the first chairman of an international team of specialists on Public-Private-Partnerships within the UNECE. He lives in Shoham with his family. He can be reached at email@example.com.