x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Bureaucrats brush up skills

Top civil servants are undergoing leadership training usually reserved for the upper echelons of the UK government.

David Sweeney, the head of the strategic centre at the UK's National School of Government, shows slides in Abu Dhabi.
David Sweeney, the head of the strategic centre at the UK's National School of Government, shows slides in Abu Dhabi.

ABU DHABI // The country's top civil servants are undergoing leadership training usually reserved for the upper echelons of the UK government. About 60 members of government ministries and departments are taking part in courses organised by the Department of Civil Services (DCS) in collaboration with the UK's National School of Government. The 17-day courses are designed to improve leadership skills and the participants, drawn from 22 ministries and departments, will be prepared for the most senior roles in government. The first course, in which 25 officials are taking part, will be completed this week. Another 20 officials began a second course on Sunday and a third is expected to involve 20 more.

It is the first time The Top Management Programme, designed for the top five per cent of British civil servants, has been run outside the UK. It has been adapted to suit the structure of the Abu Dhabi Government and to take account of the different attitude towards authority in the Emirates. Part of each course is conducted in the UK. According to the website of the National School of Government, the courses for UK officials, which are under the patronage of Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, cost £14,500 (Dh104,800) per person, but the school declined to comment on the cost for UAE officials.

Each course has three modules, the second of which takes the form of an inquiry into a real issue facing the Abu Dhabi Government. During the first course, which began in June, the participants looked into the subject of road deaths in Abu Dhabi and the inquiry included discussions between ministries, the Emirates Driving School and the Abu Dhabi Police. The subject during the second course will be waste management. Participants will travel to the UK for a week of training before returning to conduct the inquiry in Abu Dhabi in October.

The exercise will take the form of a workshop in which the participants are divided into groups of four which will meet with various organisations, such as Zenath Recycling, to discuss strategies for dealing with the problem of waste management. They will then present their findings in a conference setting. Annette Burke, the manager for curriculums with the DCS, said the courses had so far been a success.

"They have gone beyond our expectations," she said. "All the government officials have really engaged with the course and are starting to change the way of leading their respective teams within the Government. I hope to get some of them to speak at subsequent programmes about what they have learnt. I think they will provide inspiration." David Sweeney, the head of the strategic centre at the National School of Government, UK, has come to Abu Dhabi to lead this week's orientation sessions at Al Raha Beach Hotel. The participants, he said, were "very keen and eager to learn new ways of thinking".

He described one of the key skills the officials would be picking up as "systems thinking". Participants will be encouraged to look at issues from a variety of perspectives and be aware that problems often have an impact across the whole of government, rather than being restricted to only one area of ministerial responsibility. Participants on the course would also learn about their "personal effectiveness" and "self awareness as leaders", he said. During the course they would also hear speakers tell of their own leadership experiences.

The Top Management Programme is part of a much larger project to improve the leadership skills of employees of the Abu Dhabi Government. Andrew Mackay, a senior communications consultant with DCS, said: "We chose to work with the UK National School of Government because we continually seek the best way to develop effective international practice. There are lots of other plans we have for the Abu Dhabi Government and we hope that many Emirati leaders will benefit from the programmes."

@Email:aseaman@thenational.ae