Public Management

"The network alone is worth the investment"

May 25, 2016

A valuable network and the newest insights in the field of strategy, innovation, governance and leadership. According to Joël van Raak, director of Edux Onderwijspartners consultancy, those are the most significant benefits of the Program for Directors in the Public and Non-profit Sector (PDPN). Since 2015, she participates in this senior management program for directors in the public sector.

What do you consider to be valuable in this program?
That TIAS connects to what is relevant at this moment.It is no stale knowledge, it is about the most recent developments and what we are facing. The program is moreover strongly focused on applicability. The professors are constantly translating theory to practice: what do we come up against and what are their own experiences in this regard? It is an amazing mixture. Each course is evaluated together with us. Does the program still meet our expectations, what are our needs? So other speakers may simply be invited or someone may be switched. I really had the feeling that this masterclass is custom made.

This program distinguishes itself by exclusive dinner speeches. Do you think they are valuable?
During the dinner speeches, top directors very openly share their personal insights and learning experiences: don't make this error, or if I could do it again... There is vulnerability there. It is a privilege that we may listen to such things as a group. Sometimes very delicate matters are discussed, stories that have not been published in the media. What actually happened? What can you as a director learn from it? You are taken into confidence.

Elanor Boekholt-O'Sullivan made a big impression. She is Colonel at the ministry of Defense and Head of innovation. So there stands a very brave woman, who tells us from practical experience how you set a change process in motion in a rigid organization. I reflected on that for days. Another speaker was a former director of a large hospital. A heavyweight, but with such a warm heart for people. Very exceptional.

In what sense do you benefit from the group?
The network alone makes the program worth the investment.When putting the group together, careful attention was paid to great diversity at a high level. Simply being with a group, gives you new insights. It is about peer learning: learn from each other, exchange experiences, interaction. We certainly want to retain that after the program. That is why we made peer groups at our own initiative. We also contact each other outside the modules to help each other with case studies.

What insights has the program given you?
What I learned most from it is the integrity required of a director. That is a recurring theme, in all modules and with the dinner speeches. Be modest, but also determined. Intuition is an accumulation of expertise, dare to have confidence in that.  What I also found very pleasant was the insight: a consensus culture is deadly for an enterprise. So embrace that critical feedback, organize contradiction, demand sharpness. That means that you only need a limited distance between management and the Supervisory Board. The supervisory body is there to tickle and challenge you. It makes no sense at all to pander to each other.

It is not usual to hold each other to account everywhere.
That is exactly what we were talking about in the group. You share your difficulties with each other in all confidence. That "humanness", your vulnerability, that has a place in the program. Another issue that we discussed is peoples' perception of a director. As a director you are seen through a magnifying glass. How do you make certain choices and what image does it conjure up with the outside world and amongst the people who are working for you? We discussed that with each other in all safety.

Can you give a concrete example of how the program has changed your policy?
During a creative session under the leadership of the Eindhoven University of Technology I came into contact - via one of the other participants - with someone from the PO-Raad, the sector organization for primary education. I was personally helped in the field of ICT and technology in making other choices than those which until then I had included in my strategic roadmap. If I had not participated in these masterclasses, then I would now have taken a different direction.

Does participating in this program turn you into a better director?
You are better prepared for what you are confronted with. Based on future scenarios, you learn to focus on determining the strategy of your organization. In this context far more attention is paid to creating support and involvement amongst your colleagues. It is about sense giving, putting your vision into words and combining that with actions. I am now far more occupied with the long-term vision. Where we are going, instead of always being overtaken by events.

Why would you recommend this program to others?
I would almost consider this to be mandatory for every director. TIAS is training a new generation of directors. Everyone should be given this opportunity. It can be easily combined with your activities, because you don't need to study or make assignments. The program is superbly facilitated: luxury without being excessive. And if you have a suggestion for improvement, then it is immediately attended to. For me as a director this program lays the foundation for the future. With these points of reference I want to provide leadership to an organization.

The program Programma voor bestuurders in publieke en non-profit sector is only available in Dutch. Find out more about this program.

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