Officers of the Lagos State Public Service must deepen their technical skills and knowledge if they must be part of the 21st century agile management model

Akintola Benson-Oke

And as we journey on in the 21st Century and as the Lagos State Government and her institutions position to be adaptable to the changes necessitated by the unique challenges of the 21st century, the Ministry of Establishments, Training and Pensions has recommended, and His Excellency has approved, that selected officers of the Lagos State Public Service be made to pioneer the service-wide adoption of a 21st century-compliant agile management model in the Lagos State Public Service.

Amongst others, this model has been shown to empower people, build accountability, encourage diversity of ideas, allow for the early release of benefits, and promote continuous improvement. It allows decisions to be tested and rejected early with feedback loops providing benefits that are not as evident in other scenarios. In addition, it helps deliver change when requirements are uncertain, helps build engagement with stakeholders on what is most beneficial, and ensures that changes are incremental improvements which can help navigate the shock of cultural change.

In order to deliver on its promises, the agile management model calls for public service institutions such as the Lagos State Public Service to be ready and open to integrating contemporary leadership principles and management theories into its modus operandi. In a review of the most recent developments in the field of business leadership, the number of business leadership styles and trends has been noted. The first is the Transformational Leadership theory which is a recent addition to the literature but of which more research has been conducted “than all the contingency theories combined.” The theory distinguishes between transformational and transactional leaders.

READ ALSO: Leaders on Leadership: With the comeback kid

Transformational leaders lead employees by aligning employee goals with the leader’s goals. Thus, employees working for transformational leaders start focusing on the organisation’s well-being rather than on what is best for them as individual employees. However, transactional leaders ensure that employees demonstrate the right behaviours because the leader provides resources in exchange.

Making further distinctions between transformational and transactional leaders, the commentators point out that while transformational leaders rely on their charisma, persuasiveness, and personal appeal to change and inspire their organisations, transactional leaders use three other methods. Contingent rewards mean rewarding employees for their accomplishments. Active management by exception involves leaving employees to do their jobs without interference, but at the same time proactively predicting potential problems and preventing them from occurring. Passive management by exception is similar in that it involves leaving employees alone, but in this method, the manager waits until something goes wrong before coming to the rescue.

Related News

Many people have opined that transformational leadership is more effective. To my mind, the key factor may be trust. Trust is the belief that the leader will show integrity, fairness, and predictability in his or her dealings with others. According to the commentators cited, research shows that when leaders demonstrate transformational leadership behaviours, followers are more likely to trust the leader. “The tendency to trust in transactional leaders is substantially lower. Because transformational leaders express greater levels of concern for people’s well-being, and appeal to people’s values, followers are more likely to believe that the leader has a trustworthy character.”

READ ALSO: Dissecting Nigeria’s leadership challenge

Another theory on management is the Leader-Member Exchange Theory which proposes that the type of relationship leaders have with their followers (members of the organization) is the key to understanding how leaders influence employees. Leaders form different types of relationships with their employees. In high-quality LMX relationships, the leader forms a trust-based relationship with the member. The leader and member like each other, help each other when needed, and respect one another. In these relationships, the leader and the member are both ready to go above and beyond their job descriptions to promote the other’s ability to succeed.

In contrast, in low-quality LMX relationships, the leader and the member have lower levels of trust, liking, and respect toward each other. These relationships do not have to involve actively disliking each other, but the leader and member do not go beyond their formal job descriptions in their exchanges. In other words, the officer does his or her job, the leader provides rewards and punishments, and the relationship does not involve high levels of loyalty or obligation toward each other. Thus, officers in leadership positions in the Lagos State Public Service must be prepared and open to considering and adopting these leadership approaches as part of the wider practice of agile management model in the public service.

Moving away from the leadership theories practised in the private sector and having application in the public service, agile management in the Lagos State Public Service also calls for officers to be more practical and realistic about their decisions and proposals. In the first place, realistic goals must be set and the actual concerns of the people who stand to be affected by the decisions of public servants must be taken into consideration. What this does is that it builds trust between the public service and the citizens whom they ultimately serve. Additionally, it minimizes waste because less time and resources are expended on correcting or redoing strategies due to inadequate information gathering before policy formulation. Officers of the Lagos State Public Service must also deepen their technical skills and knowledge if they must be an integral and functional part of the 21st century-compliant agile management model. Many public projects now require the buy-in of members of the public many of whom are savvy enough to demand to see charts, diagrams, models, graphs and other tools before accepting the proposals or acknowledging the competence of those charged with the execution of the project.

READ ALSO: Buhari assures on revisiting 13% derivation to ensure even projects spread

Furthermore, it is now the age of information technology and public servants have to begin and complete their work exclusively on computers and the Internet in order to claim the benefits of speed, scalability, and interoperability of systems that the agile management model calls for.

Agile management in the Lagos State Public Service also calls for officers to develop a penchant for laser-like focus on the minute details of projects and policies in their formation and execution. Policy makers can no longer afford to take their eyes off the ball of details.

Dr. Oke writes from Lagos