Developing leadership confidence within a huge and complex organisation

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is a major government department working to protect and advance the principles of justice. With services including over 300 courts and more than 100 prisons across England and Wales, the MoJ impacts millions of people every year.

Their workforce totals almost 90,000 people across prisons, probation, courts and tribunals as well as headquarters. As such, it’s integral that the MoJ’s people team work together with a shared sense of purpose. It’s their job to make sure that everyone working across the MoJ has the skills and support they need to help deliver a justice system that works for everyone in society.

The challenge – bridging the gap during unprecedented change

The role of a HR leader has changed significantly over the last four to five years. With challenges such as the global pandemic, Brexit and the cost-of-living crisis, people professionals are constantly having to flip between the strategic and the tactical. Which isn’t always easy.

Over this time, the MoJ’s Senior Leadership Team were continuing to evolve and support the organisation through internal structural changes as well as the effects of these external events. While also getting to grips with remote working and the addition of new team members during times of isolated working, which presented new challenges to the leadership cadre.

Chief People Officer at the MoJ, Mark Adam recognised this and saw it as an opportunity to re-anchor the HR Senior Leadership Team to its professional body and create something special that would reconnect and upskill them.

"Given the context, the importance of working though the kind of behaviours and the strengths we want to inspire throughout the team to build cohesion whilst we’re positioning ourselves to deliver our strategy is paramount."

Mark Adam, Chief People Officer, Ministry of Justice

The solution – a Strategic Systemic Leadership Development Programme

To achieve this within people at the MoJ, Mark enlisted the support of the CIPD. Working in partnership together, we developed a comprehensive leadership development programme that aimed to empower the MoJ’s people team with the capability to adapt to an ever-changing environment whilst also building trust and strong connections across the team.

The Systemic Strategic Leadership Development Programme consists of a mix of structured online and face-to-face modules delivered by an expert CIPD facilitator, which is underpinned by 1-2-1 executive coaching sessions at the beginning, middle, and end.

The multi-level learning experience is a 9-month journey allowing events to be manageable for a group of people whose time is very limited, and impactful as each event bridges to the next and everything flows together.

“The way it’s set up is so people can go on their own individual journey as well as the collective journey, which I think is really important and it’s why I like it being anchored in the profession,” added Mark.

"It’s working on multiple levels because it’s doing something for the organisation, it’s doing something for us as a team, but it’s also doing something for the individuals that are part of it."

Mark Adam, Chief People Officer, Ministry of Justice

Within the programme there is also a Peer 360 element. Several direct reports for each participant give honest feedback on things they are good at and things they could work on. The senior leadership team are then buddied up with one another and responsible for holding monthly 1-2-1s to set one or two areas in which they’d like to improve on and hold each other accountable. 

Richard Smith, Senior Consultant at CIPD, said, “One of the nice things about the 1-2-1s is that it gives them something they’re personally responsible for, to elevate that engagement and get that commitment. But also, they're building those bridges as well, even if they don't realise it. And suddenly, by the end of the programme, you're going to get these pockets of relationships that weren't there, or weren't as strong, before.”

“This increases the trust between the executive team,” adds Mark, “right the way across the MoJ, as they've been able to have honest conversations as part of the coaching approach. That means they make more trusted decisions. And then, when you translate that out to how the business feels, because that's more trusted, we’re better informed of what we offer as a complete service, we know how we want to work together, and we want to show up.”

The outcome – empowered, trusted, capable people leaders

The leadership team has already seen positive outcomes as a result. “It's allowed us to shape the positioning of our operation over the last year, because people are live learning and applying,” reflects Mark.

He’s particularly found value in the partnership approach CIPD have adopted. “When we come to the reset strategy piece, I know it won’t be ‘this is how you do standard strategy’ but it’ll be absolutely grounded in this is what it means for you, for where you are as an organisation, and here is a bucket load of what your profession is feeling at the same time.”

When asked what he hoped would be the ultimate outcome of the programme, Mark said, “I want to be able to lead more, manage less.” He anticipates a new level of trust across the HR Senior Leadership Team, which will enable trusted collaboration, trusted relationships, and make constructive challenging much easier and more productive. Ultimately, the programme aims to create a cultural shift across the team and embed new ways of working at a leadership level.

"I’m looking forward to the team making connections that they don’t need me for. I want them to feel like we’re running the MoJ’s people department, and we feel empowered to do it, trusted to do it and capable enough to do it."

Mark Adam, Chief People Officer, Ministry of Justice

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