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Imagine being a manager in a government agency anywhere on this planet. Your average working day consists of many activities. Organizing meetings and setting agendas to discuss progress on policy and service delivery related activities. Enduring tenured senior staff who are unable to keep up with their rapidly changing environment. Guiding junior staff who need to be carefully managed but don’t think they do. Explaining to impatient political masters that complex policy decisions can’t be reached within a week’s time. Negotiating, communicating, and consulting with stakeholders across sectors on how to jointly design and produce services. Fending off traditional and citizen journalists who scrutinize your performance in catering to a non-stop media environment that feeds off crises and failures. All these and more may easily fill up your everyday schedule – a schedule that you seem unable to control, let alone direct. Surely, being a public manager has never been easy, but it seems to become more challenging all the time. Four key features seem to increasingly characterize your operating environment. First, more and more often you and your staff members are confronted with, or rather surprised by, disruptive events, scandals, crises, and shocks. The challenges that you face in such situations are not necessarily hard to understand – you have even planned and practised for some of them. However, their timing and occurrence are seemingly unexpected and their duration unknown. Due to increased interconnectedness, even small events may trigger other disruptive events and crises. The increased occurrence of such events results in larger volatility. Second, you are more frequently confronted with sudden leadership transitions that completely change the outlook of policies and programmes you have been working on for months, sometimes years.
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