Research & Publications - 2013

PRESS NOTICE:  What public leaders can learn from the experience of LSIS

July 29 2013

PRESS NOTICE:  What public leaders can learn from the experience of LSIS

The Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) will close its doors on 31 July 2013, but important lessons it has learnt about leadership, management and governance should not be forgotten, according to a new report by the Public Chairs’ Forum (PCF).

Lessons for leadership – the experience of LSIS considers what the wider public sector can learn from the experiences of LSIS. Many of the challenges facing the Further Education (FE) sector reflect changes taking place across government; this report draws parallels between both and offers lessons for leadership that are of relevance to all public leaders today.

Key points from the report:

  • The traditional view of the ‘heroic’ leader has lost relevance for public sector leaders. Instead, leadership and governance should be more blended – with focus both on setting strategic direction and on empowering middle managers.
  • Cuts to public spending and changes in public policy mean that the skillset necessary for public sector leaders needs to be more geared towards entrepreneurialism, flexibility and creativity.
  • Good governance requires that board and their Chairs understand their role vis-à-vis the organisation’s Chief Executive – constructively challenging and ensuring the organisation has a clear strategy rather than only auditing or steering.
  • The LSIS dual governance model of a board to ensure ‘things are done right’ and a council to ensure ‘the right things are done’ has relevance to individual organisations and to sectors seeking to improve.

Speaking about the report, Chris Banks CBE, Chair of the PCF said:

“Our report builds on other reviews of LSIS’s legacy and offers some thought provoking lessons that really chime with the challenges that public leaders are facing at the moment. Some interesting themes have been identified that have important implications for chairs, chief executives and boards and the PCF will be working with chairs of public bodies to take these into account.”

Dame Ruth Silver, Chair of LSIS, said:

‘I am really pleased to see the publication by the Public Chairs’ Forum of this excellent report. It contains some important lessons about leadership, management and governance from LSIS and Further Education, which are highly relevant to the public sector. I hope it proves useful in what is a very challenging time for leaders.’

This report builds on The leadership legacy of LSIS: a reflection, which reflects on the demand for effective leadership across the further education and skills sector and the impact LSIS has had in creating a leadership cadre that meets this demand.

Download PDF

Relationship Web – improving ALB / Departmental relationships

January 29 2013

Relationship Web – improving ALB / Departmental relationships

Relationship Web is a two way self-assessment tool. This characteristic marks it out from many other relationship surveys because instead of simply reflecting on your own perceptions of the relationship, you are able to gain an insight into how the arm’s-length body (ALB) or sponsoring department that you are working with views the relationship too.

In It takes two, our framework for effective relations produced jointly with the Institute for Government last year, we identified five key ‘buckets’ for effectiveness in ALB / Department relationships: accountabilities; strategic approach; financial and performance management; communication and engagement; and relationship management. Relationship Web uses the diagnostic questions set out in the framework and groups them around these same five areas.

Since its launch, some key Departments and ALBs have got on board and have started using Relationship Web. These include Ministry of Justice, DCLG, Defra and their public bodies. This is really positive progress, but clearly, there are many more Departments and ALBs who could benefit from taking part. We want to ensure that the tool reaches its potential and helps as many different Departments and ALBs as possible. So if you work for an ALB or Department and are yet to use the tool, please take a few minutes of your time to register for Relationship Web and get started. The more people that use Relationship Web, the greater the impact it can have and the greater improvements will be.

To request access, please email the PCF (

How it works

When completing the exercise, you will be asked to state how strongly you agree with each statement using a seven point scale. 

See below for an example of a statement that appears in the accountabilities section:

Q5 There is an agreed common understanding of the role of the chair and chief executive that is shared at all levels of the department and the ALB.

  1   2     3     4     5     6       7

Once complete, your results are plotted on to a ‘spider’s web’ – the further away from the centre your responses, the more effective your relationship; the idea being to stretch the web over time to improve your performance.

Individual ALBs and Departments can then compare results to see how each party views their relationship. Rather than being the solution to any issues in the relationship, the exercise should act as a useful conversation starter between Department and ALB.

Please visit the research page on our website for more comprehensive information on how the tool works, including standard user and super user access.

Download PDF

Browse by Date

Stay Updated

with our Quarterly Newsletter

Our newsletter features the most up to date news on the work of the PCF, along with guest articles on topical issues