Lucy Fallon-Byrne - I'll Go Home with a Different Perspective




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Sep 22, 2017
by Nicole Bogart and Oscar Tollast
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Lucy Fallon-Byrne - I'll Go Home with a Different Perspective

Assistant Secretary of Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, in Ireland, outlines key lessons learned from round table Lucy Fallon-Byrne at the sixth meeting of the Public Sector Strategy Round Table

In her words, Lucy Fallon-Byrne has an “exciting” but “demanding” job. She is leading public service reform in Ireland, serving as the assistant secretary of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and program director of the Reform and Delivery Office. After attending the sixth meeting of the Public Sector Strategy Round Table - In the Spotlight: How Can the Public Sector Excel Under Changing Dynamics? - Fallon-Byrne said she would leave with a number of takeaways, each of which would have an effect on the work that takes place in her day-to-day life.

This work involves a new phase of public service reform, which is currently being rolled out in Ireland. Previous reform programs have had various degrees of success, but the latest program comes at a time of stability. Discussing the latest reform, Fallon-Byrne said, “It’s more developmental. It’s more focusing on innovation and matching the prolific changes that are happening in the environment. Our big challenges are getting traction for public service reform in a time of relative calm and relative economic stability, as opposed to [what we experienced] in 2011.”

Fallon-Byrne said Ireland is focused on “being strategic” in the face of Brexit and any other threat it may face. This includes being positioned well to take advantage of technological revolutions. Commenting on this further, she said, “We’re also focusing very, very strongly on new forms of delivery - digital delivery, business process automation - and much more use of technology and less use of routine repetitive tasks, changing the market force.”

Analyzing her platform for the new wave of public service reform, Fallon-Byrne said they were talking about building robust organizations. She said, “Underpinning principles would be that we link reform to expenditure, that we have very good and strong governance structures in place so that it does get traction and it is well governed. These are very important principles underpinning this wave of reform that possibly weren’t articulated as strongly in the past.”

On the problems facing the public sector, Fallon-Byrne doesn’t believe they’re unique to Ireland and while there are differences between cultures and jurisdictions, the problems faced around the world are “very common.” She said, “We are all moving toward much more online service delivery and we’re dealing with the difficulties that faces.

“We’re also dealing with a lot of data and we’re trying to use the data as an enabler of change, and an enabler of good governance, but we have difficulties in terms of data protection. We face very similar challenges in strategic workforce planning because we’re all an aging demographic and in our civil service and public services the age profile is very challenging. We face similar challenges and then we face similar unique political challenges based on the different political configurations in different countries.”

The two-day program at Schloss Leopoldskron provided Fallon-Byrne with a new way of thinking. She said, “I really, really found the last two days very, very helpful for me because I think I’ll go home now with a different perspective.” Adding to this, Fallon-Byrne said while she was aware Ireland was well-positioned in terms of the technological revolution, it was “off the mark” in other areas. She said, “I think we have a good bit to go in really grappling with the changes that I experienced here and the presentations from others. The scale of that challenge is bigger than I thought coming here.”

In addition to this takeaway, Fallon-Byrne was also reminded of the negative thinking which can exist around the public sector and people’s views of government. She said, “There’s this cynicism about government and about public service, and I think that’s an important piece I think I can learn from the Seminar here. I think others are facing the same challenges, and maybe together we have to do something about that.” Fallon-Byrne also confirmed the anecdotes and experiences shared by her fellow participants would help her to “crystallize” the program she’s preparing at home, helping her to be more attuned to what works and what doesn’t work.

By having a diverse group of people from different backgrounds and political systems, Fallon-Byrne said this had created a good network of individuals to reach out to. She said, “It just is great to get that affirmation and get that sense we are all facing similar problems, and we are all facing many, many, big, big challenges. We are all grappling with them in a similar way. I think there’s a great cohesion and a great sense of solidarity, as Clare [Shine] said, in the group, and I would value that. I have shared quite a lot of my contacts with a lot of people here and we’ll hopefully keep those contacts going.”

Lucy Fallon-Byrne attended the sixth meeting of the Public Sector Strategy Round Table – “In the Spotlight: How Can the Public Sector Excel Under Changing Dynamics?”. This meeting was convened by Salzburg Global Seminar in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court and apolitical, and with the support of Chatham House. More information on the session can be found here.

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