Public-sector leadership

Sitra supported public-sector reform through training for senior civil servants from central government, cross-sectoral experiments and creating visions for new administrative practices in 2017-2018.


Many phenomena today are complex and difficult to predict. And yet, decision-makers and public servants are expected to react rapidly and to maintain close dialogue with different stakeholder groups. This is just one of the numerous challenges that the management, operation and structures of public administration face at the moment.

Several questions remain unanswered and many of them are related, in one way or other, to the organisation and management of work: how are changes in working life and new expectations for management reflected in administrative practices? How can we build user-oriented digital services through the engagement of citizens? How do the ministries co-operate? How can we effectively create well-being through co-operation between the public, private and the third sector? How can we ensure that decision-making is based on facts and strengthen the strategic capability of public administration? How can we manoeuvre within a changing operating environment that is becoming ever more global?

There are no easy and quick answers but one thing is clear: public-sector management and operating models need to be updated as we approach the 2020s. This can be achieved by developing the expertise of senior civil servants and other personnel, and by anticipating, experimenting and getting to work. This not only affects the future of public administration but also the well-being of its customers – the Finnish population and the foundation for Finland’s success. We supported public administration in this reform work.

What did we do?

We provided tools for a cross-sectoral, future-oriented management culture and agile experimentation, as well as for learning new things and unlearning the old. The project was entitled “Public-sector leadership” but the emphasis was on central government, that is, the ministries and the agencies and bodies within those ministries. The example set by central government will have a large influence on the operating culture of the entire public sector and its reform.

The three spearheads of our work were as follows.:

  1. Organising a training programme called “Renewing the public sector – enabling management”. It wasattended by approximately 140 senior civil servants from central government during 2017 and 2018.
  2. Siilonmurtajat (silo breakers) initiative supported practical cross-sectoral experiments. Ideas for the experiments were sought from staff within the ministries and associated agencies.
  3. We visualised the practices of public administration for the 2020s in collaboration with various stakeholder groups. The key question was: what kind of practices and public-administration structures could face up to the challenges of the 2020s? Based on this work, we prepared a vision with practical recommendations.

These three spearheads formed a seamless package: training provided impulses for experiments and the experiments, in turn, produced knowledge and solutions for reforming the public administration.

Who participated?

Our main aim was to encourage all public-sector employees to introduce new ideas and to develop and experiment with new practices.

Senior civil servants from the ministries and some agencies participated in “Renewing the public sector – enabling management” training. The Siilonmurtajat initiative was intended for all employees in public administration. For the vision, we consulted a wide variety of different stakeholder groups, experts, political decision-makers and Finnish and international developers of public administration.

What did we do?

Training for senior civil servants began in September 2017. There were a total of six courses. The last one ended in December 2018.

We invited all employees of ministries and associated agencies in Finland to put forward their ideas and to propose cross-sectoral administrative experiments. Four out of 50 proposals were selected to Siilonmurtajat experiments. They were implemented during 2018 in co-operation with different stakeholder groups.

A discussion paper Phenomenon-based public administration was published in August 2018.



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Jouni Backman
Taru Keltanen
Specialist, Communications and Public Affairs

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