Written by
Changeboard Team

Published
17 Jan 2018

Building leadership development in Oman

17 Jan 2018 • by Changeboard Team

The challenge

Due to the economic challenges and opportunities facing Oman, the Diwan recognised the need to develop its leaders so they could deliver on national projects to drive employment, growth and innovation in the country.

Unlike neighbouring nations, Oman has modest oil reserves, ranking 25th globally. It cannot depend on oil income to achieve future prosperity, so it is implementing a programme of industrial diversification to focus on growth in other sectors, including tourism, logistics, fisheries, agriculture and mining. To support this, the government is undertaking initiatives including:

  • Growing target sectors
  • Developing small and medium-sized enterprises
  • National talent development (Omanisation)
  • Engagement with private sector – working towards the target of having 500,000 Omanis in private sector employment by 2023

The Diwan is playing an increasingly important role in the achievement of these national plans and projects
leading to economic diversification. To better serve the nation’s needs, it needed to develop its leaders and
improve internal working practices. A one-size-fits-all approach to management development would not work, given the Diwan’s unique national, cultural, social and organisational context and religious obligations.

Building a bespoke leadership programme

To address the need for enhanced leadership capability, the Diwan appointed Henley Business School to design and deliver a strategic leadership programme for the director-general community heading up the Diwan’s various departments.

Initially there was scepticism from directors-general about the value of such training. As individuals admired for their expert knowledge, there was a sense that attending a leadership development training course could undermine their authority. The directors also felt previous courses they had attended were uninspiring and of limited value.

Two programmes were established, aimed at the directors-general and assistant directors-general. They began with a workshop followed by residential modules, and covered topics/skill areas including: assessing key challenges and opportunities for the Diwan, creativity, solutions development, strategic communications and reputation management. One of the key challenges faced by any public sector leadership community anywhere in the
world is the cross-departmental communication and cross-fertilisation of ideas.

The leadership programme addressed this key challenge for the Diwan, providing an environment in which participants felt comfortable to communicate more effectively around their shared challenges and opportunities.

The impact

As part of the evaluation process, assessments of the two programmes were carried out to make sure the training was relevant to Oman’s needs. Participants were asked to rank on a scale of 0 to 10 the extent to which they agreed with a series of statements, to evaluate the programmes’ effectiveness at individual, team and organisational levels.

The assessments showed an improvement in team spirit, and the belief that Oman can successfully diversify its economy, develop leaders, and has a positive future. Participants have said the learning and development activities supported the improvement of professional relationships, greater collaboration, better planning and organisation, an enhanced reputation for the Diwan and a clearer focus on the long-term vision for Oman.

Quantitative measures of impact

  • ‘A strong team spirit exists within the director-general community’ – an improvement from a rating of 5.9 before the programme to 8.5 afterwards
  • ‘I am aware of my need to develop my learning’ – an improvement from 6.2 to 9
  • ‘I have strong organisational capabilities’ – an improvement from 6.5 to 8.7
  • ‘The Diwan of Royal Court has a strong reputation in the eyes of the people in other ministries’ – an improvement from 8.4 to 9.4
  • ‘I feel that Oman will successfully diversify its economy’ – an improvement from 6.5 to 9.1
  • ‘I believe Oman will successfully develop Omanisation – an improvement from 6.7 to 8.8 (Omanisation is the development of programmes and processes that will deliver Omani talent to the public and private sectors with the necessary capabilities, skills and experience)
  • ‘I believe Oman has a positive future’ – an improvement from 8.5 to 10

Most importantly, the programme is helping to forge closer working relationships between leaders within the Diwan. This has provided a platform allowing the directors-general and assistant directors-general to tackle challenges facing the Diwan and Oman as a whole, constructively and collaboratively. This culture of increased collaboration is evidenced in the day-to-day operational activity of the Diwan.

Case study

DR KHAMIS SAUD AL-TOUBI: DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF ADMINISTRATIVE DEVELOPMENT

“As head of the committee for educational reform, I know that the participants create the learning environment. Henley has created the space and trust for us to do this. We have gained so much knowledge from the trainers, but even more from each other.

“It is crucial that we apply the knowledge to our real challenges after each module. This has made a real difference to the way we delegate, disseminate knowledge and build loyalty – not only in the Royal Court, but throughout Oman.

“I now focus on motivating and inspiring my team and making them feel valued. We have been reminded that our success depends on our employees.

“And the Diwan of Royal Court’s reputation has soared – we are a shining light in Oman and we are more admired by other ministers, and even our own children, who see that we give them more freedom. We have really felt it.”

About the authors

Jon Morton (left), programme director, Henley Business School
Jon is experienced in corporate and business school environments.

Domonic Swords (right), visiting professor, Henley Business School
Dominic is an expert on how market change affects organisational needs.