Faculty in focus: Gerhard Hammerschmid

Our Professor of Public and Financial Management talks about teaching in the Executive MPA and the importance of digitalisation and people management for government transformation.

As the application period for this year’s Executive Master of Public Administration draws to a close, we’re gearing up to welcome an exciting cohort of participants, joining us from a wide range of sectors, policy fields and countries. For more insight into the Executive MPA experience, we spoke with Gerhard Hammerschmid, our Professor of Public and Financial Management and Director of the Hertie School’s Centre for Digital Governance. Read the short interview below!

You teach the Executive MPA courses on people management and organisational change. What subjects have sparked your most exciting class discussions?

Both courses cover what I experience as key challenges for most of our Executive MPA students in their professional careers. Managing and motivating people towards common goals, but also introducing and successfully implementing change, are among the most needed competencies in public sector organisations. And it still surprises me to hear from our participants how badly managed these aspects are in many public but also private sector organisations.

People management is one of my favourite courses, as we always have exciting debates on how to address challenges such as talent management (attracting and retaining talent for government careers), staff motivation and engagement, re-adjusting performance appraisals, ensuring a more strategic role of HR or fostering diversity. In the change management course, which I co-teach with a very experienced government consultant, digital transformation and agile work in a public sector context are clearly the most exciting topics.

Executive MPA students come from different countries and bring an impressive array of professional experiences across sectors. How do you incorporate and accommodate these diverse perspectives in your teaching?

The broad range of professional experiences from very different backgrounds and countries is what I see as the biggest asset and merit of teaching Executive MPA courses. It is important for us as teachers to acknowledge this diversity, and we very much benefit from students sharing and comparing their experiences in class. We have different formats ranging from discussions, break-out sessions with group work or case studies to incorporate these different experiences. In our change management course, we also have very positive experiences with a peer-to-peer counselling format, where students work on specific problems/cases presented by fellow students.

Next May, you will lead the four-day workshop in London. Why are these on-site excursions an essential part of the Executive MPA, and how do they fit into the overall programme?

It will already be my tenth time organising this London workshop. The feedback is always extremely positive, and many alumni remember it as highlight of their Executive MPA studies. It is a great experience at the end of the programme to explore the spirit of Whitehall, with onsite visits to different departments, the Audit Office, the Government Digital Service and especially our partner, the renowned think tank Institute for Government. Workshop participants will attend exciting lectures and meet a wide range of government experts to discuss topics they have explored in their various Executive MPA courses. The workshop allows students to develop an integrated perspective of current leadership, management experiences and trends in a government system that is known to be very pro-innovation.

As Professor of Public and Financial Management and Director of the Centre for Digital Governance, you often examine the intersection between digitalisation and public administration in your research. What opportunities will students have to pursue these topics at the Hertie School?

Over the last decade, digitalisation has become the most relevant and pressing topic for public administration reform across the globe, with wide-ranging policy and regulation implications. The expectations and promises are high, but we often see a limited capacity to master the challenges of government transformation. The Centre for Digital Governance was established to strengthen the Hertie School’s competence and visibility in this area, and it brings together not only faculty and researchers, but also students working or interested in the different aspects of digital transformation.

For students, there are many opportunities to pursue digitalisation topics: enrolling in courses as part of our Digital Week, choosing digitalisation as a master’s thesis topic and also participating in the centre’s various events over the upcoming semester – most importantly our digital governance research colloquium. We also will offer a “meet the centre” event to present our activities and offer students possibilities to get involved.


Learn more about the Centre for Digital Governance here.

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