Our February 2016 article The Australian Public Service: Mad World or Agile Transformation? looked at “radically different views of public service management”. In June 2016 we are still seeing different views but also encouraging signs of progress.
A June 2016 article in The Mandarin, Creative videos enliven DFAT’s red tape busting , describes an approach using short videos to convey the findings of a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade review and recommendations for stripping out unnecessary red tape. This approach, by Louise Hand, First Assistant Secretary, Europe Division, replaces “another long and detailed report to the secretary”. The Mandarin article notes that “Hand found $16 million in potential savings and a lot of the recommendations have already been implemented, cutting out an estimated 36,000 unnecessary transactions already. And it was clearly a lot of fun, too.” Part of the fun was that“Apparently, the creative first assistant secretary even darkened the room and served popcorn when she first showed it (the first video) to senior executives.”
Key changes include “short ‘stand-up meetings’ held in common areas of the building that only last 7-10 minutes and forbid ‘long explanations’ as well as increased use of verbal briefing. One of the key overall themes of the experience is to create a culture of permission in DFAT, where relatively junior staff are trusted more to question the need for time-consuming process. “
The 2 videos cost only about $110 to make with an existing handheld camera and in-house talent. Both have been seen by senior staff members and have being disseminated to the whole organisation including overseas posts.
In a longer article in The Mandarin on 27.06.2016, Q&A with Martin Bowles: peer pressure, data use and leadership, Department of Health secretary Martin Bowles answers questions from public servants in Canberra following his contribution to the IPAA ACT Secretary Series on 21.6.2016.
“we have this notion that everyone said ‘you can’t give MBS and PBS data out because of privacy reasons, and all these other reasons you can’t do things.’ Well if I just believed that, we’d be still not giving it out. The reality is, I asked some different questions. If I want to do this, how do I do it?”
“I actually think our world is at a tipping point in a range of ways, and if I look at Health, the amount of data that we have is just phenomenal. We don’t use it anywhere near enough, and I have invested in trying to put data analytics, the whole behavioural stuff, the research, the evaluation at the centre of our thinking. So when we look at an issue we look an issue, we look at the data.”
“peer pressure is probably the greatest thing that will change behaviour. People always want to be seen as doing ‘the right thing’, or being ‘as good as’ … particularly people who have aspirations for high office and things like that. …that might be a bit Machiavellian in some ways but you have to actually move your organisation forward with that.”