We asked our panel member, digital specialist and champion of the customer Maile Carnegie to share her thoughts on this review and the Australian public service.
Read on to learn how the public service made Maile’s childhood special and the role we play in national innovation.
WHAT WAS THE APPEAL FOR YOU TO WORK ON THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF AUSTRALIA’S PUBLIC SERVICE?
I am a first generation immigrant and feel extraordinarily privileged to have grown up in Australia.
So much of what made my upbringing special was delivered or enabled by the Australian public service — things like healthcare, education, a sense of safety, career opportunities, and more.
I have two teenage sons and I want future generations to have similar opportunities to what I was gifted. This will only happen if the service is “fit” to tackle tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities.
One of the major insights from this report was the critical role the public service plays in driving the national innovation ecosystem and being an exemplar in the innovation space. If we want a thriving Australia by 2030, we need a thriving public service!
WHAT SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES DO YOU SEE BETWEEN THE AUSTRALIAN PUBLIC SERVICE AND BANKING?
There are many similarities. Both are large, complex organisations where the majority of people are trying to do the right thing, including being more customer or citizen centric.
Both are trying to tackle large capability gaps and technology deficits in a fast-changing environment where there is a diminishing risk appetite to address these issues.
A major difference is that in a private sector organisation there is a clear ‘leader’ who is better positioned to make the tough, coordinated decisions required to transform an organisation.
IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT DOES THE AUSTRALIAN PUBLIC SERVICE DO REALLY WELL AND NEED MORE OF IN THE FUTURE?
What I see during my interactions with Australian public servants across all levels and departments is a deeply felt sense of ‘purpose’. That is, why they work for the service and why their work matters.
Most organisations would love to have this as it is a pre-requisite for a healthy and engaged workforce.
The interesting thing is that there does not appear to be a single purpose for the Australian public service. Each department seems to have a specific and slightly different articulation.
It would be so powerful if public servants could rally behind a single, unifying reason for being.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE SINGLE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR AUSTRALIA’S PUBLIC SERVICE IN 2030?
Collaboration across departmental silos is a big challenge and is made more complicated by the compression in budgets.
If I was allowed a second ‘biggest challenge’, I would also nominate building contemporary capabilities, including the public service winning the war for talent in critical areas like data, cloud, and engineering.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST INTERESTING THING YOU’VE DISCOVERED ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN PUBLIC SERVICE THROUGH THE REVIEW?
It is fabulous to see how strongly the Australian public service is regarded by governments and public services around the world. Much of what the service does is considered best-in-class.
Our close neighbours in New Zealand and Singapore are starting to edge ahead, but Australia is starting from a really strong foundation.
I know I shouldn’t be surprised about that, but typically a review is done when things are not working as they should, so to be asked to review a strong organisation in order to predict and pre-empt problems is a lovely surprise.
IS THERE SOMETHING YOU’D SUGGEST PEOPLE READ OR LISTEN TO?
Measure What Matters by US investor and venture capitalist John Doerr. The public service has complex problems to solve. And this book articulates the value of clearly defining the work that matters and the key measures that will support and reinforce this work. You can also watch his TED talk for a preview.