Dear Mr David Thodey
Please accept my attached submission to the APS Review on behalf of yourself, other members of the Review Panel and the Secretariat.
Should you like any elaboration on these suggestions, I would be delighted to provide further information (and at great length!).
I wish you good luck, there is a lot at stake.
Please accept my submission to the Independent Review of the APS (the APS Review) in which
I provide suggestions for generating a technically expert and adaptable APS fit for a future that
is uncertain and likely to be subject to rapid change.
The APS has already undertaken extensive work to anticipate future change and to position
itself. My submission attempts to take this work into account and to add value only in the
remaining areas where it might be potentially useful. Many of my suggestions are new and
untested so I am expecting they will need adjustment in light of further evidence and exposure
to collective wisdom. They are as follows.
Better knowledge management
Efficient and effective use of knowledge is critical to improving APS policy and services.
Knowledge includes feedback from citizens, technical expertise and on-the-job know-how and
past experience of APS officers. The APS could benefit from more explicitly focussing on:
● working out what needs to be known and how to obtain/generate that knowledge
● creating a culture that rewards the use and sharing of knowledge
● keeping knowledge workers happy
● encouraging processes for knowledge creation and sharing
● improving ways to make existing knowledge accessible
New management strategies
New strategies are needed to ensure the APS is more adaptive, expert and innovative. These
should aim to:
● progressively restructure the APS workforce so that it can meet future demands while
taking into account likely changes to the nature of work and minimising negative impacts
on existing staff
● make the best use of data and IT expertise
● adjust APS leadership and management practices to provide an environment in which
staff are happy and innovation can thrive
More productive relationships
It would further help the APS to have more productive relationships that facilitate the transfer of
knowledge from other sectors. In this last section, my suggestions relate to:
● managing expectations for open government
● being ‘citizen advocates’ during consultations
● improving information available to the media
● benefiting more from academic knowledge
1.1 Purpose and evidence base
I am providing this Submission in the hope of influencing the Panel and Secretariat to consider
some new ideas for updating the Australian Public Service (APS) and to address some
longstanding issues that perhaps are coming to a head.
This material is based on my ongoing interest in and gratitude to the APS which has included
being coached, reading widely, discussing these topics with a large network of contacts and
working for the Australian Government, in addition to working for overseas and state public
sectors, academia, non government and community organisations. Where possible and
relevant, I have drawn on public information on what is currently being done to address these
issues and available APS data.
I have not been employed by the APS for just under five years and I apologise that sometimes I
still refer to it as if I was still a member.
1.2 Expectations for the future
As the Prime Minister famously said, we live in the most exciting times. Much has been written
about the expected future and how it might change the way we work and live. Aspects that are
relevant to this submission include:
● recognition that use of consumer feedback, expert knowledge and technology are
increasingly important for driving improved policy and service delivery
● evidence that we are experiencing a period of rapid social, economic, political and
environmental change in which the forces of urbanisation, emerging economies,
demographic change and increased connectivity may coalesce into ‘no ordinary
disruption’ that is rapid and transformative
● signs that technological change involving automation and artificial intelligence will drive
changes to the nature of APS work
● retirement of the baby boom from the Australian Public Service and the potential to lose
existing knowledge, wisdom and expertise
● indications that social values have changed, enabling more individualism, greater
appreciation of diversity and manifesting as reduced trust in authority
In response to these anticipated changes, I have made suggestions at the ‘whole of APS level’
which are intended to assist the APS to make better use of knowledge, be more adaptable in
preparation for uncertain change, with workers managed in a way more consistent with current
values and to further improve relations with the community and access to external knowledge.
These suggestions are consistent with the Review’s terms of reference related to innovation,
productivity, collaboration with the community and acquiring necessary skills and expertise.
1.3 APS reform context
There is already extensive work being undertaken by the APS to anticipate change and position
Significant recent examples include: development and review of the PGPA Act (2013),
establishment of grants hubs and related information portals; the creation of the Digital
Transformation Office; the Report on Public Sector Data Management; development of the
Multi-Agency Data Integration Project and the Business Longitudinal Database along with its
analysis infrastructure; strategic policy work on cities and infrastructure; establishment of
Innovation and Science Australia; new approaches to staffing and service delivery at the
Department of Human Services and Australian Taxation Office; new approaches to
cyber-security and border control; workforce development by the Australian Public Service
Commission; establishment of Behavioural Economics Team of Australia; and current efforts by
the Future of Work Taskforce. I am sure there are many other examples that I have omitted that
are similarly significant.
These recent developments are consistent with, and are often extensions of many reform efforts
undertaken in the past, including those discussed in the Coombs Report (1976). It was rather
entertaining to read in a paper by the Parliamentary Library (Holland, 2003)1 that there have
been three main categories of recommendations emanating from the many reviews of the APS
between 1976 and 2003, which relate to: open government, improving equality for APS officers
and increasing APS efficiency and effectiveness. I think my own suggestions fall into the same
My contribution is necessarily much more limited than those already mentioned, since it is not
extensively resourced and I have not been able to benefit from ‘insider-status’ in the APS for
many years. Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped me from forming views, which may be useful
because I have had time and an opportunity to view the APS from arm’s length. However, I
accept these views are also likely to need adjustment in light of further evidence and critical
Holland, I (2003) Changes in the Australian Public Service, 1975 to 2003, Chronology No. 1 2002–03,
Parliamentary Library, Information and Research Services (since updated to 2010)
1.4 Summary of suggestions and their rationale
While there are many issues that I could have raised, I have limited my submission to providing
suggestions relating to the following three topics, so that the APS is ‘fit for the future’ and on the
Better knowledge management
The APS depends on its intellectual capital for its productivity. Examples of APS
intellectual capital include: the ‘administrative craft’ and ‘institutional memory’ whose loss
has been mourned by commentators and the culture, expertise, processes and
organisation of the APS that supports its operation. I suggest that the APS could add to
its intellectual capital (and shore up intellectual capital prior to the retirement of the baby
boom generation) through explicit and conscious knowledge management. This could
involve more top-down approaches to identifying the knowledge needed by
organisational units and development and resourcing of strategies to generate, interpret,
retain and share that knowledge.
Updated staff management
The nature of work is changing in the APS. While the rate of change is contested, it is
expected that over time, that (non-automated) work will become more complex, requiring
greater collaboration across areas of expertise and creativity in the development of
solutions. This submission makes suggestions for i) developing a strategy to manage
the APS workforce that anticipates the effects of automation and artificial intelligence; ii)
making better use of data and IT expertise; and iii) adjusting management and
leadership approaches to provide an environment in which innovation can thrive.
More productive relationships
Open government is already a busy space and this submission makes a few relatively
minor suggestions which include: i) providing more information on what the APS does,
its processes and the likely influence of participants’ advice in consultations and other
forms of ‘participatory democracy’; ii) improving the quality of consultation including
central oversight of consultation with some groups; iii) talking with the media about how
to support reporting that informs public debate of policy issues; and iv) some
suggestions for assisting academia to provide policy relevant input to the APS.
These areas are interrelated and mutually reinforcing and I have dealt with them separately
simply for emphasis and ease of explanation.
2. Better knowledge management
2.1 The importance of intellectual capital
The APS is an endlessly fascinating, complex, rich and diverse amalgam of organisations
whose value-add to the community is the result of their many cultures, processes, structures
and institutions which have been developed to achieve a diverse array of objectives. There is
often great purpose in what already exists.
The people, structure and relationships contributing to the function of the APS can be referred to
as ‘intellectual capital’. Examples for the APS include:
● Human capital ie the knowledge and skills of APS employees
(including knowledge of the ‘administrative craft’ and ‘institutional memory’ whose loss
has been mourned by Tingle (2015)2
● Structural capital ie the processes and organisation of the APS which support its
operation (eg templates, clearance processes, training courses, delegations, databases,
audit committees, legislation, cabinet guidelines)
● Relational capital ie relationships with Parliament, citizens, business, non government
organisations and academia.
Knowledge Management is an emerging field in which one strand has come to concentrate on
how to enhance intellectual capital. It involves consciously managing the knowledge that
contributes to the effectiveness, efficiency, growth and sustainability of that capital. Ideas
related to knowledge management have potential applicability to the APS3. The next section
provides a short summary of suggested approaches in the hope of tempting further investigation
and innovation in this area.
It should be noted beforehand that there is already considerable effort being invested in
knowledge management tactics by the APS. Examples are extensive and include workshops,
current human resources practices, continuous improvement of work processes, investment in
research and implementation of innovation labs. While none of the tactics are new, their
strategic use is. Adopting a more strategic knowledge management approach would be like
recent efforts in the fields of talent management, risk management and workforce planning, in
which the APS has acknowledged existing efforts and sought to learn from current practitioners
to identify best practice approaches, support their wider implementation and integrate these
practices across related organisational units.
Tingle (2015) ‘Political Amnesia : How we forgot how to govern’, Quarterly essay (Melbourne, Vic.) ; issue 60.
I note that it shares some of the concepts and approach described in a Staff Insights paper by the Australian Public
Service Commission on a Human Capital Planning Framework.
2.2 Methods for knowledge management
The following text provides a useful starting point for thinking about how the APS could grow its
intellectual capital by better using knowledge:
Pasher, E. and Ronan, T (2011) The Complete Guide to Knowledge Management: A
Strategic Plan to Leverage your Company’s Intellectual Capital, Wiley
A quick scan of Amazon shows that now there are many more recent books in the market. The
tactics suggested by the above authors are as follows:
● Work out what the organisation needs to know then develop a plan to develop that
knowledge. One approach may be to review an organisation’s corporate plan with a
view to identifying the knowledge needed to achieve the organisation’s most critical
objectives and then evaluating current sources of knowledge, whether they are optimal
and whether new knowledge needs to be obtained or generated. The recently
announced citizen survey is a good example of such top-down planning, which in this
case, addresses a gap in our knowledge of citizen satisfaction across government
● Create a culture that rewards knowledge management which includes: respecting
others’ knowledge; seeking to use the knowledge of others including that of external
people and people from different technical fields; supporting forums for sharing
knowledge (eg communities of practice, seminar series, the work of IPAA); and
rewarding the sharing of knowledge.
● Keep knowledge workers happy with: competitive remuneration; ensuring jobs are
challenging and interesting; providing for professional/managerial development;
providing performance based recognition and promotion; supporting a climate of
collaboration and knowledge sharing; valuing and leveraging the strengths of diversity;
ensuring good physical conditions; engendering a sense of belonging; and optimising
● Encourage processes for knowledge creation and sharing: note that knowledge
creation involves both dedicated individual pursuit as well as collaboration with others.
Give people space and responsibility for individual pursuit but also provide opportunities
to collaborate such as through communities of practice and other forums such as:
morning teas; evaluations and peer reviews; management meetings; lectures; seminars;
mentoring; and supervising. Examine ways to retain knowledge from people who exit
the APS by holding exit interviews and maintaining contact, including through mentoring
and forums held by the Institute of Public Administration Australia and the ANZSOG
Institute of Governance and Policy Analysis.
● Improve ways to make existing knowledge accessible. These methods include the
use of uber-filing though IT solutions as well as other methods that alert people to the
presence of knowledge such as boards, committees, advisory groups, roundtables,
lectures, courses, staff emails and tools for improving the quality of some products
without people needing to develop their own expertise eg briefing templates and
organisational guidelines and processes.
One aspect of the knowledge management approach advocated by Pasher and Ronan (2011)
that is particularly appealing, is that where possible, it advocates building on what already exists
and what works. It is about supporting and resourcing existing decentralised efforts to grow
knowledge and develop processes which are: driven by local demand for better outcomes;
leverage the knowledge of people who have already earned the respect of their colleagues; and
build on existing networks, or communities of practice, that have stood the test of time because
they are useful and maintained by people who care. It also provides opportunities for managing
critical person risk associated with investing in human capital only. An obvious application is to
start thinking about is what knowledge may be lost when the baby boom retire and how the APS
can mitigate this risk.
- Updated management strategies
Updated management approaches are needed to support an APS workforce that is more
expert, innovative and adaptive. The following sections elaborate on the following suggestions:
● developing a strategy to manage the APS workforce that anticipates the effects of
automation and artificial intelligence;
● growing the capacity of the APS to use information technology and interpret data while
implementing quality controls
● adjusting management and leadership approaches to provide an environment in which
innovation can thrive
Some of the material is a bit undeveloped and is perhaps best seen as a conversation starter.
3.1 Whole of APS workforce planning
The nature of APS work and its workforce is expected to change. We are expecting some of
our rule-based work (or algorithmic work such as call centre work) to become automated and
the remaining work to involve greater technical expertise, more creativity and skills in
collaboration. However, currently there is considerable conjecture and debate about the likely
size, nature and timing of changes to the APS workforce.
Perhaps this is already in train, but if not, the APS Review may like to consider requesting that
each agency undertake an audit of the type of work currently being conducted by its officers (in
terms of whether it is algorithmic or heuristic ) and whether it requires technical expertise (by
field) and how this may be affected by expected changes to automation and artificial
intelligence. These studies should also take into account predictions for future separation rates
since these are expected to increase as the baby boom retires. Through no fault of their own,
some agencies will be less well positioned for the future than others. If these studies use the
same methods, their results could be combined across the APS so that strategies can be
developed at the whole of APS level that provide good value for money and enhanced services
to the taxpayer while softening any upcoming blows to existing staff. The earlier this is done,
the more scope there is for developing acceptable solutions.
Available solutions are likely to involve hiring fewer ongoing staff and the use of more
non-ongoing employment arrangements. Now that non-ongoing staff have been more prevalent
for longer in the APS, it would be useful to know more about their contribution compared to that
of ongoing staff. Workforce strategists would benefit from knowing more about the relative
costs and benefits of ongoing and non-ongoing staff by type of employment arrangement and
field including: efficiency and effectiveness (to the extent this can be determined); skills used;
flexibility; reliability; engagement; effects on frank and fearless advice; financial costs; and gains
and losses in human capital (non-ongoing staff may bring specialised skills but they leave with
on-the-job experience). Such studies will also need to be sensitive to the constraints
experienced by the hirers of non-ongoing staff and their reasons for hiring (eg staff caps,
budgeting, skills needs, legacy issues).
3.2 Enhanced use of data and IT technical expertise
Technical expertise is very important to the APS now and into the future, since it is key to
utilising the opportunities posed by increasing availability of data and technological
advancements to improve security, service delivery and policy.
The costs of poor use of expertise have been demonstrated by past IT failures in the APS, of
which there have been many and they have been disastrous both financially and in terms of
poor service delivery to the Australian public. Hopefully, the establishment of the Digital
Transformation Office/Agency has been a major step forward in addressing this problem.
The APS needs to invest very carefully in how it organises itself to ensure it uses expertise over
the coming years to the best advantage. Depending on the outcomes of work on predicting
future needs for expertise (described in the previous section), a proportionate approach could
be developed. This could involve a clutch of tactics taken from the Knowledge Management
● Determining what departments need to know to enable digital transformation and use
of data to improve policy and services.
● Creating a culture that rewards use of data and technology this includes recent
efforts implemented under the Data Literacy Program and by the 2018 APS graduate
cohort who have formed their own data network.
● Keeping knowledge workers happy for which solutions might include:
○ Developing a cadre of expert officers, perhaps separately for the fields of IT and
data analysis, who are responsible for managing, contracting and undertaking
work of a technical nature. This would provide support for operational and
managerial staff, some of whom work in technical isolation, including:
■ information sharing about new data releases, analysis methodologies and
■ mentoring, coaching and development opportunities for people early in
■ best practice standard procedures (such as standard approaches to
metadata and processes for checking data before it is released)
■ opportunities for peer review of projects with the possibility of choosing
reviewers from a large array of possible experts (eg depending on the
nature of a research project, it may benefit from advice based on detailed
expertise in the areas of: social research methods and design including
evaluations and longitudinal analysis; indicator development; statistics
and sample design; cost-benefit analysis; econometrics; demographics;
computer science (particularly for database production, access and
dissemination); and no doubt, others.)
○ Seeking to hire and retain APS officers with exceptional technical expertise,
which might involve hiring people at pay rates and levels considerably higher
than an EL1 despite not having managerial responsibilities4. This would have to
be subject to the proviso that such senior technical staff would be expected to
share their knowledge and develop processes and build the skills of others to
reduce the extent to which they are a critical person risk5.
● Encourage processes for knowledge creation and sharing such as improving quality
control processes for obtaining outputs and value for money for both internal products
and those delivered by contract. The processes of the DTA might be more broadly
Note that this is contrary to ideas of spans of control but consistent with hiring practices for IT contractors.
Ie a work area becomes dependent on a particular person for their expertise and finds it difficult to function when
that person is absent or leaves.
applicable and could be reviewed for understanding what works and where risks remain.
Expert peer review will need to be an element of future quality control processes.
● Improve ways to make existing knowledge accessible which includes the recent
IPAA ACT events on Artificial Intelligence and the Public Sector ( 20 March 2018) and
Behavioural Insights; Global Perspectives ( 28 June 2018).
The UK has similarly sought to improve its Data, Digital and Technology (DDaT) function. They
have established the Government Digital Service Academy, a Professional Capability
Framework (that describes IT related jobs) and various schemes to attract and develop talent.6
There are many potential learnings from the UK approach which might be leveraged by the
3.3 Adjusting APS leadership and management
Leadership and management are critical determinants of staff engagement and productivity. As
a matter of course, the APS needs to continually invest and update approaches to these.
There is also pressure to adopt management practices conducive to supporting a workforce that
is expected to be undertaking more complex work, involving greater levels of expertise and
autonomy into the future. Such leadership and management practices are also intended to
support entrepreneurialism and to lead to greater innovation.
Adjusting the APS leadership style
As Mr David Thodey mentioned during his panel presentation at the ACT IPAA events, Doing
Policy Differently on 22 March 2018, there is ‘a need for a different leadership style to
before…and that authoritarian, hierarchical organisations are [only] great if they work..’
This is consistent with a groundswell of support for changed leadership as discussed in
contemporary future-oriented management literature such as Sinclair (2007)7 and Pink (2010)8.
Perhaps the shortest and clearest description of the need for different leadership and what it
involves has been provided by Mr Allan Hawke AC, a former federal Secretary who ‘sets out
some people principles honed over almost 40 years of reading, thinking about and practising
A list of current initiatives is at: https://digitalpeople.blog.gov.uk/tag/digital-data-and-technology/
Sinclair, A (2007) Leadership for the Disillusioned: Moving beyond myths and heroes to leading that liberates, Allen
and Unwin, Sydney
Pink, D (2010) Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us, CanonGate
leadership’ in a series of articles which were published in the Australian major daily newspapers
entitled ‘People matter’(eg SMH, 3 December 2013) .
Hawke (2013) draws on the work of a former employee, Dr John Evans, to argue that
command-and-control leadership style t hat is autocratic and authoritarian causes instability by
progressively changing volunteers (ie people who are happy and volunteering to undertake
work) to whingers/survivors and finally to prisoners (unhappy people doing the minimum amount
possible while actively undermining their boss), ‘...through:
● being autocratic and authoritarian
● communicating continual crises
● focussing purely on results
● giving inadequate or unclear instructions, and sometimes asking different subordinates
to do the same task
● assigning blame
● freely offering criticism disguised as ''feedback''
By contrast [he argues that] ‘... the preferred captain-coach style facilitates volunteers by
communicating in colour, with all the fervour of a first date, and leading by example ie:
● explaining causes, strategic decisions, plans and goals
● focussing on why these are important and how to achieve them
● defusing any sense of crisis
● giving clear specific instructions
● supporting and nurturing team members
● acknowledging and reinforcing each individual's identity
● helping others grow and develop perceptions of self-worth
● taking part in the field of play by rolling up their sleeves and pitching in, rather than
demanding that others deliver the goods by themselves…’
Sinclair (2007) unpacks the cultural biases that have contributed to the popularity of the image
of a ‘strong authoritarian type leader’ and gives reasons why the model doesn’t always work.
Pink (2010) argues that ‘command and control’ type leadership practices involving carrots and
sticks (extrinsic rewards) are effective only for routine, rules-based work. New leadership
approaches are needed for more complex work which is constantly evolving, less routine and
less directed (ie knowledge work). Knowledge workers are argued to be motivated, not by
extrinsic rewards but by providing them with a sense of purpose, autonomy and opportunities for
development as provided by the ‘captain coach’ model.
The ‘captain coach’ model is better suited to supporting the entrepreneurialism needed for
innovation (ie devolved decision making that enables continuous improvement) and is better
suited to critical thinkers and creative types who don’t respond well to being told what to do.
However, as detractors will point out, it has its limits. It works well with ambitious and motivated
people but is less effective with staff who have disengaged, found other things to do at work that
they find rewarding, don’t have the skills or are prevented from working owing to chronic
personal pressures related to mental illness, drug and alcohol dependence, caring duties or
It would be interesting and useful to have an open conversation in the APS about the leadership
models that are preferred by managers and staff, when they work and why. Perhaps this would
extend our leadership toolkit further and help with understanding each others’ behaviours (both
managers and staff) including that related to supporting high performance and that relating to
Developing a clearer model of good management
The APS is already active in seeking to improve staff management. The APSC conducts
courses that teach management skills and the Integrated Leadership System includes reference
to managerial behaviours. However, this does not necessarily involve a clear model of what is
good management and I think the APS would benefit from one, so that managers have a better
idea of what is expected of them and staff know what to expect.
To get a possible discussion of ‘good management’ rolling9, I have provided a first brush attempt
below. It is consistent with the approaches of Charan, Drotter and Noel (2011)10, Covey (1998)
and that recommended by Coombs (1976)12.
● Managers avoid directly producing their unit’s outputs but rather, support their staff to do
the work, by ensuring they13:
○ use and develop systems to ensure that they meet their obligations under the
APS Act, the PGPA Act (including risk management), Privacy Act and Work
Health and Safety Act
despite being mortified by memories of my past management mistakes
Charan, R., S. Drotter and J Noel (2011) The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership-powered company,
Wiley and Sons, San Francisco
Covey, S.R. (1998) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The Business Library, Melbourne
Paragraph 3.2.12 describes the Commission’s recommendations for ensuring efficiency
An example of a practical guide to this type of approach was included in the former Secretary Ms Lisa Paul’s
Departmental blog (8 December 2011) which described best principles for delegation. This is provided for
information at Attachment A.
○ provide a clear enunciation of the strategic aims of the work unit, (the ‘mission’)
based on input from staff themselves, upper management and other relevant
stakeholders. It is ok for the mission to change and evolve, so long as this is
explicitly acknowledged and communicated, noting that it is easier for staff to
achieve a stationary target
○ develop clear roles and responsibilities for each team member, taking into
account operational needs, staff preferences and capabilities which support
autonomy, responsibility, devolved decision-making and innovation
○ provide necessary contextual information to enable their staff and stakeholders to
○ build the capability of staff by providing on the job coaching and development
○ hold team members to account for delivering on their responsibilities and
performance manage accordingly
○ ultimately, seek to make the work unit sustainable into the future allowing the
manager to leave without harming the output of the unit (ie make yourself
Such a model would help to address the commonly reported management problems14 that
include managers doing the work of their staff, that institutional memory is being lost, people are
overworked or underworked and the common belief that management is about doing more,
rather than about doing things differently.
Rewarding good management and leadership
Nothing I have mentioned in the last two subsections is particularly new. However, there is
variation in the extent to which captain-coach leadership and ‘good management’ is adopted
across the APS.
Partly, this is because we tend to reward managers based on their outputs and not necessarily
how they were achieved, nor what they could have been15. Often good management is
synonymous with good output, but not always. Sometimes, good outputs can be achieved by
managers doing the work themselves, using key staff unsustainably or inefficiently.
The managers of managers need to be aware of and reward good management. This requires
a greater knowledge and transparency around what is happening in work units, which currently,
can be difficult to determine (and is a warning sign in itself).
Eg Transcript of proceedings from Gordon de Brouwer’s Valedictory Speech, 7 September 2017
Eg the ‘Can-do manager’ as described by the Shiny Bum Singers in Seize the Day: A public service
opera, performed on 1 July 2018 at the Holy Trinity Primary School, Curtin, ACT.
suggested way forward
Maybe the APSC or another body could undertake a consultation process with APS staff about
what they consider to be good leadership and management practice as a means of developing
a culture that recognises, values and holds managers to account for good management and
leadership while dispelling unfair expectations of what managers reasonably can do (and the
dissonance between valuing a strong authoritarian type and wanting a captain-coach style).
This could result in clearer models of good management and/or increased tolerance for a range
Depending on the outcomes of this consultation, further work could be undertaken to embed
desirable leadership and management models as staff and external stakeholders consider
- More productive relationships
As discussed in the introduction to this submission, more open government has been wanted by
the community and discussed in most reviews of the APS since the 1970s. There are many
reasons driving this including:
● demand for greater accountability
● the need to co-design policy and programs taking into account citizens needs and
● the desire of various groups and individuals to influence policy
● the belief by some that our political system is insufficient to fully represent citizens’
needs and wants and the belief that this should be supplemented by some form of
There has been considerable headway in improving open government since the 1970s, which
includes publication of extensive information on Departmental websites and employment of
more people from outside the career service to develop government policy and programs.
Recently, this has included strategies to develop and implement actions relevant to the Open
Government Partnership Australia and considerable investment in research related to
understanding citizen perspectives including through behavioural economics and citizen-centric
My submission makes a couple of minor niche comments relating to possible additional efforts
that might improve relationships between the APS and the community leading to greater respect
and transfer of knowledge.
4.1 Managing expectations during consultations
It can be very frustrating for community members to devote time and energy to consulting with
public officials and then find that their input is not represented in implementation approaches or
government decisions. This applies to people who participate in advisory groups, people
appointed to undertake reviews, people who make submissions to reviews, people who are
chosen or volunteer to be interviewed by APS officers and people who choose to approach
government and/or officials for lobbying purposes.
As APS officers know (because sometimes, their advice lacks influence also), this is the nature
of government decision making. Many people will have different views which need to be
weighed and prioritised. Significant decisions are made by Ministers, or by Cabinet if
warranted, and these decisions are often made to address a number of agendas and are based
on advice from many sources. Often, public servants are unaware of all the factors taken into
account by a Minister in making a decision.
While most APS officers know and accept that the Minister may have his or her own reasons for
not accepting their advice, it can not be assumed that members of the community will know this.
Instead, the community has been known to blame their lack of influence on the APS, sometimes
believing the APS does not care about their views or the APS is incompetent at seeking,
understanding or conveying those views to the Minister. Sometimes these criticisms may be true
but it is not necessarily the case.
It might be fairer to participants in consultations and possibly result in improved public relations,
for the APS to have a standard approach to briefing participants that explains the expected
process by which participants’ input will be taken into account in government decision making.
This is not intended to discourage people from contributing, or to shift all the responsibility to
Ministers (it should be clear that the APS does filter and prioritise information), but to give
participants a realistic understanding of the likely chances of their advice being adopted so they
can make better informed decisions about whether they want to contribute on a particular issue.
For example, community members are more likely to have influence in co-design of already
decided policy and programs than in say, lobbying for programs or subsidies which have yet to
be considered by government or are yet to be included in the Budget.
The APS Review panel may wish to consider the development of a simple communications
piece along these lines that public servants could adjust as needed. Such an approach would
be similar to that required for ethics clearance of human research projects, for which
participants’ consent needs to be informed by an understanding of what is involved in
participation and its likely benefits16. Such a piece might also help with wider understanding
about the limits of open government for achieving community influence, including the lack of
ability of the APS to change this, and the logical conclusion that participatory democracy, no
matter how well informed, has natural limits on its impact.
4.2 Being ‘citizen advocates’ when developing consultations
It was clear when I was working for a non government organisation that some consultations are
better than others. There is quite an art to ensuring that:
● consultation occurs at the right time to influence projects
● that participants are well chosen for their ability to represent others’ views or to provide
local or technical knowledge
● that sensible questions are asked of participants that they can usefully answer, and if
not, that they are provided with sufficient but concise background information to allow
them to make an informed judgement based on their values.
The trouble with ad hoc, rushed or under-resourced consultations is that they negatively impact
the relationship between the community and the APS to the detriment of future consultations. In
the case of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consultations, the APS is often dealing with a
limited and time-poor pool of people who have been consulted many times over a long period
with little apparent impact. At a recent seminar I attended, one of the speakers who was the
CEO of a successful large Aboriginal service provider said she now greeted requests for
consultation by asking, ‘Are you just coming to waste my time?’.
The Review Panel may wish to consider some sort of centralised stakeholder engagement
approach that advocates best practice consultation across the APS and perhaps, for some
critical groups, seeks to provide some oversight of consultations to ensure they are more
meaningful and rationalised to greatest effect when drawing on the time of a limited pool of
people who are otherwise very busy doing the public good.
A possible approach for Aboriginal and Torres Strait consultations, and other groups, could
include more widespread opportunities for considering issues (with questions and support
provided) on their own and then providing consolidated feedback back to government. With the
right processes, this can support the contest of ideas behind closed doors without weakening
the group’s bargaining power.
See NHMRC National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007) (Updated May 2015)
4.3 Providing better information to the media
As I recently agreed with a prominent former journalist, the media rule the world. The
relationship between the APS, government and community is mostly dependent on how policy
issues and the APS are reported by the media.
The Review Panel may like to consider whether there would be value in the APS convening a
co-design session with journalists about what interests the public, the type of information they
are looking for and how the APS might facilitate providing information to support discussion of
topics that enhance the public good. A good example of possible new approaches is the recent
podcast of Michelle Grattan interviewing Frances Adamson on 24th June 2018.
Another suggestion is to better understand the nature of social media and how to counter
promulgation of misinformation. A different journalist has suggested that readily accessible
factual information on Departmental websites provides a good counterfactual to ‘post truth’
4.4 Benefiting more from academic knowledge
In the 1990s, the then Department of Families and Community Services seeded the discussion
of social security policy as an academic discipline by: providing core funding to a number of
research centres located in universities; producing a journal; and subsidising PhD scholarships
and conferences. Later on, after these centres and a lively debate was established, the
Department largely pulled out of funding the discipline leaving the research centres to find their
own funding on a project by project basis17.
In hindsight, it seems a terrible pity that this relatively small amount of funding was removed (it
was less than $20m per annum compared to current annual social services and welfare
expenditure of $163 billion18). Now the debate seems less lively, with fewer new entrants and
the research is mostly concerned with (highly expert) evaluation of existing small State and
Commonwealth programs rather than being forward looking and broader. The policy community
is benefiting less from appointments and visits from international academics with whom sharing
of ideas is increasingly important in our globalised world.
Perhaps there is scope for the Australian Government to pull back from procuring only policy
relevant research that involves collaboration and steering by the APS, to work that is more
Which was also considered to be more consistent with the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines
2018-19 Budget Paper 1, Table 3, p6-7
self-directed by academia who are often better positioned to see policy research as a body of
work (rather than discrete projects) and in the context of international academic developments.
There is also scope to provide more funding to support academics contributing to public policy,
much of which currently relies on goodwill Some academics are paid to participate on boards
and committees, but many are not. There is also scope to pay for repackaging of academic
material so that is it better suited to a lay audience for reviews and other consultations, which
would allow the APS to benefit more from the considerable investment in academic knowledge
at a relatively low additional cost.
This submission is mostly concerned with improved knowledge management, which can be
adopted as an overarching strategic approach or through more conscious use of knowledge
management tactics. Knowledge management can be applied to all APS functions or applied
on a case-by-case basis to certain issues and situations arising in the APS, such as the
retirement of the baby boom.
I also make suggestions for discussions about how APS staff, of which knowledge workers are
expected to be an increasing proportion, might be managed into the future and cover issues
related to: workforce strategies, improved use of technical expertise and changes to APS
leadership and management approaches.
Lastly, I talk to some personal observations about how the APS might be able to leverage better
knowledge from the community and academia and support better informed discussions in
collaboration with the media.
I now leave this with the Review Panel (and its machine reader) to consider these suggestions
and take them forward as they consider best. I hope my ideas will generate or contribute to
some wider discussion since it is through discussion and consultation that greater sensitivity to
these issues will be achieved, even in the absence of any structured attempt to have them
ATTACHMENT A: Extract on ‘delegation’ from Lisa Paul’s Departmental blog
8 Dec 2011
I thought you might be interested in the key points from my bite sized seminar on delegation. I’ve put below the
major themes from my seminar. I hope you enjoyed it.
- Why delegate? Delegation is good, it’s empowering for everyone and shows leadership.
- What should be delegated? More than you think!! Refer to the ‘why’!
- How to delegate:
a. Think through how you will go about the delegation. Spend time on this, it’s not automatic.
b. Know your team: you might delegate in writing to a big introvert; or you might brainstorm
the approach with a big extrovert!
c. Be transparent about each person’s strengths and roles before you start.
d. Context: it’s everything, don’t stint on describing it.
e. Be specific about what is being asked for.
f. Discuss the end product: look and feel. Ask the team for ideas.
g. Timing – and why the timing; or ask what’s possible. Be clear about milestones when it’s
reasonable for you to check. Build in enough time for you to do QA
h. Quality expectation, trade-off with time
i. Take more time to delegate than you think you’ve got. Do more listening than talking.
Welcome checking as the task proceeds.
- So you’ve delegated successfully, now what.
a. Firstly, do nothing! Above all, don’t bug the team. Don’t hassle, only check at agreed
milestones. But maintain an open door.
b. Build in enough time for you to do QA.
c. Keep your first feedback general.
d. Do fine edits on the second iteration.
e. Do no more than two iterations. Control that urge!
- Ok, now you’ve let your team send the work up the line with your blessing, hopefully under their name.
a. Close the loop by reviewing the impact of the product. Was it well received, timely, hit the
b. If a mistake was made - once is ok; exactly the same mistake twice is not ok.
c. Pass on feedback from the higher ups.
- What stops people delegating
a. Time pressure?
i. Almost never if team strengths are known. And practice makes perfect
Mitigation: start with something slower and less crucial
ii. Desire for perfection. Mitigation: be clear with higher ups what quality is being
asked for. Lecture yourself that others can do as high quality as you.
iii. Needing to prove your value add. Mitigation: be confident. Market your
delegation skills to the higher ups.
iv. Not automatically thought of. Mitigation: ask “what am I doing that you could
- If you are the person delegated to:
a. Manage up strongly: ask lots of questions so they answer all the above areas
b. If they do a great job of delegating, praise them but also praise them to their boss
c. If they do a poor job of delegating, offer gentle feedback against the formula “when you....I
felt...and I’d prefer....”
d. Tell them if you want more to do
e. Ask them to ask you what they are doing that you could do