25 August 2012
I am sure there are several people in the LNP worried if they have taken the right track, getting the public sector finances under control and keeping the their popularity high.
They are on the right track, but once the downsizing is finished the job to make a more productive public service and do it in a popular way will have only just commenced. Getting productivity and support in the public service and keeping the voters on side can coexist.
Currently, the approach is though downsizing the operations and management component and cutting services or programs. This approach only addresses a small component of the potential productivity savings and doesn’t go down well with the electorate. It is though important.
Productivity gains can be made through improving the delivery of capital & operational expenditures both in the procurement and operational areas. To ensure the right services are being delivered we need to get the strategy and culture right.
The electorate will support the government when it can demonstrate that downsizing was only one component of the productivity drive, that the government is more effective and the government is delivering on its promised objectives.
- Grow a Four Pillar Economy based on
- Lower the Cost of Living for Families by Cutting Waste
- Deliver Better Infrastructure and Better Planning
- Revitalise Front Line Services
- Restore accountability in government
So what does the Government need to do next?
Finalise the downsizing
Change needs to occur quickly, with a purpose and be well managed. To date the changes have occurred quickly (for government) and the purpose is well understood. The Government needs to stick to its timetable and have all downsizing in place by the upcoming budget. The downsizing has rocked the culture of the public services and strategies need to be put in place to rebuild this.
Get the Strategy Right
This government has done what few others have. They came to power with a 100-day action plan, which was completed and have since published a 6-month action plan, which they intend to continually measure themselves on 6 monthly.
This next 6-month action plan needs to be cascaded through the departments to the staff. Each department needs to quickly develop their own strategic plan, taking in consideration the government objectives, the 6-month action plan and the purpose of the department.
This doesn’t need to be complicated and could be expressed as a vision / strategy poster. Then the most important part of achieving the strategy needs to occur. The actions of the strategy needs to be cascade as KPI’s to the DG, Executive and through to all staff members.
It is important that all members of the departments understand how they fit into the strategy. This cascading can have a few effects. You will find staffs that don’t appear to have a purpose in delivering the departmental strategy. This can be due to their roles being redundant or the strategy needing adjustment.
This can be done with minimal effort and over a couple of weeks and will have an extreme effect on the performance of the organisation.
Improvement the Management & Operations
When we look at improving performance we need to think about Edwards Demming, the father of quality. His quotes include “We should work on our process, not the outcome of our processes.” “The prevailing style of management must undergo transformation. A system can not understand itself. The transformation requires a view from outside.”
It will be important to undertake a systemic review of what we do, the inputs & outputs and challenge and review every component. Productivity is gained by changing the system, not working harder on it. This can be a quick and easy task but can be rarely undertaken by those who have ownership of the tasks.
To admit that you can improve a process you are responsible for is to admit you have previously failed. These reviews need to address issues like;
- The mapping of key processes for delivery of services
- The delegations, approval and governance arrangements of projects and operations
- The services we provide and channels we provide them through
- How technology is affecting our services. Eg use of social media and ceasing use of faxes
It is well-documented that spending 10 percent of your time improving the systems you work on, provides immediate benefit to an organisation. If you use a consultant for this, pay them on a shared risk model. I.e. no fee unless savings are realised!
Improve the Procurement
Procurement isn’t only on big capital projects. The government procures consistently and is regularly criticised for its procurement decisions. The actual perception of its procurement can be improved substantially.
Every department should publish immediately following the release of the state budget a draft procurement strategy. This should be followed by industry consultation on the strategy including accepting alternative delivery methods prior to the details of the procurement being fixed. A monthly report should be issued by each department stating the current status and method of all procurement actions.
The procurement strategy needs to include an in-depth understanding of the potential providers and the intended risk profile of the procurement. Providers charge to accept risk, risks that are undefined or allocated to a party that cannot control then results in increased cost for nil benefit.
Government employees need ongoing training in procurement and how to ensure maximum benefit is gained from the market.
Build a QLD Government Culture
The culture of any organisation changes with a new CEO or management team. The change of government, substantial change in policy direction, replacement of many key officers and current downsizing has resulted in the biggest cultural change in years.
It is important that the new culture is defined and bedded down as soon as possible. Key actions that need to be undertaken include;
- Defining the strategy and cascading it through the organisation as discussed above
- Promotion of new values and focus
- Establish regular transparent communication throughout each department ie newsletters, briefings and one on one communication
- Three monthly reviews of KPI’s with all staff
- Promote internal good news, success and develop corporate stories
- Ensure recognition programs are in place
The adopting of these key issues will both see the success in improving the productivity of the public service and the recognition from the public that the current downsizing is good governance.
David Nixon is the Managing Director of Better Managed Pty Ltd that provides services in key person support, turnaround, corporate reviews, strategic planning, innovation & change management, both across businesses and within their projects.