Making grand reforms work

urban transport

Intersecting transformations in the public sector
Around the world, elected governments need to respond to electorates that are unsettled by complex, large scale changes in human and natural systems with uncertain outcomes.

Consensus around major policy issues seems more difficult to obtain, and public sector agencies are under both moral and resource pressures. Australia’s responses reflect responses in other democracies.


Recent legislation that consolidates the framework for Commonwealth governance and accountability is being implemented through the public management reform agenda. This presents a  consultative, ‘humanistic management’ approach to transforming agency corporate planning, performance monitoring and accountability reporting. The reform will gradually introduce more collaborative ways of doing business across government, and with business and the community, over the coming budget cycles.


A new whole-of-government digital transformation programme is ramping up, and it presents more of a ‘scientific management’ approach to establishing digital-first publishing and digital-by-default service delivery that matches best commercial practice—and fast.

These initiatives overlap in important ways. In the coming cycle of planning, monitoring and accounting for performance, we’ll need to bridge:

  • old ways of working supported by enterprise IMS architectures constrained by considerations about security, business continuity, large-scale financial investment, large-scale closed-loop technical integration and a highly-developed culture of control and
  • new ways of working in a digital world where new technologies and virtual communities emerge and morph very rapidly.

The technical issues are non-trivial, but merely complicated. The greater, more complex challenges are on the human systems side.

Individuals who understand and feel aligned with organisational strategy are more motivated, and therefore much more likely to learn, whatever it takes to work through the messy problems of implementing transformational change.

Engaging staff in the new planning, monitoring and accountability processes is a good way to retain and develop people who can make it happen. WHH can facilitate participative planning provide support for constructing new workflows and documentation if there are skills gaps.