Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Kevin Rudd slashes staff bill for MPs

An article in The Australian caught my eye this morning: Kevin Rudd slashes staff bill for MPs.

Australian PM Kevin Rudd has a nickname around Canberra Kevin 24/7 in recognition of the long-hours culture he has bought to the public service. It did not take long for a public spat to emerge between Rudd, the public service and unions as he pushed public servants into longer and longer hours to fit with his working style. Rudd, however, has been unapologetic indicating he had big plans and that public servants had to be prepared to work hard. In terms of people management issues, it is not hard to predict the short-medium terms impacts here - higher turnover, burn-out, sliding morale and so on. It is hard to imagine that many will be happy to see this become a permanent approach to work in the public sector, especially given the focus in recent years on work-life balance.

Today's article was focused on MPs staff and showed that here too he getting more for his money: "Kevin Rudd has slashed the cost of hiring staff for politicians by $5 million a month since taking office and has met his promise to cut ministerial staff by30 per cent". Questions are being raised, however about the quality of work that might come from a reduction in the number of advisers and increasing demands on them.

Earlier this year Dr Maria Maley from the School of Social Sciences at ANU did an interesting seminar in the ANU Political Science Program looking at the roles and activities of ministerial advisers. In identifying the distinctive roles that advisers play, Maria's work is reminiscent of Mintzberg's work which followed managers to find out what it was they actually did.

It will be interesting to see what the effect of Kevin 24/7 will have on both advisers and the public service over the next few years!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Public Sector Reform in Bhutan

In November I travelled to Bhutan to deliver a course on Service Excellence to civil servants as part of the Management Development Program hosted by the Royal Institute of Management and the Royal Civil Service Commission in collaboration with the ANU and the University of Canberra. It was a great chance to learn about the challenges related to service delivery faced by civil servants in Bhutan as they confront the twin pressures of development and democracy.

One of the most interesting parts of the Bhutanese reform story is the unique development philosophy they have adopted, Gross National Happiness, which captures an important range of aspects not just economic development. Whilst many outside Bhutan think this is a quirky notion, it captures the Buddhist beliefs which underpin life in Bhutan such as protection of nature, and the desire to preserve important social and cultural aspects. Some have suggested it represents a "post-modern state" (for some comments on this see my paper in Public Administration and Development).

I have recently written two papers on Bhutan with Debbie Blackman from the University of Canberra. These will soon be published in Public Administration and Development and the International Journal of Commerce and Management. You can get an early draft of the Public Administration and Development paper from the Crawford School discussion paper site.

It was my second visit; in 2008 Debbie and I worked with colleagues at RIM to develop courses for their upcoming Masters program.

Here I am pictured with Thinley Namgyal from RIM, taking a break as we hiked to the famous Taktshang Monastery or Tigers Nest. Thinley did his MBA at the University of Canberra and he is currently the Registrar at the Royal Institute of Management.

Collaboration: what's all the fuss?

Welcome to Public Management Australia a blog written by Janine O'Flynn, an academic in the Crawford School of Economics and Government at The Australian National University . The aim of the blog is to connect with those interested in issues of public management in Australia and around the world.

To start us off, my first post will be on the issue of collaboration in the public sector. Collaboration has became an increasingly popular notion, not just in the Australian public sector but around world. Recently I co-edited a book on Collaborative Governance in Australia as part of the Australia and New Zealand School of Government series and it is now available to download from the ANU E Press. The book brings together papers from practitioners in government, non-profits, and academics.

My chapter raises the question as to whether we really have much evidence for collaborative practice, as opposed to collaboration talk. It also questions whether collaboration is just another buzzword which has taken hold. Feel free to comment!

Download the book (or individual chapters) for free: