Monday, January 23, 2012

Joining-up: Experiences from the US and Australia

One of the great highlights of 2011 was the chance to work with G. Edward DeSeve, former special advisor to President Barack Obama and Adviser to Vice President Biden. Ed oversaw the implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which involved spending near to US$800 billion to stimulate the US economy. Ed has written of his experience in a great report for the IBM Center for the Business of Government and you can download it for free here.

Ed spoke with a group of senior public servants from the Australian Public Service in a Crawford Inaugural Masterclass about how he used a network approach to deliver public value and how he managed the oversight of spending through an innovative web-based model. You can see this in action at where every dollar spent, every grant made is able to be tracked.

I spoke about Australian experiments with joined-up government, largely based on the large research project I have been involved with, and reflecting particular on a recent publication on the success and failure of this in relation to Indigenous Coordination Centres which was published in 2011 in the International Journal of Public Administration,  and available from my webpage here.

In addition to learning about the various aspects of his role and his deep and rich experience in serving in several administrations in the US, one of the favourite stories of the day for the participants was Ed's sparring with the satirist Stephen Colbert. A quick summary is here and Colbert's site has video.

This was the first of a series of of Masterclasses that will run at the Crawford School via the Australian National Institute of Public Policy. The next one that I will be involved in will be on Capability Reviews in the Australian Public Service later in 2012.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rethinking Public Service Delivery

The big news for 2012 is that the book that I have co-authored with John Alford from the University of Melbourne and the Australia and New Zealand School of Government will be published by Palgrave in May.

Rethinking Public Service Delivery: Managing with External Providers considers how government organisations work with external providers in service delivery and covers the full range of contributors (from clients, volunteers and regulatees through to private, non-profit and other government organisations) and the various modes of engagement (from collaboration and contracts through to co-production).

Many books on public service delivery tend to focus on a single aspect - collaboration or contracts, or working with a specific type of provider, but in our work we have covered a greater range of these providers, developed a contingency framework to guide how and when to engage, and set out the organisational capabilities needed to manage a portfolio of providers. This, we argue, is on the of greatest challenges for 21st century public managers - how to manage the full portfolio of providers simultaneously in pursuit of organisational and governmental goals.

We've had great feedback on the book and are looking forward to finally having it in print.

Performance Management in the Australian Public Service: Designing a High Performance System

Managing performance is one of the most challenging, yet necessary parts of effective public management. As part of the Ahead of the Game Blueprint for Reform of the Australian Public Service there is a commitment to strengthening the performance framework. To do this the Australian Public Service Commission has created a research partnership which involves a group of academics spanning three universities.
The team includes Deborah Blackman and Fiona Buick from University of Canberra, Michael O'Donnell and the University of New South Wales and myself from the Australian National University.

This is an exciting project where we will get to work collaboratively with the APSC to look at what is happening around the world in terms of high performance systems, do some local experimentation, and then devise the principles for the new framework for the Australian Public Service. The potential of high performance systems is well known, but so are all the of problems, challenges and barriers to actually doing this in practice, so this is a challenging project, but also one that can potentially provide great payoffs for the APS. As we progress through the project I'll be setting out some of the findings.