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ANU to bring a high performance culture to the Public Service?

By johnboy - 4 January 2012 36

ANU are claiming to have the answers to transforming the Public Service!

The ANU Crawford School, the University of Canberra and the University of New South Wales have joined forces with the Australian Public Service Commission in a new project which will strengthen staff performance.

Together they will develop a strategy to build a high performance culture, and better manage underperformance. The project will address some of the major findings of the Australian Public Service’s Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for Reform report released in 2010 by bringing together the expertise of the Australian Public Service and academics.

Associate Professor Janine O’Flynn from the ANU Crawford School will be one of three academics working to trial and recommend change to the public service staff performance model over the next three years.

“We know that a one-size fits all approach to performance management is not an effective model,” said Associate Professor Janine O’Flynn. “This collaboration will use management diagnostics to determine organisational capabilities then develop a model to provide best-fit frameworks.

“This is not about designing new forms to be filled out. What we need to do is work together with the Australian Public Service to discover what works, where, and when. This will help to drive a high performance culture in the Australian Public Service, and enable public sector organisations to deliver on the goals of government.”

We wish them the best of luck.

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ANU to bring a high performance culture to the Public Service?
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LSWCHP 12:47 am 06 Jan 12

Frustrated said :

I laugh out loud at the C*%#s who claim they work harder and better in Private Sector compared to an APS employee. It’s utter nonsense and garbage.

Ahhh…I don’t think so. You’ve been in the APS since 1986. Over a similar timespan I’ve been employed in the military, the APS, the tertiary education sector, private consultancy and a number of corporate gigs.

Based on my experience, I reckon there are certainly people who try hard in the APS, but they generally drown in a sea of mediocrity.

LSWCHP 12:34 am 06 Jan 12

devils_advocate said :

LSWCHP said :

Given these stories, and all the others I’ve heard over the last 30 years in Canberra, I assess the whole operation (ie the APS) as a dysfunctional goatf*ck, and applying a load of academic bafflegab and bloviation to the copulating goats isn’t going to make a bit of difference.

I think a key stumbling block is that -as with any problem – the key to a solution is admitting the fact that there is, in fact, a problem. More than any place I know, the APS has an almost pathological fear of admitting that something might be going wrong.

Based on the experiences of my family members and friends, I can only concur with that assessment. I once heard an APS operation described eloquently as a place where one could be dipped in s*** and come up smelling like roses.

As a private sector manager I’ve terminated the employment of two underperformers. It’s not pleasant, and because of due diligence requirements it’s not as easy as some people might think. But it’s necessary for the health of the organisation. I’ve never heard of anything similar happening in the APS.

Does anyone have any accounts of employment termination in the APS due to underperformance?

Bramina 10:21 pm 05 Jan 12

devils_advocate said :

Frustrated said :

Perhaps we should also look at how the taxpayer is ripped off by the Private Sector companies who have contracts setup with APS orgs also.

The fact that private sector companies rip off the public through their contractual dealings with APS agencies is an indictment on the APS, not the private sector. Contracting parties dealing at arm’s length on an even footing are legally expected to protect their own interests. The APS is notoriously bad at contract specification and supervision. But I don’t want to get started on that topic, and it’s not strictly relevant to this discussion.

It’s the same with selling public assets. One justification for selling public assets is that they are better run by the public sector. The same goes for public-private partnerships (e.g. private toll ways). But the problem is that government is equally incompetent at selling assets or establishing the terms of partnerships. They screw them up just as badly.

Bramina 8:10 pm 05 Jan 12

devils_advocate said :

johnboy said :

Compared to the bullet point tweakers and process paper shufflers in the APS earning $70k+ the public service at the lower levels is an extremely high paid gig compared to the private sector.

Please. In my experience you can pull down $100-120k as a bullet-point tweaker.

If you’re on 70k, you’re doing it wrong.

Surely you mean $100-120 for managing bullet point tweakers.

HenryBG 12:25 pm 05 Jan 12

Frustrated said :

I have been in APS since 1986,

Oh dear. That’s tragic.

One thing that people repeatedly is paint the entire APS with the same brush.

Partly – that’s a good point, but mostly – the argument here is about performance management in an environment where there are no effective sanctions against under-performance. There are no parts of the APS where you *can* ditch the useless, so it is a fact to state that the APS as a whole is a haven for people who cannot actually do real work.

But on the whole it is still a merit selection process.

Hmmm….it’s more that the APS selects against merit to the benefit of the private sector.

PantsMan 12:24 pm 05 Jan 12

This whole thing sounds like another taxpayer-funded shonk & wonk festival that will inevitably conclude that the government is just too small to perform and needs to be increased in size through higher taxes.
The Crawford School – Shonk and Wonk Centre of Excellence.

switch said :

AG Canberra said :

What the f does that sentence actually mean?

“We’ll ask a few mates what they reckon they can do and then we’ll come up with a two-pager.”

I never knew what a two-pager was before I joined the public service. Now I know that it is about 14 dot points collated by a $120k-$180k p.a. El2 or SES-B1 to be emailed into a bureaucratic abyss should anyone ever seek some tangible evidence of the same said’s raison d’être.

devils_advocate 12:22 pm 05 Jan 12

Frustrated said :

Perhaps we should also look at how the taxpayer is ripped off by the Private Sector companies who have contracts setup with APS orgs also.

The fact that private sector companies rip off the public through their contractual dealings with APS agencies is an indictment on the APS, not the private sector. Contracting parties dealing at arm’s length on an even footing are legally expected to protect their own interests. The APS is notoriously bad at contract specification and supervision. But I don’t want to get started on that topic, and it’s not strictly relevant to this discussion.

devils_advocate 12:17 pm 05 Jan 12

johnboy said :

Compared to the bullet point tweakers and process paper shufflers in the APS earning $70k+ the public service at the lower levels is an extremely high paid gig compared to the private sector.

Please. In my experience you can pull down $100-120k as a bullet-point tweaker.

If you’re on 70k, you’re doing it wrong.

devils_advocate 12:15 pm 05 Jan 12

Frustrated said :

You are dreaming!

The Govt of the day, would never agree to match PS salaries for the APS, they would cost them a fortune.

Which begs another question, for all the questioning about work ethic of the APS, the fact is you get paid far more in the Private Sector for similar role.

You dont believe me, check the comparisions between IT roles for example. This was the result of a stupid Howard Govt bringing outsourcing to the APS back in the 90s.

I can also see this thread has wandered over to Union bashing also.

The private sector in Canberra must be full of conservative party voters more than ever nowadays.

I wasn’t intending to bash unions, and certaintly wasn’t going to hold forth on labour market economics.

Also you seem to have interpreted from my post that I was suggesting that you take all the current APS employees and transfer them to private sector wages. This is not what I was suggesting.

Capabilities would have to be reviewed, from APS 3 to SES 3. People whose job responsibilities or performance aren’t matched to their substantive level would need to be reclassified or made redundant. At the other end of the spectrum there would need to be a formalised recognition that there are other qualities – in addition to length of service and management experience – that qualify individuals for decent remuneration.

Senior management would need to agree on a set of capabilities for each level of the APS and then enforce them in appraisal processes.

Of course, this would all require managers to actually manager, to grow a pair (figuratively) and actually do grown up things like on occasion, where warranted, tell people that their performance is not up to the standard of other officers at that level.

On the pay level, my theory is APS pay is compressed into a narrower band. As JB said, you have very basic jobs being paid ridiculously high wages, and at the other end very high quality people being paid well below their private sector equivalents.

devils_advocate 12:06 pm 05 Jan 12

Frustrated said :

But on the whole it is still a merit selection process.

That generalisation has no greater merit than any of the others that have been posted. However, I will note that you defended the process, rather than the outcome. This is entirely consistent with your having been in the APS since 1986.

FWIW, selection processes have been one area where I’ve seen some small improvements. For example, less focus on slavishly reciting generic selection criteria, and more focus on job-specific qualifications and skills.

But there’s still a long way to go before the processes lead to merit-based outcomes.

johnboy 12:01 pm 05 Jan 12

Frustrated said :

You are dreaming!

The Govt of the day, would never agree to match PS salaries for the APS, they would cost them a fortune.

Which begs another question, for all the questioning about work ethic of the APS, the fact is you get paid far more in the Private Sector for similar role.

You dont believe me, check the comparisions between IT roles for example. This was the result of a stupid Howard Govt bringing outsourcing to the APS back in the 90s.

I can also see this thread has wandered over to Union bashing also.

The private sector in Canberra must be full of conservative party voters more than ever nowadays.

Oh please.

In the private sector people earning under $50k have real responsibilities and make decisions.

Compared to the bullet point tweakers and process paper shufflers in the APS earning $70k+ the public service at the lower levels is an extremely high paid gig compared to the private sector.

Frustrated 11:55 am 05 Jan 12

devils_advocate said :

Erg0 said :

Another thing to bear in mind is that changes to the management of underperformance would be subject to changes to the agencies’ relevant agreements, and that the APS is unionised and would no doubt mount an organised resistance to these sorts of changes. You need only look at the sorry saga of performance pay for teachers to see how hostile unions are towards any suggestion that all of their members do not perform equally well.

My understanding is that unionisation levels are relatively low, at least in the central agencies. I know some people working in some of the line agencies – particular the client interface ones – where there are high levels of unionisation but it seems focussed on the more junior levels.

But its a good point. We have all seen the havoc that unions cause (rightly or wrongly – Qantas). What could be some solutions?

I think moving to private sector remuneration would be a fair exchange for private sector dismissal rules, and would result in a net benefit. The question is, would the dead weight in the public sector see the writing on the wall and vote against a pay increase in favour of retaining unreasonable levels of job security? And would these people outnumber those voting for change?

IMHO, all interesting questions.

You are dreaming!

The Govt of the day, would never agree to match PS salaries for the APS, they would cost them a fortune. Which begs another question, for all the questioning about work ethic of the APS, the fact is you get paid far more in the Private Sector for similar role. You dont believe me, check the comparisions between IT roles for example. This was the result of a stupid Howard Govt bringing outsourcing to the APS back in the 90s. I can also see this thread has wandered over to Union bashing also. The private sector in Canberra must be full of conservative party voters more than ever nowadays.

devils_advocate 11:43 am 05 Jan 12

Erg0 said :

Another thing to bear in mind is that changes to the management of underperformance would be subject to changes to the agencies’ relevant agreements, and that the APS is unionised and would no doubt mount an organised resistance to these sorts of changes. You need only look at the sorry saga of performance pay for teachers to see how hostile unions are towards any suggestion that all of their members do not perform equally well.

My understanding is that unionisation levels are relatively low, at least in the central agencies. I know some people working in some of the line agencies – particular the client interface ones – where there are high levels of unionisation but it seems focussed on the more junior levels.

But its a good point. We have all seen the havoc that unions cause (rightly or wrongly – Qantas). What could be some solutions?

I think moving to private sector remuneration would be a fair exchange for private sector dismissal rules, and would result in a net benefit. The question is, would the dead weight in the public sector see the writing on the wall and vote against a pay increase in favour of retaining unreasonable levels of job security? And would these people outnumber those voting for change?

IMHO, all interesting questions.

Frustrated 11:41 am 05 Jan 12

LSWCHP said :

What utter crapola.

I work in a very capable private sector organisation. We’re very very good at what we do, and we have a reputation for getting the job done. A few weeks ago, one of my senior staff spent a couple of days dealing with some APS people. The major conclusion she drew from this activity was that she would never, ever wish to work in the APS.

And tonight I had dinner with a recently retired EL2 who mentioned in passing that “There are good departmental secretaries, but there are a lot who shout at their staff, and some even throw things. There’s no comeback, so they keep doing it”.

My wife works in the APS, and she’s been on the end of bullying and abuse.

My brother and his wife have both been driven to nervous breakdowns as a result of long and distinguished careers in the APS. My sister suffered mental illness as a result of working as a senior APS officer, and had to quit to save her sanity.

A hugely capable and experienced engineer of my acquaintance joined the APS and found himself employed in a warehouse counting stock items. His APS career lasted around 3 weeks.

I also had an appalling but luckily brief experience in the APS myself many years ago.

Given these stories, and all the others I’ve heard over the last 30 years in Canberra, I assess the whole operation (ie the APS) as a dysfunctional goatf*ck, and applying a load of academic bafflegab and bloviation to the copulating goats isn’t going to make a bit of difference.

And for everyone of your war stories, there are many good ones too. This whole PS vs APS argument is complete BS. Perhaps we should also look at how the taxpayer is ripped off by the Private Sector companies who have contracts setup with APS orgs also.

I laugh out loud at the C*%#s who claim they work harder and better in Private Sector compared to an APS employee. It’s utter nonsense and garbage.

Frustrated 11:34 am 05 Jan 12

Duffbowl said :

NoImRight said :

HenryBG said :

How do you get rid of somebody who is incapable in the Public Service? There’s only one way – put them up for promotion (to somebody else’s team/department) and give them a glowing reference. Thus the problem snowballs as the most incapable rise to the top the fastest. And these are people who just cannot be employed in the private sector so the APS is stuck with them for life.

Well with hard core evidence and detail like that who could argue. Lots of urban legends around the PS. It surely would be a first on the internet for someone to justify their ill founded views with a “one time at bandcamp” approach.

Is a first hand account hard core enough?

A few years ago, I assisted my manager in moving a person who they no longer desired to be in the section. A position was identifed elsewhere in the organisation where it was felt they would be more appropriately employed (in other words, the EL1 and EL2 I reported to didn’t like the ELs in that team very much), and I assisted the applicant in writing their EOI. I also penned a glowing referees report for them, at the direction of my manager.

Was it the right thing to do? No, it wasn’t. It was one of the things that left me somewhat disprited about serving in that organisation.

I have been in APS since 1986, so I think I can say that I have seen it all so to speak, and comment appropriately.

One thing that people repeatedly is paint the entire APS with the same brush. Only a numpty would making sweeping generalisations.

Although it may happen in some Depts (and it shouldn’t), most positions are not filled a ‘tenure’ basis at all. That comment made a post here, is bogus and BS. I will say that some positions can tend to be filled through nepatism, mateship and personality fit though. But on the whole it is still a merit selection process.

Erg0 11:00 am 05 Jan 12

Another thing to bear in mind is that changes to the management of underperformance would be subject to changes to the agencies’ relevant agreements, and that the APS is unionised and would no doubt mount an organised resistance to these sorts of changes. You need only look at the sorry saga of performance pay for teachers to see how hostile unions are towards any suggestion that all of their members do not perform equally well.

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