Tanner James Blog

Agile to be used for implementation of the APS Review

John Howarth


As most of you know, an Independent Review of the Australian Public Service (APS) is underway.  The deadline for submissions has been extended to 31 July 2018 (if you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to contribute here).  The review will report in the first half of 2019.

The scope of the review states that recommendations will include implementation and change management strategies.  I believe Agile will be the preferred implementation delivery approach.  Here’s why…

What will the review conclude?

I have no idea.  But extracts from the Terms of Reference give some clues:

“The APS has a critical role in assisting government manage and respond to new and emerging challenges — both in policy and implementation.  But it must be best placed to harness the opportunities, with the necessary in-house capability to both develop and implement solutions.”

“The APS must retain the key competencies and capabilities to discharge its responsibilities.”

“The recent Innovation and Science Australia report, Australia 2030: prosperity through innovation, concluded the APS has to transform to meet the challenges of a digitally-enabled economy.  This means improving the capacity of the APS to innovate, collaborate, and to use data and technology more effectively.”

Sounds to me like the outsourcing pendulum is about to swing back in favour of the APS, and that digital-enablement will be a key skill set for the future APS.

How will the review drive APS reform?

The objective of the review states that:

“The review will identify an ambitious program of transformational reforms to ensure the APS is fit-for-purpose for the coming decades, and to guide and accelerate future reform activities.”

A program - I like it.  Transformational - I like it even more.  Reforms plural - this gets better.  Accelerate – crickets chirping.  Here’s my fear.  Since when has a major APS review implemented anything of substance, let alone anything rapidly – Gershon?  Nope.  Shergold?  Nope.  (For the record, I thought the work of both these luminaries was excellent, but in my view the APS fumbled implementation – badly.)

Agile for implementation

The answer to the poor track record the APS for implementation of self-reform is obvious:  use Agile.  Not in isolation - sorry agilistas, you’re in fairy-land if you think there is no longer a need for programme management or project management – but as the delivery approach at the pointy-end of a well structured and governed transformation program (it doesn’t matter a jot how you spell it).

Think about it.  Digital-enablement is a key component of all this.  Again to quote from the objective of the review:

“A modern APS will be an employer of choice, providing enriching work for its employees, nurturing talent and being an exemplar of innovation and adaptability.”

Innovation.  Adaptability.  This is all about a new generation of public servants, a generation that is agile, and a generation that can show the old guard a thing or to about making things happen.

Do you agree?

If you’d like to see Agile used for implementation of the APS Review, please like this, share it, and perhaps even put in a contribution to the review itself.

Please comment on the blog itself or via Linked In.

Feel free to call me personally on 0407 404 688 or email me at

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