Tanner James Blog

What does the USA election have to do with the Australian Public Service? – a great deal, but that’s not why you must read this.

John Howarth


 The IPAA ACT 2016 conference took place on Thursday 10th November, and it was a superb event.  Congratulations to IPAA, the speakers and everyone involved.  The conference was filmed and video content is now available online, including a series of short and easily watchable highlights packages from each session and complete transcripts.  These are all available from the IPAA ACT web site at

Two things happened the day before the conference, both of which were very notable.  The first was the USA election, and the second was the speech given by the Australian Cabinet Secretary.

What does the USA election have to do with the Australian Public service?

The first was that Donald Trump won the USA presidency.  The primary theme of the conference was Thinking Big, very apt, and the speakers for the first session did a great job in ditching their carefully prepared speeches and instead offering their observations and insights into the global thunderbolt.

I recommend you have a look at the conference website, but for me a few critical themes emerged:

  • Trust – people across the globe lack trust in their governments.
  • Stakeholder engagement – governments must engage people more authentically.
  • Diversity – is vital to making better decisions.
  • Disruption, innovation and agility – are not words reserved only for digital trendies:  they are accurate descriptors of primary forces in health, socio-economics, education and disease.
  • Political volatility – is harming public policy, and making implementation difficult

    Policy Implementation Capability

    The second thing that happened the day before the conference was that the Cabinet Secretary, Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO, spoke at the Prime Minister’s Awards For Excellence In Public Sector Management.  A full transcript of his speech is available on the IPAA conference website, and again I commend it you.

    I was delighted to hear that one of the things the Prime Minister is being encouraged to pursue over this term is how the government invests more back into the capability of the public service.  He said that you can have great strategy, but if you can’t get it implemented or botch execution there’s no point.

    He referred to the work done over the last five years in the cabinet office to improve the project management capabilities of the UK Government.  They did this by investing in project management expertise within the public sector.  Not just seeking to outsource everything or outsource expertise, but actually build or rebuild the internal expertise.

    The Cabinet Secretary spoke about the importance of learning from failure (coincidentally, or perhaps not, the title of Professor Peter Shergold’s review).  The words that stand out are:

    “There are some things here like around the management of major projects that in my day job as cabinet secretary, I'm going to come back to with some of my colleagues within government because we're very keen to create that sort of sense of excellence in project management”.

    The current Australian Government is clearly committed to rebuilding that in-house expertise, so watch this space.

    Want to know more about improving your policy implementation capability?

    If you would like to know more about using programme management or project management to improve you policy implementation capability, please call me personally on 0407 404 688 or email me at .  I would be very happy to come to meet you, answer questions and provide further information.

    What do you think?

    Please feel free to comment on the blog itself or via Linked In.


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