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PROTECTING THE
BUREAUCRATIC SOUL
Solving the
challenge of the
over-worked,
overwhelmed,
highly distractible
public servant.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t
drum up the men to gather wood,
divide the work, and give orders.
Instead, teach them to yearn for
the vast and endless sea.”
How building entrepreneurial
talent in your teams brings clarity,
power and focus to their work and
massively increases accountability,
productivity and job satisfaction
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
TABLE
OF CONTENT
Confronting the Challenge of a Risk-Averse, Command-and-Control
Administrative Hierarchy
3
Solving the Problem of a Risk-Averse Bureaucratic Culture 4
How Traditional Training is Failing the Public Service 5
Disruption has come to the Public Sector 6
Protect your Heart 7
Building the Intrepreneurial Approach 8
Benefits of an Embedded Training Approach 16
A Bureaucratic Intrepreneurial Training Program 16
More About the Author 17
End Notes 18
2 Solving the challenge of the over-worked,
overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
CONFRONTING THE CHALLENGE OF A RISK-AVERSE,
COMMAND-AND-CONTROL ADMINISTRATIVE HIERARCHY
The contemporary public service faces multiple
challenges, not least of which are an ever-
expanding work-load and diminishing resources.
Coupled with a radically expanded remit for public
engagement and responsibility, the pressure on
the people tasked with delivering public services is
increasing every year.
For good or ill, the days of line-of-sight delivery
of traditional government services to an easily-
definable target market are over. Many of the
challenges we face as leaders in the public
sector are incredibly complex. Achieving clarity
and effectiveness is often easier sought than
accomplished.
Both the degree and the kind of engagement
required of public administrators has changed and
we are, in many areas, struggling to catch-up.
The impact on our staff, the level of demand this
environment places on them, can be overwhelming.
In the best scenarios, good people come together
and creatively translate policy outcomes and
strategies into well-defined workplans and then
support each other through delivery.
All too often however, faced with a seemingly
endless barrage of work and without an alternative
approach immediately available, people fall-back
on procedures that privilege process at the expense
of product generating confusion instead of clarity.
This occurs because, without an alternative pole
of attraction, the bureaucratic context will always
generate a tendency to avoid taking responsibility
and an implicit agreement (reinforced through
practices, habit and language) to remain within
a sphere of engagement we are comfortable
with - a sphere bounded by the knowledge and
relationships we already have - rather than
accessing or developing the knowledge and
relationships we may actually need.
This produces a self-reinforcing feed-back loop
that invariably stymies change and innovation and
ultimately, new ways of delivering government
policy and public goods.
Despite the inevitable bureaucratic tendency to
replicate failure and embed resistance to change,
alternative poles of attraction that bring new forms
of engagement and delivery can be embedded in
both large and smaller bureaucratic entities (though
there must always be more than 2 people going
through the transition at any point, it’s simply too
hard to go-it-alone).
Despite the commitment our people exhibit to
their work, many Australian public servants are
unprepared for the quality and quantity of the
demands being made on them. As a consequence,
they are often frustrated and sometimes
overwhelmed, working harder everyday with the
experience of ever-diminishing returns for their
investment of time, passion and skill. In the worst-
case scenario, the best burn-out and the worst are
promoted.
The work of government is hard. Its challenges
are wicked. Problems do not always have
defined boundaries, solutions can (and should)
be contested and authority is ambiguous.
Political change can occur unexpectedly and
at breakneck speed. Administrative change
generally takes place in an almost imperceptible
fashion but can be transformative in nature.
Prof. Peter Shergold AC
Secretary, Prime Minister & Cabinet 2002-07
“Learning From Failure”: An APSC Report
from the independent review of Government
processes. p. ix
3Solving the challenge of the over-worked,
overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
SOLVING THE PROBLEM OF THE
RISK-AVERSE BUREAUCRATIC CULTURE
Effective change management within an
organisation requires two things:
1.	 A deep appreciation of the practices, habits
and language your teams work with and the
results they actually produce (as distinct from
the results you wish/hope and sometimes tell
others your teams produce), and;
2.	 A focus on building an alternative Pole of
Attraction that privileges the practices, habits
and language that will actually produce the
results you want to see produce.
In this context, it can be useful to use the
psychological distinction of the Anti-Social
Personality Disorder (ASPD) – or colloquially called
‘psychopathy’ - to delineate the automatic Pole of
Attraction people (and leaders) must grapple with
if they are to build intrepreneurial talent within
their organisations.
As any bureaucratic leader would attest,
confronting this institutional tendency can be
challenging.
Psycopathic Tendencies
…amoral (not morally dictated); exhibits
antisocial behaviour, lack of ability to love or
establish meaningful personal relationships,
egocentricity, failure to learn from experience.
ASPD, Defined by the “Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM)
Intrepreneur - A Definition
A person within an organisation who takes
direct responsibility for turning an idea into
a valuable outcome through assertive risk-
taking and innovation.
The American Heritage Dictionary
For all its potential and capacity for good, both
public and private bureaucracies exhibit the same
tendency: whatever the quality of the people
working in the organisation the foundational
institutional bias is for the organisational
behaviour that protects the ongoing viability if the
organisation itself.
Without active and dedicated mechanisms for
engaging, training and ongoingly supporting
staff in their journey through the enterprise, this
psychopathic Pole of Attraction will inevitably result
in the operational habits we so rightly abhor: an
impulse to self-preservation; a tendency to inaction
(or misplaced effort); a lack-of accountability; a
culture that is risk-averse, penalises creativity and
innovation; frowns on excitement and passion
and, ultimately undermines people’s confidence
in themselves and in their ability to achieve real,
valuable and lasting results.
Bureaucracies are not a natural locus for the
development of the emotional intelligence and
rich interpersonal relationships that underpin the
intrepreneurial approach. However, empowered,
creative and open-minded individuals and teams
can flourish in this environment if there exists a
sufficiently strong Pole of Attraction for such forms
of interaction.
4 Solving the challenge of the over-worked,
overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
HOW TRADITIONAL TRAINING
IS FAILING THE PUBLIC SERVICE
Many of us recognise that our best performers
exhibit an uncanny ability to navigate complexity,
bring clarity to confusion and effectively create
and lead teams that cross administrative, and
sometimes and even sectoral boundaries.
We know we need more of this capacity, but it is
hard to put a finger on what these skills are and
how best to reinforce, replicate and leverage them.
The reality today is that no matter their formal job
description, everyone working in public service is
required to be entrepreneurial in their approach.
This requirement is demanding new skills, new
approaches and most importantly, an increasingly
high level of personal accountability. In the past,
these have not been attributes instinctively
associated with public bureaucracies.
The pressure is on to transform the culture and
approach of public administration in this country,
but the internal support and training regimes we
associate with public-sector training continue to be
built on traditional educational models, usually built
around the school classroom model we grew up
with.
Educational categories, such as Change
management, Influencing People and even
Leadership, delivered as stand-alone modules
divorced from ongoing operational delivery can
provide excellent content. However, as outlined in
the precious sections, unless the context is carefully
managed, the results of such training is generally
short-lived at best.
Most studies still show a 60-70% failure rate
for organizational change projects — a statistic
that has stayed constant from the 1970’s to the
present.
Harvard Business Review
https://hbr.org/2013/04/change-management-
needs-to-cha
Training in processes for “Stakeholder Engagement”
epitomises the limits of this approach. I have seen
situations where well-delivered classroom-based
training in this area has result in a substantial
decrease in productivity and engagement over
a fairly short period of time. Newly trained (and
excited staff) diligently applied the new distinctions
and practices they had learnt, leading to a massive
expansion in the number and depth of the
relationships they had to manage, an increase in
confusion regarding roles and targets followed by
a vehement return (and hardening) of previous,
traditional arms-length management of external
and internal stakeholders with a concomitant loss
of engagement and effectiveness.
Traditional training approaches are no longer
sufficient for embedding organisational change.
Skills-development regimes must be embedded
and adaptative with multiple ‘touch-points’ and
opportunities for self-paced and monitored growth.
People learn-by-doing, not by listening. Skills-
growth needs to be intrinsically linked to daily
deliverables in people work for real training to
occur.
5Solving the challenge of the over-worked,
overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
DISRUPTION HAS
COME TO THE PUBLIC SECTOR
The dynamics of public service is changing rapidly
and it can be very confronting. As in so many
sectors of the economy, disruption has come to the
public sector. Depending on your attitude and skill-
set, this represents either a blessing or a curse.
The Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd
recently outlined the changes and challenges facing
the public service in this regard:
“… the old structures and hierarchies have gone
or are being modified.
The digital revolution combined with the access to
big data is going to visit massive change upon the
modern workplace. Some postulate that 40% of
current jobs will disappear by 2030.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre.
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
WB Yeats,
‘The Second Coming’
It is just possible that the outcome … will be
more flexible and productive work places
populated with more interesting jobs. Some of
the institutional arrangements around work will
be challenged and if they do not adapt they will
languish.
I think we have to get involved with this. Basically
get with it or be left behind. “
In Australia, downsizing is evident in public
sector employment trends which previously
represented 26 per cent of the working
population in 1984 but now represents
approximately 16 per cent (in 2006).
Kryger, T. (2006),
The Incredible Shrinking Public Sector,
Parliamentary Library.
Adaptive government involves directing
performance towards the achievement of
outcomes in an increasingly competitive
environment.
Prof. Peter Shergold AC
Secretary, Prime Minister & Cabinet 2002-2007 p.x
At the heart of John Lloyd’s statement is the
prognosis that flexibility - both in terms of
staffing, job description and attitude, as well as
a requirement that people be accountable for
delivering on ‘vision’ as well as a work plan - will
increasingly be the norm in our workplace.
There is a rapidly growing need for an
entrepreneurial approch to the formation and
delivery of public goods. In the words of the Public
Service Commissioner: “Basically get with it or be
left behind.”
* http://www.apsc.gov.au/publications-and-media/speeches/2017/workforce-of-tomorrow-conference
6 Solving the challenge of the over-worked,
overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
PROTECT
YOUR HEART
People working in public administration have
enormous hearts and a massive commitment
to their work. However, what is required of us is
changing.
Our working environment is changing and success,
satisfaction and effectiveness (not to mention
promotion) are predicated on our willingness and
ability to change with it.
Being entrepreneurial and accountable for
outcomes no matter where in the organisational
hierarchy we sit occurs risky from the ASPD
perspective. In reality, the real risk lies in not being
entrepreneurial!
As leaders in public service it is critical that we
recognise the pressures this shift in mindset
imposes on ourselves and on others in our
environment.
As in so many industries, the skills and attributes
required for success are evolving faster than the
structures that exist to provide those skills and to
support us.
We need to be conscious and gentle: carefully
husbanding and protecting our energy and passion
and making sure the effort (and the resources)
we expend is directed at the most valuable and
28 per cent of public sector employees advised
that they were ‘always’, ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’
bullied at work compared to 10 per cent
reported by private sector workers.
D’Aleo, N., P. Stebbins, R. Lowe, D. Lees and D.
Ham (2007). p.91
…it is more stressful to work in the public [than
the private] sector because of significantly
higher demands, despite higher levels of
resources.
Within Australia, workers’ compensation claims
… caused by mental stress are higher in the
public sector (57 per cent) than in the private
sector (43 per cent).
Bailey, TS, McLinton, SS, Dollard, MF.
(2013). pp.63-89.
efficient tasks, not squandered.
It is my belief that every person in public service
must confront the fact that the willingness to
personally evolve and grow has become a pre-
condition for both enjoying and for being good at
our jobs. The alternative - to resist the new realities
of work – is to become progressively, and in many
cases rapidly, redundant. Worse perhaps, resisting
the demand to transform our own and our teams’
operational behaviours actively undermines and
bogs-down attempts to create change in other parts
of the organisation.
The personal and professional resources available
to each of us are limited and must be carefully
managed and directed. This is especially true now
the demands being made on each of us, our teams
and our organisations, are inherently greater than
the systems and structures set-up to respond to
those demands. In this environment, learning how
to prioritise, focus and direct your limited personal
and professional resources is more critical than
ever.
7Solving the challenge of the over-worked,
overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
BUILDING THE
INTREPRENEURIAL APPROACH
6 LEVELS OF INTREPRENEURIAL GROWTH
There are 6 recognisable stages of development in an organisational culture as the capacity and context for
intrepreneurial engagement increases.
Each level represents a quantum in effectiveness and productivity for both the individual and for the team.
There is a direct (though not linear) correlation between effectiveness (the ability to fulfil on goals and targets)
and job satisfaction. In my experience, there also exists a strong, though hard-to-verify, correlation between
effectiveness and return-on-resource investment.
Level Modality Effectiveness
6
Super Networked - Non-foundational
Massively engaged cross-organisational/sectoral teams. Leadership is de-
personalised
Organisational boundaries exist as indicators only.
Delivery is spontaneous
x10
5
Networked - Network functionality
Powerfully engaged cross-functional/organisational teams. Resources seem to
‘appear’ as and when required. Organisational boundaries provide access to
different modes of leverage. Clarity goes viral
x8
4
Multi-layered Engagement - Foundational
Effective internal and external participation and focus on common goals
Organisational boundaries define engagement but don’t limit it.
Excitement is contagious
x6
3
Multi-level Engagement - Institutionally focussed
Well operating internal teams engaging at arms-length with external parties
Organisational boundaries strong and definitive but permeable.
Excitement is permissible
x4
2
Internal Engagement - Internally focussed
Variable levels of cooperation and collaboration internally
Organisational boundaries define the scope of operational effectiveness.
Calm & strategic
x2
1
Individual Operation - Individual self-interest rules
Cooperation dependent upon immediate overlap of personal interests
The organisation is a world-unto-itself. No effective ‘outside’ the organisation.
Low energy
x1
8 Solving the challenge of the over-worked,
overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
1. Individual Operation
The lowest level, best captured in 19th
century novels such as Kaftka’s The Castle, is
unfortunately not-yet completely extinct. This is
where individual self-interest is the predominant
motivator for action and engagement. People
identify and engage with their immediate
surroundings only. Delivery is defined by ‘ticking-
the-box’, energy is low. Passion, excitement and
creative thinking is resented or deeply suspect.
2. Internal Engagement
This level remains prevalent in some parts
of the public service in Australia. With some
internal team-building and collaboration,
the predominant experience working in this
environment is usually one of calm and stability.
Engagement with internal stakeholders is
normal practice but effectiveness is relatively
low because real creative ‘churn’ (which is
invariably uncomfortable) is generally kept at
the conceptual level only. Innovative input is
not greatly valued and the distinction between
policy formation and delivery is rigidly enforced.
At this level, leadership and direct accountability
is rarely called for and usually occurs both risky
and unnecessary. The concept of engaging with
and proactively managing (let-alone assuming)
personal risk is essentially non-existent. The
organisation’s boundaries naturally define the
scope of influence/realm of action and the
available resources.
Common complaints associated with this
level of operational effectiveness reflect an
embedded (and hence sometimes invisible) lack
of accountability for delivering on outcomes
and can include: “the goal-posts keep shifting”;
“people in authority refuse to take the lead” and;
concerns about “lack of clarity”.
In this context, both individual and collective
effectiveness is limited to what can be imagined
within pre-existing organisational conceptions
and to variations on previous or extant
processes and/or programs. Process is invariably
privileged over productivity; organisational
boundaries are rigidly (if sometimes
unconsciously) enforced and; there is generally
little hierarchical overlap or tension (perceived
as a positive outcome).
3. Multi-level Engagement
This is the level most public entities in Australia
are currently approaching/striving for. At this
level, the experience of internal staff is that they
work well together, but that once beyond the
immediate environment of team members, staff
and line management, constructive engagement
and stakeholder input tends to be either
inconsistent or alternatively, overwhelming.
At this level, both internal and external
engagement can easily become an end-in-itself
rather than a vehicle for program or policy
improvement leading to the common refrain
of ‘an endless round of endless meetings that
get us nowhere fast’. In this environment, clear-
value propositions can be hard to identify and
articulate and by attempting to serve everyone
all-the-time, no-one is well-served.
This level is an essentially transitionary,
unstable, uncomfortable and often frustrating
one for a public institution to be operating at.
Managing people, institutional structures and
culture through the transition from the calm,
steady single-direction Internal Engagement
environment within the organisation (level 2)
to Multi-layered Engagement within, across
and outside the organisation (level 4) can be
extremely challenging.
Older habits and processes still have great
affective influence and provide an ever-present
refuge from the challenges iterated throughout
this paper. Managing this transition for a public
service leader takes a great deal of courage, a
minimum of internal and hierarchical support,
and good external and internal mechanism
to develop and embed the new operational
modalities.
9Solving the challenge of the over-worked,
overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
The advantage we have in Australia is that any
one group/team/institution trying to make this
transition is not doing so alone. The ambient level
of organisational engagement in Australian public
institutions is rising rapidly. Nonetheless, waiting
for the tide to simply lift everyone together is not
sufficient for many leaders.
At this level, excitement about new possibilities
(and associated risk) is permissible but progress
can be patchy and the balance between providing
leadership and allowing input hard to navigate.
A key challenge for leadership is to continually
distinguish between the appropriate maintenance
of existing legacy processes and ‘loosening the
bonds’ to allow for new modes of interaction
and engagement. A key risk for people operating
in a level 3 environment is that the more
entrepreneurial staff (including yourself) can easily
become cynical and burn-out. The public sector
leader needs to keep a weather-eye open for those
key individuals (and sometimes small groups of
people) who are willing to charge ahead of the pack
only to find themselves ‘yanked-back’ by a slower
moving culture and resistance either above or
below them in the hierarchy
4. Multi-layered Engagement
Some public sector entities have broken-through to
this level of operation, and reaped the benefits. The
distinction between multi-level and multi-layered
engagement may seem fine, but the operational
tempo, level of accountability and engagement
of staff up, down and across the hierarchy is
profoundly different.
The energy generated doing ‘the hard—yards’ in
the previous stage starts to pay-off at this level
and the momentum for change becomes self-
generative. A self-reinforcing dynamic of innovation
and momentum becomes operational and serves
to pull all levels of the organisation forward by
increments.
This dynamic occurs because relationships
within, across and outside the organisation have
become premised on functional engagement and
trust rather than organisational positioning. The
quality of these relationships were often forged
at the previous (highly uncomfortable) level of
operational effectiveness and allow for new
ideas to be mooted, developed (discarded) and
modified in a safe and highly creative environment.
Relevant information and perspectives are readily
available from multiple sources both from within
and without the organisation and organisational
friction is minimised as people feel free to work up
and down the hierarchy without overt reference to
formal position or role description.
In this context, creative-thinking is incentivised
and rewarded with the respect of one’s peers and
the process of innovation is ‘de-personalised’ as
projects, models and approaches rapidly becomes
the property of everyone.
The relationship with ‘Risk’ (the bogey-man of
previous levels) transforms at this level. Rather
than a factor to be addressed and managed (often
managed ‘out’), risk becomes a useful component
of the bigger picture as it helps people distil
discrete value propositions for key stakeholders
and informs the iterative design process as
implementation progresses. In this context, risk
starts to play an important role ‘signposting’
progress as the profile evolves. Open-and creative
discussions around risk also helps keep program
implementation targeted and true to the initial
policy-motivation and to real-world impacts.
Critically, as common-goals and program value is
progressively (re)defined in forms both internal
and external stakeholders can identify with, the
resources available to the project increase beyond
those immediately available within any given
organisational context.
When this last outcome occurs, a critical
step-change has been achieved and the self-
perpetuating dynamic that characterises this
level of operational effectiveness comes fully into
play. As stakeholders identify their own and their
institutional interests with a project, resource-
constraints recede as a determining factor of
project design and implementation and the scope
for mutually-reinforcing creative-thinking by the
people driving the project expands. This in turn
expands the scope for proactive engagement
10 Solving the challenge of the over-worked,
overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
with risk and the identification and articulation
of value. With an ever-clearer and more targeted
conception of the value-proposition for key
stakeholders (and resource-holders) people are
incentivised to release further resources to the
project, once again opening the scope of creative-
thinking, and the self-generating dynamic kicks-in.
With this dynamic operational, energetic,
motivated and tightly interconnected teams
(often cross-sectoral and cross-institutional)
naturally coalesce around and drive innovation
in all areas of the organisation. This approach,
once embedded in an organisational context, is
contagious. It is particularly attractive because it
tends to cause people to play to their strengths,
something people love to do. In this environment,
people are pulled to make available the skills,
temperaments, personal resources and attributes
they bring to work with them, but which are often
under-utilised.
Staff satisfaction with work can be extremely high
at this level of operation. Profoundly innovative
and viable opportunities become realisable that,
without this dynamic in place, were previously
(literally) unimaginable.
At this operational mode, trust acts a bit like a
currency that is carefully husbanded, traded and
most importantly, banked as capital. In a well-
operating organisational market-place, trust (well-
spent) serves to eliminate most organisational
friction and, like other forms of capital, can
substantially increase the returns (more trust)
available from functions that were already
operating reasonably well.
The effect is somewhat like that of a mechanical
‘Flywheel’: energy stored in the slow building
of relationships and creative discussion (often
through the process of transitioning through level
3) can be expended in short, extremely productive
bursts to produce truly fantastic, and seemingly
instantaneous, results.
For the public service leader committed to
growing the level of effectiveness of their teams
and institutions, seeing this dynamic come into
existence is intensely rewarding. However, it
also requires of them a fundamental change in
their role; a transition that can be personally
challenging but one that, if not achieved well,
will undermine the stability of this operational
level very quickly. That change is the shift from a
manager responsible for content (outcomes), to a
leader responsible for context (operating state) as
well as content! This requires a new conception of
leadership and engagement, but it also requires
a willingness to ‘step-back’ from some of the
emotional perks of leadership.
A second risk that presents itself to the
public sector leader at this operating level
is the (generally unnoticed) adoption in
the conversational environment of a self-
congratulatory sense of a ‘journey completed’
allied to an implicit sense of superiority. People
can begin to relate to the transition of the
institution as complete and to look at other
sectors (especially those still operating in the
previous, ‘messy’ level of operation) with disdain
hidden in words of advice and wisdom. At this
level, it is more important than ever for people to
remember that the fundamental context of a large
organisation such as a public sector bureaucracy
is institutional self-preservation (the psychopathic
context). If the new modes of engagement
and institutional momentum are not carefully
nurtured, progress can be lost very quickly.
5. Networked
Despite the exciting progress accomplished at
the previous level, yet higher operating states can
be observed in some large and small public and
private institutions.
At the Functionally Networked operating level,
drawing analogies with the internal practices and
culture of some major private sector corporations
such as Apple or Google (or Lulu Lemon and
Atlassian in the Australian context) is instructive.
A common characteristic of this level of operation
is that, no matter how big the institution, people
report their experience to be one of working in a
11Solving the challenge of the over-worked,
overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
small, interconnected and supportive community.
The progressive reconfiguration of the role of
organisational boundaries observed at previous
levels comes to fruition here. While at previous
levels, structural (institutional) boundaries and
cultural (operational) boundaries were coterminous,
at this level from an operational perspective,
organisational boundaries tend to fade into the
background leaving only the bones of the institution
to guide and direct the flow of operational
behaviour and thinking. Organisational boundaries
begin to occur like markers between functions
rather than definitional indicators of roles and
responsibilities. This evolution in the fundamental
influence of the organisational structure embeds
the kind of fluid ecosystem of operational units we
saw come into existence at the previous level. The
fundamentally hierarchical operating structure of
public institutions does not disappear. It continues
to provide the framework for defining individual
roles and accountabilities, and linking policy with
definable outcomes. Nonetheless, in a Functionally
Networked operating environment the way things
are done has shifted dramatically, with a substantial
increase in both efficiency and effectiveness
and scope for very rapid turn-around between
conception and delivery.
Indeed, one of the more easily recognisable
features of an entity operating at this level is
the criteria upon which people are assessed for
inclusion or exclusion from project or policy teams.
The institutional role and position of individuals
becomes simply one of a number of attributes
associated with them rather than a defining
characteristic of their potential contribution. In
this environment, traditional organisational siloes
disappear and the energy released powers new
levels of trust and innovation. Cross organisational
and cross-sectoral adaptive groupings continually
spring-up upon the identification of new problems
and possibilities. The framing of a challenge or a
possibility is inherently fluid and the discursive
response naturally flows to where the greatest level
of interest and capacity lie. The opportunities for
individual leadership are extensive and stepping
into them requires very little internal political capital
or hierarchical backing. This level sees the self-
generating dynamic of innovation and momentum
discussed in the previous level embedded into
the organisational framework rather than being
something people do ‘despite’ their institutional
environment.
At this level, and for the first time, the institution
itself is largely reimagined. This reflects and
catalyses a profound change in the kinds of
discussions that can and do occur within the
organisation; one that most of us desperately
hanker for and one that fulfils on the reason most
of us initially entered public service.
Previously, the institution itself (or rather
the institutional environment) provided the
foundational context in which all discussion
occurred. Without the fundamental reimagining
that occurs somewhere on the path of evolution
between this and previous operating level, the
psychopathic Pole of Attraction introduced at
the beginning of this paper inevitably frames all
discussions within the enterprise. This includes
every aspect of engagement both social and
professional and it cannot be avoided, only
accounted for.
At the level of Network Functionality, and for
the first time, the role of the institution itself is
reimagined and fades into the background as
the distinguishing feature of engagement within,
between and across instructions. The consequence
of this is that the context in which discussions occur
also shifts, opening new possibilities we are only
starting to explore . 1
One of the most obvious, and positive, indications
that an institutional environment has shifted to
a Functionally Networked operating state is that
people are willing to explore and dwell-in the real
impacts of institutional decision-making at all levels
and in all spheres of the organisation’s operations.
This may seem like a self-referential statement as
making a positive impact in the real-world is what
government exists to do. It is certainly something
most of us strive to achieve in our-day-to-day work.
However, the reality is that despite the best-of
intentions until the structural shift from a multi-
layered to a Functionally Networked operating
state occurs, internally-oriented processes will
invariably trump externally-oriented impacts. As
12 Solving the challenge of the over-worked,
overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
discussed earlier, in the context of an inherent
psychopathic operating environment (page 4),
until the fundamental relationship people have
with the institution shifts ALL discussions within
an institution (both professional and social) occur
within a reference of self-preservation. This is not
to say that longer-term outcomes and a relatively
broad definition of social value cannot guide
bureaucratic outcomes at lower operating levels,
but that directing institutional effort (and capital)
towards these goals requires quite substantial and
continued effort. Something any committed public
administrator and leader can attest to.
The good news is that, from a policy and program
development and delivery perspective, the self-
generating dynamic of innovation and momentum
that came to fruition at the previous level becomes
at this level, the natural state of interaction. The
preservation of institutional structures as a guiding
principal disappears as a context for engagement
and the experience of what is possible through
public service starts to fulfil on the impulse that
led so many of us to choose this as a career-path
in the first place. At its most basic level this means
that access-to-resources concerns simply disappear
from the lexicon and there comes into existence a
belief that, with good ideas and the right people,
the resources required will simply become available
as they are needed, and invariably they do.
For a public sector leader, the key to maintaining
this operating level is to ongoingly notice it and
to consciously compare it to what came before
and what probably exists around you in other
institutions/working groups. This operational state
makes work a real buzz, but it also quickly becomes
the water-you-swim-in and thus unremarkable.
That many of the individuals and stakeholder
groups you work with do not experience this
operating state can be hard to recognise because
the distinctions between levels 4 and 5 are largely
internal (organisational operating structure and
processes remain essentially indistinguishable).
At this level, the key mistake people make is not
noticing and managing these differences. Failing
to notice, or failing to appropriately ameliorate the
internal narrative leads to personal disappointment
and to seemingly inexplicable hurdles and
dislocation in work relationships that bleed
into internal working arrangements and rapidly
undermine the operating state.
To maintain this level, staff morale and personal
growth must become the absolute and primary
focus of every person in the entity, especially
the hierarchical leadership. In fact, at this level
maintaining this operating state and focussing
on the internal experience of the people working
in it will become the key, and almost only, real
responsibility of the organisational leader. This is
a major shift in the definition of leadership from
previous levels and requires an extremely high
level of empathy and humility to be adequately
fulfilled.
6. Super-Networked
It is difficult to ascertain the degree to which
this level of operation exists in an institutional
context but the outlines of its operational style
are increasingly becoming clear as people and
organisations push up against this operating
level. There are pockets of truly extraordinary
institutional engagement and effectiveness that
have unique but consistent characteristics and
seem to fit the evolutionary paradigm that has
been identified for the previous five levels.
At the Super-Networked operational level, the
organisational structure is relegated to providing
an administrative and governance function only,
with extremely limited strategic carriage in terms
of policy and project development and delivery.
This represents yet another shift in terms of what it
actually means to be embedded in, and represent
an organisation. It is still difficult to ascertain
exactly what this means from the perspective of
the individual working in that organisation, but the
ramifications from a procedural perspective are
much easier to identify and describe.
Firstly, many of the distinctions we implicitly
rely on to define the parameters of institutional
engagement seem to be inverted or disappear
entirely. This includes dichotomies such: ‘work’ and
‘play’, ‘public’ and ‘private’ or ‘senior’ and ‘officer’
13Solving the challenge of the over-worked,
overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
(junior) roles.
In particular, the content of the terms ‘hierarchy’
and ‘leadership’ seems to shift completely in level
6 operating environments. In a natural progression
from the previous level, operational outcomes
are achieved iteratively by progress through a
fluid ecosystem of overlapping teams, individuals
and groups with little reference to institutional
or hierarchical position. These networks operate
within and across sectors in pursuit of a dynamic
set of public goods and outcomes that are
continually being developed, reinforced and
retired through engagement with multiple levels
of society and government. Again, this does not
mean that the hierarchical structure disappears or
dissipates in any way. To the contrary, hierarchical
relationships remain extremely important, but their
functional reality changes substantially.
As in lower levels of operational effectiveness,
responsibility for the delivery and development
of services and programs remains largely
embedded in the middle and lower echelons
of the hierarchy. What is new at this level of
operational effectiveness is that decision-making
and operational authority finally come together
within the ambit of this ‘fluid ecosystem of
overlapping teams, individuals and groups’ - a
network that consists, overwhelmingly of people
positioned at the lower levels of the organisational
hierarchy. In effect, this means that the most
important decisions regarding policy-direction,
resource distribution and key internal procedural
decisions such as hiring/firing, remuneration and
performance management rests with people at
what we would now distinguish as at-or-below the
middle management level.
It must be remembered that the realignment
of operational and decision-making authority
described here, and its ramifications in terms
of the devolution of authority within the
administration of public goods, does not occur
particularly revolutionary in the context of what
is only a minor step-change from the level 5
operating environment. It does however represent
a revolutionary change from the perspective of
the lower operating environments where the
majority of Australia’s public sector institutions
current sit (Levels, 2,3 and occasionally level
4). Indeed, from the perspective of people who
do not have experience working in a level 5
(Functionally Networked) operating environment,
what we are seeing as the outlines of the level 6
operating environment challenge our fundamental
conceptions of what is possible within an
hierarchically-organised entity premised on the
appropriate distribution of public-goods . 2
At this stage, it is worth outlining a couple of the
key ramifications of the potential the realisation
of this operating state provides because, in each
case, the ‘bones’ of this evolution can already be
observed within Australian public institutions.
Firstly, it is reasonable to expect that remuneration
structures will follow this effective devolution of
responsibility, though at a slower rate than the
cultural and functional changes underpinning
them. The initial stages of this evolution have been
initiated in the Australian context and are well-
advanced in some international jurisdictions. These
include: the increasing transition from permanent
to contract-based staffing arrangements; well-
advanced discussions around the inclusion of
performance-based pay for public servants (a
framework that is already well-established in
some American and European environments)
and; the progressive revaluation of technical and
skills-based expertise with commensurate pay-
scales that are not referenced to the traditional
hierarchical pay-grade system . 3
Secondly, in a Super Networked operating
environment dysfunction manifests in a profoundly
different way than at lower levels. Rather than
being referenced to a systemic failing, dysfunction
is directly referenced to a set of personal (not
organisational) characteristics. This represents and
reflects a profound alteration in the experience of
working in an institution operating at this level. At
previous levels (at least up to level 4) referencing
personal behaviour and states-of-being divorced
from the implicit protection of an institutional
role is inherently alien to the way we conceive of
institutional work except in the most extreme cases
(e.g. explicitly corrupt or inappropriate behaviour).
14 Solving the challenge of the over-worked,
overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
However, at this level of operation, referencing
dysfunction to the individual becomes spontaneous
and commonplace.
This dynamic represents a natural progression
on the steadily rising requirement for personal
integrity observed from at least the Multi-Layered
Engagement level (level 4). At the Super Networked
level of operation, it becomes virtually impossible
to ‘hide’ any divergence between espoused and
expressed values. At this level, there exists a
permanent and very public operational dynamic
that ensures any divergence has an immediate
and measurable effect on the work environment,
an effect that has real and immediate impacts on
people who are in a position to remark and react.
The dynamic is very simple. People instinctively
withhold the gift of trust from people whose
actions are not aligned with their personal or
the collective understanding of appropriate
values. In an operating environment where
trust in relationships is the primary currency
of interaction, people who are disempowered,
dissatisfied or frustrated simply cannot be trusted
to the degree required to maintain the ambient
level of functionality extant in a level 6 operating
environment. Over-time, as trust is withheld from
particular individuals, their ability to effectively
engage decreases and they are progressively
excluded from effective input. In the extremely
dynamic and creative environment that exists
at this operating level, such exclusion shows-up
very quickly and must be promptly dealt with or
risk impacting the operating effectiveness of the
whole group. One positive of this dynamic is that
at this operating level it becomes difficult to hide
emotions such as upset or anger (or depression)
from colleagues . 4
BENEFITS OF AN
EMBEDDED TRAINING APPROACH
Best-practice learning is achieved on-the-job not in the class-room, so, to be effective, professional
development for public sector staff should be structured around embedding the distinctions and lessons of
Bureaucratic Intrepreneurship in daily work over an extended period.
We know that people learn in multiple ways and that the average person needs to hear or see a concept at
least seven times before they truly understand it. Training consequently needs to be tailored to maximise
the opportunities for your staff to learn, practice and display the distinctions being taught.
At the heart of a learning regime of this nature should, wherever possible, be real programs and outcomes.
If a leader wants to move their teams and organisations from Multilevel (level 3) to Multi-layered (level 4)
engagement it is critical that their staff are ‘on-the-hook’ to deliver outcomes using the new approaches,
and that they have the opportunity to do so with others who are grappling with the same challenges.
As the role of government evolves, so too does the role of the public sector leader. In an increasingly
competitive environment, keeping you and your teams empowered and equipped to deal with evolving
challenges is critical. Using Bureaucratic Intreprenership methodologies and approaches will help you to
accomplish this.
15Solving the challenge of the over-worked,
overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
A BUREAUCRATIC
INTREPRENEURSHIP TRAINING PROGRAM
Built off twenty-years’ experience in the adult
education, not-for-profit and public sectors,
this program is aimed at unearthing and
developing entrepreneurial and leadership
talent in organisations and teams.
The equivalent to a Company Directors’
course for public servants, this package
represents the ultimate professional
development program for rising stars in public
administration.
As the role of government evolves, so too
does the role of the public sector leader. In
an increasingly competitive environment,
keeping you and your teams empowered and
equipped to deal with evolving challenges is
critical.
As a leader, this program will help you develop
and embed the entrepreneurial skills required
of modern public sector employees in your
staff and teams and further your career. It
gives you confidence your staff will have the
skills and support they need to be focussed,
proactive contributors to the development
and delivery of government policy in your
department(s).
As a participant, the program provides the
tools and training required to remain focussed
and be effective and influential in a rapidly
changing environment and advance your
career.
The program is delivered in 90, 180 or 360 day
components. Each component is built around
a core set of distinctions that complement
each other and form a complete 360-degree
overview of what it means to understand,
practice and eventually implement the
skills of an entrepreneur in a public sector
organisation.
Ask for a Bureaucratic Intrepreneurship
Training Prospectus or contact Sonny Neale
if you would like to know more about the
training programs that are available.
Bespoke one, two or three full or half-day
programs can be delivered according to the
specific needs of your staff, circumstances and
organisation.
Solving the challenge of the over-worked,
overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant16
Sonny Neale is a coach, mentor and trainer for public sector and not-for-profit
entities. He is passionate about the potential entrepreneurial thinking can
bring to public administration.
Through his work with local, state and federal government agencies and
statutory bodies, Sonny has experienced first-hand the truly extraordinary
results passionate public sector leaders and teams can achieve when they
have access to the right skills and training.
He is obsessed with the role government and the not-for profit sector has
to play in solving contemporary social challenges and believes the potential for creative, innovative and
transformational thinking and engagement in the public sector around the world has only begun to be show
itself.
Starting in adult education, Sonny has twenty years’ experience as a manager and leader in the public and
not-for-profit sectors including five years leading Australia’s largest PEAK Local Government Sustainability
Alliance (CVGA).
Landmark accomplishments include playing a key role bringing the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to
Australia, managing advocacy programs (Southern States) for the Green Building Council of Australia
(GBCA) and leading the federal Government’s SME renewable energy research program. In these roles
Sonny leveraged his position to create a range of extremely innovative projects including the country’s
largest-ever street-lighting infrastructure upgrade (through 16 municipalities) and a national, award-winning
Emergency Management Mentoring Program in partnership with Australian Army, Federal Police and all state
governments bar WA (endorsed through the Council of Australian Governments).
Sonny continues to write on inter-government collaboration and delivers coaching and training programs, as
well supporting the development and delivery of innovative public sector programs.
MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Please contact me if you would
like to know more about the
Bureaucratic Intrepreneurial
Training Program and approach or
specifically what it might take to
move your teams and organisation
through the Stages of Effectiveness.
www.sonnyneale.com
www.linkedin.com/in/sonnyneale
sonny@sonnyneale.com
0409 937 916
17Solving the challenge of the over-worked,
overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
We Care But You’re Responsible. So please be sure to take specialist advice before taking on any of
the ideas. This white paper is general in nature and not meant to replace any specific advice. Sonny
Neale disclaims all and any liability to any persons whatsoever in respect of anything done by any
person in reliance, whether in whole or in part, on this whitepaper.
COPYRIGHT © SONNY NEALE 2017 You have permission to post, email, print and pass along this
white paper for free to anyone you like, as long as you make no changes or edits to its content or
digital format. To reproduce the content in any form, electronic or otherwise, you must have the
permission of the author. We reserve the right to publish this material in other forms and formats
for distribution or re-sale.
REFERENCES
•	 Bailey, TS, McLinton, SS, Dollard, MF. (2013). ‘Psychosocial risk factors for stress and stress claim
differences between the public and private sectors’, Human resource management in the public
sector, Publisher: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited (UK), pp.63-89.
•	 D’Aleo, N., P. Stebbins, R. Lowe, D. Lees and D. Ham (2007), ‘Managing workplace stress:
psychosocial hazard risk profiles in public and private sector Australia’, Australian Journal of
Rehabilitation Counselling, 13 (2), 68–87.
•	 Kryger, T. (2006), The Incredible Shrinking Public Sector, Report, Australia: Information and
Research Services, Parliamentary Library.
•	 Martin, S. and D. Parker (1997), The Impact of Privatisation, London: Routledge. McKenna, D.
(1995).
•	 Richard N. Haass (1999), The Bureaucratic Entrepreneur: How to Be Effective in Any Unruly
Organization, Brookings Institution Press (US).
•	 Prof. Peter Shergold AC, (2015); Learning from Failure: Why large government policy initiatives
have gone so badly wrong in the past and how the chances of success in the future can be
improved, Australian Public Service Commission – Report from the independent review of
Government processes for the development and implementation of large public programmes
and projects.
Solving the challenge of the over-worked,
overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant18
1.	 There are very few institutions that have made the transition to level 5 operational effectiveness. Some
have but it can be difficult to recognise them because the differences are largely expressed in the internal
relationships between people and things, while organisational structures and processes remain more-or-
less unchanged. The best examples of level 5 institutional operations that I know of exist in some of the
northern Italian regional and municipal governments with a smattering in north American not-for-profit
and smaller government agencies. There are certainly others, but as indicated here, they can be very hard
to spot.
2.	 Two particularly interesting, and optimistic, consequences of the potential realisation of this operational
state is that: it seems likely that moral and ethical criteria become more naturally linked to the processes
that result in the functional distribution of public goods, and; secondly, engagement with public
administration starts to provide real scope for the growth and expansion of the human spirit (another
way of saying that the ‘psychopathic’ tendency of the institution no longer represents a Pole of Attraction
within the institutional environment).
3.	 It is worth noting that everything described here in the context of employment in a level 6 operating
environment already exists in a limited form in Australian public sector entities operating at much lower
levels. This includes an increasing number of people whose careers increasingly consist of regular, limited-
term contracts with a generally limited number of institutions with substantial policy cross-over who are
employed because they exhibit key skills and attributes of interest to the institution. These contracts are
usually situated near the bottom of the organisational hierarchy but exhibit almost all the characteristics
of a level 6 operating state including being: directly accountable for specific outcomes; provided with
a surprising high level of effective decision-making authority and; paid substantially more than their
hierarchically-equivalent peers (and increasingly more than their managers). Expect to see a great deal
more of this!
4.	 A fascinating and confronting corollary of this public requirement for personal integrity is that the
traditional flow of accountability from the bottom to the top of the institution is functionally reversed.
At this operating level, the more senior a leader, the more likely they are to be held to account by
people lower in the hierarchy than they are, further entrenching the inversion of current traditional
institutional norms. An appropriate analogy that describes this dynamic is the traditional coach/coachee
relationship. The hierarchical framing of this relationship is foundational to its existence but the kind of
authority embedded within it is very different from more traditional conceptions of the scope and limits
of hierarchical authority. For example, the coach is expected to provide both the framework in which a
coaching conversation occurs and the relevant distinctions, yet they have no authority to command or
require any actions of the coachee. Conversely, the coachee provides all the content but has no authority
to question the coach.
END NOTES
19Solving the challenge of the over-worked,
overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
NOTES
Solving the challenge of the over-worked,
overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant

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Protecting the Bureaucratic Soul

  • 1. PROTECTING THE BUREAUCRATIC SOUL Solving the challenge of the over-worked, overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” How building entrepreneurial talent in your teams brings clarity, power and focus to their work and massively increases accountability, productivity and job satisfaction Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • 2. TABLE OF CONTENT Confronting the Challenge of a Risk-Averse, Command-and-Control Administrative Hierarchy 3 Solving the Problem of a Risk-Averse Bureaucratic Culture 4 How Traditional Training is Failing the Public Service 5 Disruption has come to the Public Sector 6 Protect your Heart 7 Building the Intrepreneurial Approach 8 Benefits of an Embedded Training Approach 16 A Bureaucratic Intrepreneurial Training Program 16 More About the Author 17 End Notes 18 2 Solving the challenge of the over-worked, overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
  • 3. CONFRONTING THE CHALLENGE OF A RISK-AVERSE, COMMAND-AND-CONTROL ADMINISTRATIVE HIERARCHY The contemporary public service faces multiple challenges, not least of which are an ever- expanding work-load and diminishing resources. Coupled with a radically expanded remit for public engagement and responsibility, the pressure on the people tasked with delivering public services is increasing every year. For good or ill, the days of line-of-sight delivery of traditional government services to an easily- definable target market are over. Many of the challenges we face as leaders in the public sector are incredibly complex. Achieving clarity and effectiveness is often easier sought than accomplished. Both the degree and the kind of engagement required of public administrators has changed and we are, in many areas, struggling to catch-up. The impact on our staff, the level of demand this environment places on them, can be overwhelming. In the best scenarios, good people come together and creatively translate policy outcomes and strategies into well-defined workplans and then support each other through delivery. All too often however, faced with a seemingly endless barrage of work and without an alternative approach immediately available, people fall-back on procedures that privilege process at the expense of product generating confusion instead of clarity. This occurs because, without an alternative pole of attraction, the bureaucratic context will always generate a tendency to avoid taking responsibility and an implicit agreement (reinforced through practices, habit and language) to remain within a sphere of engagement we are comfortable with - a sphere bounded by the knowledge and relationships we already have - rather than accessing or developing the knowledge and relationships we may actually need. This produces a self-reinforcing feed-back loop that invariably stymies change and innovation and ultimately, new ways of delivering government policy and public goods. Despite the inevitable bureaucratic tendency to replicate failure and embed resistance to change, alternative poles of attraction that bring new forms of engagement and delivery can be embedded in both large and smaller bureaucratic entities (though there must always be more than 2 people going through the transition at any point, it’s simply too hard to go-it-alone). Despite the commitment our people exhibit to their work, many Australian public servants are unprepared for the quality and quantity of the demands being made on them. As a consequence, they are often frustrated and sometimes overwhelmed, working harder everyday with the experience of ever-diminishing returns for their investment of time, passion and skill. In the worst- case scenario, the best burn-out and the worst are promoted. The work of government is hard. Its challenges are wicked. Problems do not always have defined boundaries, solutions can (and should) be contested and authority is ambiguous. Political change can occur unexpectedly and at breakneck speed. Administrative change generally takes place in an almost imperceptible fashion but can be transformative in nature. Prof. Peter Shergold AC Secretary, Prime Minister & Cabinet 2002-07 “Learning From Failure”: An APSC Report from the independent review of Government processes. p. ix 3Solving the challenge of the over-worked, overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
  • 4. SOLVING THE PROBLEM OF THE RISK-AVERSE BUREAUCRATIC CULTURE Effective change management within an organisation requires two things: 1. A deep appreciation of the practices, habits and language your teams work with and the results they actually produce (as distinct from the results you wish/hope and sometimes tell others your teams produce), and; 2. A focus on building an alternative Pole of Attraction that privileges the practices, habits and language that will actually produce the results you want to see produce. In this context, it can be useful to use the psychological distinction of the Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD) – or colloquially called ‘psychopathy’ - to delineate the automatic Pole of Attraction people (and leaders) must grapple with if they are to build intrepreneurial talent within their organisations. As any bureaucratic leader would attest, confronting this institutional tendency can be challenging. Psycopathic Tendencies …amoral (not morally dictated); exhibits antisocial behaviour, lack of ability to love or establish meaningful personal relationships, egocentricity, failure to learn from experience. ASPD, Defined by the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM) Intrepreneur - A Definition A person within an organisation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a valuable outcome through assertive risk- taking and innovation. The American Heritage Dictionary For all its potential and capacity for good, both public and private bureaucracies exhibit the same tendency: whatever the quality of the people working in the organisation the foundational institutional bias is for the organisational behaviour that protects the ongoing viability if the organisation itself. Without active and dedicated mechanisms for engaging, training and ongoingly supporting staff in their journey through the enterprise, this psychopathic Pole of Attraction will inevitably result in the operational habits we so rightly abhor: an impulse to self-preservation; a tendency to inaction (or misplaced effort); a lack-of accountability; a culture that is risk-averse, penalises creativity and innovation; frowns on excitement and passion and, ultimately undermines people’s confidence in themselves and in their ability to achieve real, valuable and lasting results. Bureaucracies are not a natural locus for the development of the emotional intelligence and rich interpersonal relationships that underpin the intrepreneurial approach. However, empowered, creative and open-minded individuals and teams can flourish in this environment if there exists a sufficiently strong Pole of Attraction for such forms of interaction. 4 Solving the challenge of the over-worked, overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
  • 5. HOW TRADITIONAL TRAINING IS FAILING THE PUBLIC SERVICE Many of us recognise that our best performers exhibit an uncanny ability to navigate complexity, bring clarity to confusion and effectively create and lead teams that cross administrative, and sometimes and even sectoral boundaries. We know we need more of this capacity, but it is hard to put a finger on what these skills are and how best to reinforce, replicate and leverage them. The reality today is that no matter their formal job description, everyone working in public service is required to be entrepreneurial in their approach. This requirement is demanding new skills, new approaches and most importantly, an increasingly high level of personal accountability. In the past, these have not been attributes instinctively associated with public bureaucracies. The pressure is on to transform the culture and approach of public administration in this country, but the internal support and training regimes we associate with public-sector training continue to be built on traditional educational models, usually built around the school classroom model we grew up with. Educational categories, such as Change management, Influencing People and even Leadership, delivered as stand-alone modules divorced from ongoing operational delivery can provide excellent content. However, as outlined in the precious sections, unless the context is carefully managed, the results of such training is generally short-lived at best. Most studies still show a 60-70% failure rate for organizational change projects — a statistic that has stayed constant from the 1970’s to the present. Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/2013/04/change-management- needs-to-cha Training in processes for “Stakeholder Engagement” epitomises the limits of this approach. I have seen situations where well-delivered classroom-based training in this area has result in a substantial decrease in productivity and engagement over a fairly short period of time. Newly trained (and excited staff) diligently applied the new distinctions and practices they had learnt, leading to a massive expansion in the number and depth of the relationships they had to manage, an increase in confusion regarding roles and targets followed by a vehement return (and hardening) of previous, traditional arms-length management of external and internal stakeholders with a concomitant loss of engagement and effectiveness. Traditional training approaches are no longer sufficient for embedding organisational change. Skills-development regimes must be embedded and adaptative with multiple ‘touch-points’ and opportunities for self-paced and monitored growth. People learn-by-doing, not by listening. Skills- growth needs to be intrinsically linked to daily deliverables in people work for real training to occur. 5Solving the challenge of the over-worked, overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
  • 6. DISRUPTION HAS COME TO THE PUBLIC SECTOR The dynamics of public service is changing rapidly and it can be very confronting. As in so many sectors of the economy, disruption has come to the public sector. Depending on your attitude and skill- set, this represents either a blessing or a curse. The Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd recently outlined the changes and challenges facing the public service in this regard: “… the old structures and hierarchies have gone or are being modified. The digital revolution combined with the access to big data is going to visit massive change upon the modern workplace. Some postulate that 40% of current jobs will disappear by 2030. Turning and turning in the widening gyre. The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world WB Yeats, ‘The Second Coming’ It is just possible that the outcome … will be more flexible and productive work places populated with more interesting jobs. Some of the institutional arrangements around work will be challenged and if they do not adapt they will languish. I think we have to get involved with this. Basically get with it or be left behind. “ In Australia, downsizing is evident in public sector employment trends which previously represented 26 per cent of the working population in 1984 but now represents approximately 16 per cent (in 2006). Kryger, T. (2006), The Incredible Shrinking Public Sector, Parliamentary Library. Adaptive government involves directing performance towards the achievement of outcomes in an increasingly competitive environment. Prof. Peter Shergold AC Secretary, Prime Minister & Cabinet 2002-2007 p.x At the heart of John Lloyd’s statement is the prognosis that flexibility - both in terms of staffing, job description and attitude, as well as a requirement that people be accountable for delivering on ‘vision’ as well as a work plan - will increasingly be the norm in our workplace. There is a rapidly growing need for an entrepreneurial approch to the formation and delivery of public goods. In the words of the Public Service Commissioner: “Basically get with it or be left behind.” * http://www.apsc.gov.au/publications-and-media/speeches/2017/workforce-of-tomorrow-conference 6 Solving the challenge of the over-worked, overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
  • 7. PROTECT YOUR HEART People working in public administration have enormous hearts and a massive commitment to their work. However, what is required of us is changing. Our working environment is changing and success, satisfaction and effectiveness (not to mention promotion) are predicated on our willingness and ability to change with it. Being entrepreneurial and accountable for outcomes no matter where in the organisational hierarchy we sit occurs risky from the ASPD perspective. In reality, the real risk lies in not being entrepreneurial! As leaders in public service it is critical that we recognise the pressures this shift in mindset imposes on ourselves and on others in our environment. As in so many industries, the skills and attributes required for success are evolving faster than the structures that exist to provide those skills and to support us. We need to be conscious and gentle: carefully husbanding and protecting our energy and passion and making sure the effort (and the resources) we expend is directed at the most valuable and 28 per cent of public sector employees advised that they were ‘always’, ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ bullied at work compared to 10 per cent reported by private sector workers. D’Aleo, N., P. Stebbins, R. Lowe, D. Lees and D. Ham (2007). p.91 …it is more stressful to work in the public [than the private] sector because of significantly higher demands, despite higher levels of resources. Within Australia, workers’ compensation claims … caused by mental stress are higher in the public sector (57 per cent) than in the private sector (43 per cent). Bailey, TS, McLinton, SS, Dollard, MF. (2013). pp.63-89. efficient tasks, not squandered. It is my belief that every person in public service must confront the fact that the willingness to personally evolve and grow has become a pre- condition for both enjoying and for being good at our jobs. The alternative - to resist the new realities of work – is to become progressively, and in many cases rapidly, redundant. Worse perhaps, resisting the demand to transform our own and our teams’ operational behaviours actively undermines and bogs-down attempts to create change in other parts of the organisation. The personal and professional resources available to each of us are limited and must be carefully managed and directed. This is especially true now the demands being made on each of us, our teams and our organisations, are inherently greater than the systems and structures set-up to respond to those demands. In this environment, learning how to prioritise, focus and direct your limited personal and professional resources is more critical than ever. 7Solving the challenge of the over-worked, overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
  • 8. BUILDING THE INTREPRENEURIAL APPROACH 6 LEVELS OF INTREPRENEURIAL GROWTH There are 6 recognisable stages of development in an organisational culture as the capacity and context for intrepreneurial engagement increases. Each level represents a quantum in effectiveness and productivity for both the individual and for the team. There is a direct (though not linear) correlation between effectiveness (the ability to fulfil on goals and targets) and job satisfaction. In my experience, there also exists a strong, though hard-to-verify, correlation between effectiveness and return-on-resource investment. Level Modality Effectiveness 6 Super Networked - Non-foundational Massively engaged cross-organisational/sectoral teams. Leadership is de- personalised Organisational boundaries exist as indicators only. Delivery is spontaneous x10 5 Networked - Network functionality Powerfully engaged cross-functional/organisational teams. Resources seem to ‘appear’ as and when required. Organisational boundaries provide access to different modes of leverage. Clarity goes viral x8 4 Multi-layered Engagement - Foundational Effective internal and external participation and focus on common goals Organisational boundaries define engagement but don’t limit it. Excitement is contagious x6 3 Multi-level Engagement - Institutionally focussed Well operating internal teams engaging at arms-length with external parties Organisational boundaries strong and definitive but permeable. Excitement is permissible x4 2 Internal Engagement - Internally focussed Variable levels of cooperation and collaboration internally Organisational boundaries define the scope of operational effectiveness. Calm & strategic x2 1 Individual Operation - Individual self-interest rules Cooperation dependent upon immediate overlap of personal interests The organisation is a world-unto-itself. No effective ‘outside’ the organisation. Low energy x1 8 Solving the challenge of the over-worked, overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
  • 9. 1. Individual Operation The lowest level, best captured in 19th century novels such as Kaftka’s The Castle, is unfortunately not-yet completely extinct. This is where individual self-interest is the predominant motivator for action and engagement. People identify and engage with their immediate surroundings only. Delivery is defined by ‘ticking- the-box’, energy is low. Passion, excitement and creative thinking is resented or deeply suspect. 2. Internal Engagement This level remains prevalent in some parts of the public service in Australia. With some internal team-building and collaboration, the predominant experience working in this environment is usually one of calm and stability. Engagement with internal stakeholders is normal practice but effectiveness is relatively low because real creative ‘churn’ (which is invariably uncomfortable) is generally kept at the conceptual level only. Innovative input is not greatly valued and the distinction between policy formation and delivery is rigidly enforced. At this level, leadership and direct accountability is rarely called for and usually occurs both risky and unnecessary. The concept of engaging with and proactively managing (let-alone assuming) personal risk is essentially non-existent. The organisation’s boundaries naturally define the scope of influence/realm of action and the available resources. Common complaints associated with this level of operational effectiveness reflect an embedded (and hence sometimes invisible) lack of accountability for delivering on outcomes and can include: “the goal-posts keep shifting”; “people in authority refuse to take the lead” and; concerns about “lack of clarity”. In this context, both individual and collective effectiveness is limited to what can be imagined within pre-existing organisational conceptions and to variations on previous or extant processes and/or programs. Process is invariably privileged over productivity; organisational boundaries are rigidly (if sometimes unconsciously) enforced and; there is generally little hierarchical overlap or tension (perceived as a positive outcome). 3. Multi-level Engagement This is the level most public entities in Australia are currently approaching/striving for. At this level, the experience of internal staff is that they work well together, but that once beyond the immediate environment of team members, staff and line management, constructive engagement and stakeholder input tends to be either inconsistent or alternatively, overwhelming. At this level, both internal and external engagement can easily become an end-in-itself rather than a vehicle for program or policy improvement leading to the common refrain of ‘an endless round of endless meetings that get us nowhere fast’. In this environment, clear- value propositions can be hard to identify and articulate and by attempting to serve everyone all-the-time, no-one is well-served. This level is an essentially transitionary, unstable, uncomfortable and often frustrating one for a public institution to be operating at. Managing people, institutional structures and culture through the transition from the calm, steady single-direction Internal Engagement environment within the organisation (level 2) to Multi-layered Engagement within, across and outside the organisation (level 4) can be extremely challenging. Older habits and processes still have great affective influence and provide an ever-present refuge from the challenges iterated throughout this paper. Managing this transition for a public service leader takes a great deal of courage, a minimum of internal and hierarchical support, and good external and internal mechanism to develop and embed the new operational modalities. 9Solving the challenge of the over-worked, overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
  • 10. The advantage we have in Australia is that any one group/team/institution trying to make this transition is not doing so alone. The ambient level of organisational engagement in Australian public institutions is rising rapidly. Nonetheless, waiting for the tide to simply lift everyone together is not sufficient for many leaders. At this level, excitement about new possibilities (and associated risk) is permissible but progress can be patchy and the balance between providing leadership and allowing input hard to navigate. A key challenge for leadership is to continually distinguish between the appropriate maintenance of existing legacy processes and ‘loosening the bonds’ to allow for new modes of interaction and engagement. A key risk for people operating in a level 3 environment is that the more entrepreneurial staff (including yourself) can easily become cynical and burn-out. The public sector leader needs to keep a weather-eye open for those key individuals (and sometimes small groups of people) who are willing to charge ahead of the pack only to find themselves ‘yanked-back’ by a slower moving culture and resistance either above or below them in the hierarchy 4. Multi-layered Engagement Some public sector entities have broken-through to this level of operation, and reaped the benefits. The distinction between multi-level and multi-layered engagement may seem fine, but the operational tempo, level of accountability and engagement of staff up, down and across the hierarchy is profoundly different. The energy generated doing ‘the hard—yards’ in the previous stage starts to pay-off at this level and the momentum for change becomes self- generative. A self-reinforcing dynamic of innovation and momentum becomes operational and serves to pull all levels of the organisation forward by increments. This dynamic occurs because relationships within, across and outside the organisation have become premised on functional engagement and trust rather than organisational positioning. The quality of these relationships were often forged at the previous (highly uncomfortable) level of operational effectiveness and allow for new ideas to be mooted, developed (discarded) and modified in a safe and highly creative environment. Relevant information and perspectives are readily available from multiple sources both from within and without the organisation and organisational friction is minimised as people feel free to work up and down the hierarchy without overt reference to formal position or role description. In this context, creative-thinking is incentivised and rewarded with the respect of one’s peers and the process of innovation is ‘de-personalised’ as projects, models and approaches rapidly becomes the property of everyone. The relationship with ‘Risk’ (the bogey-man of previous levels) transforms at this level. Rather than a factor to be addressed and managed (often managed ‘out’), risk becomes a useful component of the bigger picture as it helps people distil discrete value propositions for key stakeholders and informs the iterative design process as implementation progresses. In this context, risk starts to play an important role ‘signposting’ progress as the profile evolves. Open-and creative discussions around risk also helps keep program implementation targeted and true to the initial policy-motivation and to real-world impacts. Critically, as common-goals and program value is progressively (re)defined in forms both internal and external stakeholders can identify with, the resources available to the project increase beyond those immediately available within any given organisational context. When this last outcome occurs, a critical step-change has been achieved and the self- perpetuating dynamic that characterises this level of operational effectiveness comes fully into play. As stakeholders identify their own and their institutional interests with a project, resource- constraints recede as a determining factor of project design and implementation and the scope for mutually-reinforcing creative-thinking by the people driving the project expands. This in turn expands the scope for proactive engagement 10 Solving the challenge of the over-worked, overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
  • 11. with risk and the identification and articulation of value. With an ever-clearer and more targeted conception of the value-proposition for key stakeholders (and resource-holders) people are incentivised to release further resources to the project, once again opening the scope of creative- thinking, and the self-generating dynamic kicks-in. With this dynamic operational, energetic, motivated and tightly interconnected teams (often cross-sectoral and cross-institutional) naturally coalesce around and drive innovation in all areas of the organisation. This approach, once embedded in an organisational context, is contagious. It is particularly attractive because it tends to cause people to play to their strengths, something people love to do. In this environment, people are pulled to make available the skills, temperaments, personal resources and attributes they bring to work with them, but which are often under-utilised. Staff satisfaction with work can be extremely high at this level of operation. Profoundly innovative and viable opportunities become realisable that, without this dynamic in place, were previously (literally) unimaginable. At this operational mode, trust acts a bit like a currency that is carefully husbanded, traded and most importantly, banked as capital. In a well- operating organisational market-place, trust (well- spent) serves to eliminate most organisational friction and, like other forms of capital, can substantially increase the returns (more trust) available from functions that were already operating reasonably well. The effect is somewhat like that of a mechanical ‘Flywheel’: energy stored in the slow building of relationships and creative discussion (often through the process of transitioning through level 3) can be expended in short, extremely productive bursts to produce truly fantastic, and seemingly instantaneous, results. For the public service leader committed to growing the level of effectiveness of their teams and institutions, seeing this dynamic come into existence is intensely rewarding. However, it also requires of them a fundamental change in their role; a transition that can be personally challenging but one that, if not achieved well, will undermine the stability of this operational level very quickly. That change is the shift from a manager responsible for content (outcomes), to a leader responsible for context (operating state) as well as content! This requires a new conception of leadership and engagement, but it also requires a willingness to ‘step-back’ from some of the emotional perks of leadership. A second risk that presents itself to the public sector leader at this operating level is the (generally unnoticed) adoption in the conversational environment of a self- congratulatory sense of a ‘journey completed’ allied to an implicit sense of superiority. People can begin to relate to the transition of the institution as complete and to look at other sectors (especially those still operating in the previous, ‘messy’ level of operation) with disdain hidden in words of advice and wisdom. At this level, it is more important than ever for people to remember that the fundamental context of a large organisation such as a public sector bureaucracy is institutional self-preservation (the psychopathic context). If the new modes of engagement and institutional momentum are not carefully nurtured, progress can be lost very quickly. 5. Networked Despite the exciting progress accomplished at the previous level, yet higher operating states can be observed in some large and small public and private institutions. At the Functionally Networked operating level, drawing analogies with the internal practices and culture of some major private sector corporations such as Apple or Google (or Lulu Lemon and Atlassian in the Australian context) is instructive. A common characteristic of this level of operation is that, no matter how big the institution, people report their experience to be one of working in a 11Solving the challenge of the over-worked, overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
  • 12. small, interconnected and supportive community. The progressive reconfiguration of the role of organisational boundaries observed at previous levels comes to fruition here. While at previous levels, structural (institutional) boundaries and cultural (operational) boundaries were coterminous, at this level from an operational perspective, organisational boundaries tend to fade into the background leaving only the bones of the institution to guide and direct the flow of operational behaviour and thinking. Organisational boundaries begin to occur like markers between functions rather than definitional indicators of roles and responsibilities. This evolution in the fundamental influence of the organisational structure embeds the kind of fluid ecosystem of operational units we saw come into existence at the previous level. The fundamentally hierarchical operating structure of public institutions does not disappear. It continues to provide the framework for defining individual roles and accountabilities, and linking policy with definable outcomes. Nonetheless, in a Functionally Networked operating environment the way things are done has shifted dramatically, with a substantial increase in both efficiency and effectiveness and scope for very rapid turn-around between conception and delivery. Indeed, one of the more easily recognisable features of an entity operating at this level is the criteria upon which people are assessed for inclusion or exclusion from project or policy teams. The institutional role and position of individuals becomes simply one of a number of attributes associated with them rather than a defining characteristic of their potential contribution. In this environment, traditional organisational siloes disappear and the energy released powers new levels of trust and innovation. Cross organisational and cross-sectoral adaptive groupings continually spring-up upon the identification of new problems and possibilities. The framing of a challenge or a possibility is inherently fluid and the discursive response naturally flows to where the greatest level of interest and capacity lie. The opportunities for individual leadership are extensive and stepping into them requires very little internal political capital or hierarchical backing. This level sees the self- generating dynamic of innovation and momentum discussed in the previous level embedded into the organisational framework rather than being something people do ‘despite’ their institutional environment. At this level, and for the first time, the institution itself is largely reimagined. This reflects and catalyses a profound change in the kinds of discussions that can and do occur within the organisation; one that most of us desperately hanker for and one that fulfils on the reason most of us initially entered public service. Previously, the institution itself (or rather the institutional environment) provided the foundational context in which all discussion occurred. Without the fundamental reimagining that occurs somewhere on the path of evolution between this and previous operating level, the psychopathic Pole of Attraction introduced at the beginning of this paper inevitably frames all discussions within the enterprise. This includes every aspect of engagement both social and professional and it cannot be avoided, only accounted for. At the level of Network Functionality, and for the first time, the role of the institution itself is reimagined and fades into the background as the distinguishing feature of engagement within, between and across instructions. The consequence of this is that the context in which discussions occur also shifts, opening new possibilities we are only starting to explore . 1 One of the most obvious, and positive, indications that an institutional environment has shifted to a Functionally Networked operating state is that people are willing to explore and dwell-in the real impacts of institutional decision-making at all levels and in all spheres of the organisation’s operations. This may seem like a self-referential statement as making a positive impact in the real-world is what government exists to do. It is certainly something most of us strive to achieve in our-day-to-day work. However, the reality is that despite the best-of intentions until the structural shift from a multi- layered to a Functionally Networked operating state occurs, internally-oriented processes will invariably trump externally-oriented impacts. As 12 Solving the challenge of the over-worked, overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
  • 13. discussed earlier, in the context of an inherent psychopathic operating environment (page 4), until the fundamental relationship people have with the institution shifts ALL discussions within an institution (both professional and social) occur within a reference of self-preservation. This is not to say that longer-term outcomes and a relatively broad definition of social value cannot guide bureaucratic outcomes at lower operating levels, but that directing institutional effort (and capital) towards these goals requires quite substantial and continued effort. Something any committed public administrator and leader can attest to. The good news is that, from a policy and program development and delivery perspective, the self- generating dynamic of innovation and momentum that came to fruition at the previous level becomes at this level, the natural state of interaction. The preservation of institutional structures as a guiding principal disappears as a context for engagement and the experience of what is possible through public service starts to fulfil on the impulse that led so many of us to choose this as a career-path in the first place. At its most basic level this means that access-to-resources concerns simply disappear from the lexicon and there comes into existence a belief that, with good ideas and the right people, the resources required will simply become available as they are needed, and invariably they do. For a public sector leader, the key to maintaining this operating level is to ongoingly notice it and to consciously compare it to what came before and what probably exists around you in other institutions/working groups. This operational state makes work a real buzz, but it also quickly becomes the water-you-swim-in and thus unremarkable. That many of the individuals and stakeholder groups you work with do not experience this operating state can be hard to recognise because the distinctions between levels 4 and 5 are largely internal (organisational operating structure and processes remain essentially indistinguishable). At this level, the key mistake people make is not noticing and managing these differences. Failing to notice, or failing to appropriately ameliorate the internal narrative leads to personal disappointment and to seemingly inexplicable hurdles and dislocation in work relationships that bleed into internal working arrangements and rapidly undermine the operating state. To maintain this level, staff morale and personal growth must become the absolute and primary focus of every person in the entity, especially the hierarchical leadership. In fact, at this level maintaining this operating state and focussing on the internal experience of the people working in it will become the key, and almost only, real responsibility of the organisational leader. This is a major shift in the definition of leadership from previous levels and requires an extremely high level of empathy and humility to be adequately fulfilled. 6. Super-Networked It is difficult to ascertain the degree to which this level of operation exists in an institutional context but the outlines of its operational style are increasingly becoming clear as people and organisations push up against this operating level. There are pockets of truly extraordinary institutional engagement and effectiveness that have unique but consistent characteristics and seem to fit the evolutionary paradigm that has been identified for the previous five levels. At the Super-Networked operational level, the organisational structure is relegated to providing an administrative and governance function only, with extremely limited strategic carriage in terms of policy and project development and delivery. This represents yet another shift in terms of what it actually means to be embedded in, and represent an organisation. It is still difficult to ascertain exactly what this means from the perspective of the individual working in that organisation, but the ramifications from a procedural perspective are much easier to identify and describe. Firstly, many of the distinctions we implicitly rely on to define the parameters of institutional engagement seem to be inverted or disappear entirely. This includes dichotomies such: ‘work’ and ‘play’, ‘public’ and ‘private’ or ‘senior’ and ‘officer’ 13Solving the challenge of the over-worked, overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
  • 14. (junior) roles. In particular, the content of the terms ‘hierarchy’ and ‘leadership’ seems to shift completely in level 6 operating environments. In a natural progression from the previous level, operational outcomes are achieved iteratively by progress through a fluid ecosystem of overlapping teams, individuals and groups with little reference to institutional or hierarchical position. These networks operate within and across sectors in pursuit of a dynamic set of public goods and outcomes that are continually being developed, reinforced and retired through engagement with multiple levels of society and government. Again, this does not mean that the hierarchical structure disappears or dissipates in any way. To the contrary, hierarchical relationships remain extremely important, but their functional reality changes substantially. As in lower levels of operational effectiveness, responsibility for the delivery and development of services and programs remains largely embedded in the middle and lower echelons of the hierarchy. What is new at this level of operational effectiveness is that decision-making and operational authority finally come together within the ambit of this ‘fluid ecosystem of overlapping teams, individuals and groups’ - a network that consists, overwhelmingly of people positioned at the lower levels of the organisational hierarchy. In effect, this means that the most important decisions regarding policy-direction, resource distribution and key internal procedural decisions such as hiring/firing, remuneration and performance management rests with people at what we would now distinguish as at-or-below the middle management level. It must be remembered that the realignment of operational and decision-making authority described here, and its ramifications in terms of the devolution of authority within the administration of public goods, does not occur particularly revolutionary in the context of what is only a minor step-change from the level 5 operating environment. It does however represent a revolutionary change from the perspective of the lower operating environments where the majority of Australia’s public sector institutions current sit (Levels, 2,3 and occasionally level 4). Indeed, from the perspective of people who do not have experience working in a level 5 (Functionally Networked) operating environment, what we are seeing as the outlines of the level 6 operating environment challenge our fundamental conceptions of what is possible within an hierarchically-organised entity premised on the appropriate distribution of public-goods . 2 At this stage, it is worth outlining a couple of the key ramifications of the potential the realisation of this operating state provides because, in each case, the ‘bones’ of this evolution can already be observed within Australian public institutions. Firstly, it is reasonable to expect that remuneration structures will follow this effective devolution of responsibility, though at a slower rate than the cultural and functional changes underpinning them. The initial stages of this evolution have been initiated in the Australian context and are well- advanced in some international jurisdictions. These include: the increasing transition from permanent to contract-based staffing arrangements; well- advanced discussions around the inclusion of performance-based pay for public servants (a framework that is already well-established in some American and European environments) and; the progressive revaluation of technical and skills-based expertise with commensurate pay- scales that are not referenced to the traditional hierarchical pay-grade system . 3 Secondly, in a Super Networked operating environment dysfunction manifests in a profoundly different way than at lower levels. Rather than being referenced to a systemic failing, dysfunction is directly referenced to a set of personal (not organisational) characteristics. This represents and reflects a profound alteration in the experience of working in an institution operating at this level. At previous levels (at least up to level 4) referencing personal behaviour and states-of-being divorced from the implicit protection of an institutional role is inherently alien to the way we conceive of institutional work except in the most extreme cases (e.g. explicitly corrupt or inappropriate behaviour). 14 Solving the challenge of the over-worked, overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
  • 15. However, at this level of operation, referencing dysfunction to the individual becomes spontaneous and commonplace. This dynamic represents a natural progression on the steadily rising requirement for personal integrity observed from at least the Multi-Layered Engagement level (level 4). At the Super Networked level of operation, it becomes virtually impossible to ‘hide’ any divergence between espoused and expressed values. At this level, there exists a permanent and very public operational dynamic that ensures any divergence has an immediate and measurable effect on the work environment, an effect that has real and immediate impacts on people who are in a position to remark and react. The dynamic is very simple. People instinctively withhold the gift of trust from people whose actions are not aligned with their personal or the collective understanding of appropriate values. In an operating environment where trust in relationships is the primary currency of interaction, people who are disempowered, dissatisfied or frustrated simply cannot be trusted to the degree required to maintain the ambient level of functionality extant in a level 6 operating environment. Over-time, as trust is withheld from particular individuals, their ability to effectively engage decreases and they are progressively excluded from effective input. In the extremely dynamic and creative environment that exists at this operating level, such exclusion shows-up very quickly and must be promptly dealt with or risk impacting the operating effectiveness of the whole group. One positive of this dynamic is that at this operating level it becomes difficult to hide emotions such as upset or anger (or depression) from colleagues . 4 BENEFITS OF AN EMBEDDED TRAINING APPROACH Best-practice learning is achieved on-the-job not in the class-room, so, to be effective, professional development for public sector staff should be structured around embedding the distinctions and lessons of Bureaucratic Intrepreneurship in daily work over an extended period. We know that people learn in multiple ways and that the average person needs to hear or see a concept at least seven times before they truly understand it. Training consequently needs to be tailored to maximise the opportunities for your staff to learn, practice and display the distinctions being taught. At the heart of a learning regime of this nature should, wherever possible, be real programs and outcomes. If a leader wants to move their teams and organisations from Multilevel (level 3) to Multi-layered (level 4) engagement it is critical that their staff are ‘on-the-hook’ to deliver outcomes using the new approaches, and that they have the opportunity to do so with others who are grappling with the same challenges. As the role of government evolves, so too does the role of the public sector leader. In an increasingly competitive environment, keeping you and your teams empowered and equipped to deal with evolving challenges is critical. Using Bureaucratic Intreprenership methodologies and approaches will help you to accomplish this. 15Solving the challenge of the over-worked, overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
  • 16. A BUREAUCRATIC INTREPRENEURSHIP TRAINING PROGRAM Built off twenty-years’ experience in the adult education, not-for-profit and public sectors, this program is aimed at unearthing and developing entrepreneurial and leadership talent in organisations and teams. The equivalent to a Company Directors’ course for public servants, this package represents the ultimate professional development program for rising stars in public administration. As the role of government evolves, so too does the role of the public sector leader. In an increasingly competitive environment, keeping you and your teams empowered and equipped to deal with evolving challenges is critical. As a leader, this program will help you develop and embed the entrepreneurial skills required of modern public sector employees in your staff and teams and further your career. It gives you confidence your staff will have the skills and support they need to be focussed, proactive contributors to the development and delivery of government policy in your department(s). As a participant, the program provides the tools and training required to remain focussed and be effective and influential in a rapidly changing environment and advance your career. The program is delivered in 90, 180 or 360 day components. Each component is built around a core set of distinctions that complement each other and form a complete 360-degree overview of what it means to understand, practice and eventually implement the skills of an entrepreneur in a public sector organisation. Ask for a Bureaucratic Intrepreneurship Training Prospectus or contact Sonny Neale if you would like to know more about the training programs that are available. Bespoke one, two or three full or half-day programs can be delivered according to the specific needs of your staff, circumstances and organisation. Solving the challenge of the over-worked, overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant16
  • 17. Sonny Neale is a coach, mentor and trainer for public sector and not-for-profit entities. He is passionate about the potential entrepreneurial thinking can bring to public administration. Through his work with local, state and federal government agencies and statutory bodies, Sonny has experienced first-hand the truly extraordinary results passionate public sector leaders and teams can achieve when they have access to the right skills and training. He is obsessed with the role government and the not-for profit sector has to play in solving contemporary social challenges and believes the potential for creative, innovative and transformational thinking and engagement in the public sector around the world has only begun to be show itself. Starting in adult education, Sonny has twenty years’ experience as a manager and leader in the public and not-for-profit sectors including five years leading Australia’s largest PEAK Local Government Sustainability Alliance (CVGA). Landmark accomplishments include playing a key role bringing the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to Australia, managing advocacy programs (Southern States) for the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) and leading the federal Government’s SME renewable energy research program. In these roles Sonny leveraged his position to create a range of extremely innovative projects including the country’s largest-ever street-lighting infrastructure upgrade (through 16 municipalities) and a national, award-winning Emergency Management Mentoring Program in partnership with Australian Army, Federal Police and all state governments bar WA (endorsed through the Council of Australian Governments). Sonny continues to write on inter-government collaboration and delivers coaching and training programs, as well supporting the development and delivery of innovative public sector programs. MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR Please contact me if you would like to know more about the Bureaucratic Intrepreneurial Training Program and approach or specifically what it might take to move your teams and organisation through the Stages of Effectiveness. www.sonnyneale.com www.linkedin.com/in/sonnyneale sonny@sonnyneale.com 0409 937 916 17Solving the challenge of the over-worked, overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
  • 18. We Care But You’re Responsible. So please be sure to take specialist advice before taking on any of the ideas. This white paper is general in nature and not meant to replace any specific advice. Sonny Neale disclaims all and any liability to any persons whatsoever in respect of anything done by any person in reliance, whether in whole or in part, on this whitepaper. COPYRIGHT © SONNY NEALE 2017 You have permission to post, email, print and pass along this white paper for free to anyone you like, as long as you make no changes or edits to its content or digital format. To reproduce the content in any form, electronic or otherwise, you must have the permission of the author. We reserve the right to publish this material in other forms and formats for distribution or re-sale. REFERENCES • Bailey, TS, McLinton, SS, Dollard, MF. (2013). ‘Psychosocial risk factors for stress and stress claim differences between the public and private sectors’, Human resource management in the public sector, Publisher: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited (UK), pp.63-89. • D’Aleo, N., P. Stebbins, R. Lowe, D. Lees and D. Ham (2007), ‘Managing workplace stress: psychosocial hazard risk profiles in public and private sector Australia’, Australian Journal of Rehabilitation Counselling, 13 (2), 68–87. • Kryger, T. (2006), The Incredible Shrinking Public Sector, Report, Australia: Information and Research Services, Parliamentary Library. • Martin, S. and D. Parker (1997), The Impact of Privatisation, London: Routledge. McKenna, D. (1995). • Richard N. Haass (1999), The Bureaucratic Entrepreneur: How to Be Effective in Any Unruly Organization, Brookings Institution Press (US). • Prof. Peter Shergold AC, (2015); Learning from Failure: Why large government policy initiatives have gone so badly wrong in the past and how the chances of success in the future can be improved, Australian Public Service Commission – Report from the independent review of Government processes for the development and implementation of large public programmes and projects. Solving the challenge of the over-worked, overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant18
  • 19. 1. There are very few institutions that have made the transition to level 5 operational effectiveness. Some have but it can be difficult to recognise them because the differences are largely expressed in the internal relationships between people and things, while organisational structures and processes remain more-or- less unchanged. The best examples of level 5 institutional operations that I know of exist in some of the northern Italian regional and municipal governments with a smattering in north American not-for-profit and smaller government agencies. There are certainly others, but as indicated here, they can be very hard to spot. 2. Two particularly interesting, and optimistic, consequences of the potential realisation of this operational state is that: it seems likely that moral and ethical criteria become more naturally linked to the processes that result in the functional distribution of public goods, and; secondly, engagement with public administration starts to provide real scope for the growth and expansion of the human spirit (another way of saying that the ‘psychopathic’ tendency of the institution no longer represents a Pole of Attraction within the institutional environment). 3. It is worth noting that everything described here in the context of employment in a level 6 operating environment already exists in a limited form in Australian public sector entities operating at much lower levels. This includes an increasing number of people whose careers increasingly consist of regular, limited- term contracts with a generally limited number of institutions with substantial policy cross-over who are employed because they exhibit key skills and attributes of interest to the institution. These contracts are usually situated near the bottom of the organisational hierarchy but exhibit almost all the characteristics of a level 6 operating state including being: directly accountable for specific outcomes; provided with a surprising high level of effective decision-making authority and; paid substantially more than their hierarchically-equivalent peers (and increasingly more than their managers). Expect to see a great deal more of this! 4. A fascinating and confronting corollary of this public requirement for personal integrity is that the traditional flow of accountability from the bottom to the top of the institution is functionally reversed. At this operating level, the more senior a leader, the more likely they are to be held to account by people lower in the hierarchy than they are, further entrenching the inversion of current traditional institutional norms. An appropriate analogy that describes this dynamic is the traditional coach/coachee relationship. The hierarchical framing of this relationship is foundational to its existence but the kind of authority embedded within it is very different from more traditional conceptions of the scope and limits of hierarchical authority. For example, the coach is expected to provide both the framework in which a coaching conversation occurs and the relevant distinctions, yet they have no authority to command or require any actions of the coachee. Conversely, the coachee provides all the content but has no authority to question the coach. END NOTES 19Solving the challenge of the over-worked, overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant
  • 20. NOTES Solving the challenge of the over-worked, overwhelmed, highly distractible public servant