A myriad of challenges, expectations and pressures have been applied to public administration over a period of decades. As long-standing institutions, Commonwealth, State and Local governments have experienced every business trend and have both created and adopted successive major reforms. In today’s climate, the ongoing professionalisation of the sector’s personnel, responsiveness to community expectation, implementing collaborative governance models, enhanced leadership capability and the adoption of emerging technologies are only a small number of the many drivers for action.

Thornton Mack’s team is experienced in operations, leadership and consulting to the sector and, as importantly for clients, has significant exposure to private and not for-profit business. The result of this combination is that we can assist the Public Administration Sector to reinvigorate and change in light of a broader context while at the same time understanding the potential constraints and issues which the sector faces from the perspective of direct experience.

Government organisations, the security and defence industries have used our services to:

Case Study

Assessing the culture of a division

A range of incidents in a division had created serious concern in the CEO’s mind about the business culture. We were engaged to examine the management and business culture and provide a report.

Action

After an initial verbal briefing from the division head, information on the business vision and values, objectives, structure and relevant incident reports was gathered and reviewed as context. Structured interviews were then conducted with key executives, senior managers and a selection of staff – over 40 in all – in association with which most also completed a short survey aimed at identifying the aspects of culture within and across business units in the division.

End result

A report, identifying cultural attributes and differences across the division, was provided to the Director prior to a face-to-face debrief. The report identified six key cultural attributes which had contributed to the problems being experienced and provided over a dozen actionable recommendations – all of which could be taken by the Director in consultation with peers and without the need for further consulting assistance.

Building the performance of teams in a new branch

Changes in roles and accountabilities following a re-structure were posing challenges to new managers and their teams. The executive could see opportunities to improve working relationships and team performance, and wanted a framework to stimulate improvement over time.

Action

After an orientation meeting to explain the approach to directors, an information session on BELBIN® team roles was held for directors and managers by video-conference. Individuals then completed their Self-Perception Inventory on-line and 1:1 feedback was provided to each person by phone. Observers for each participant were agreed and after those had been completed, further individual and team reports were produced. An initial feedback session with directors was followed up with a one day off-site for the branch leaders where all participants received and reviewed that reports, and completed activities on their personal results and their team results.

End result

Action plans for team development, drafted on the day of the workshop, were finalised by directors and used to further team development. Debriefs and complimentary follow up support were provided by the consultant.

Coaching an executive leader

The boss of a high performing executive felt that some aspects of her employee’s operating style would benefit from the assistance of a coach. While the coachee was seen as a true talent, and a high performing member of the executive team, the boss was keen to support her coachee’s career progress.

Action

After establishing that the coach and coachee were compatible and setting the ground rules for the coaching relationship, a series of meetings was planned to identify areas of immediate focus and longer term goals for change. Feedback from a range of stakeholders was elicited by the coach and used to inform the coaching plan. Review meetings with the boss and follow up between the coachee and stakeholders continued throughout the agreed timeframe.

End result

The value derived from an initial 4 month period of coaching triggered an extension of support. In all, the assignment lasted 8 months and left the coachee with the satisfaction of measurable achievement, highly positive feedback from the boss and the skills to stay on-track in the future.

Reviewing support service needs

A range of temporary roles and arrangements had been put in place to drive internal improvements in the areas of pricing, billing, program coordination and general business support. The executive team asked Thornton Mack to examine the arrangements and business requirements, and recommend a suitable structure for implementation. Budget was a key constraint, so any proposal for change had to clearly demonstrate value for money and the capability to deliver.

Action

Services, functions and staff in scope for the review were identified in sessions with the head and group executives, and their views on potential arrangements were sought. Interviews with key staff, data gathering and document review informed further understanding of the business requirements andissues. Findings were checked and qualified in more focused consultation with the senior executive and the organisation performance team, where implications and options were openly debated.

End result

Thornton Mack recommended a structure for the four main functions which met budget and benefit expectations. The report clarified responsibilities, boundaries and hand-over points between functions, resolved capability gaps and provided implementation steps to enable the business to improve both efficiency and effectiveness over the near and medium term.

Sustainable resourcing in a specialised team

The leader of a strategic vendor management directorate was looking for assistance in dealing with the impact of staff turnover on their team’s capability and reputation within the business.

Action

When the directorate was established, positions had been created to fit single functions. After reviewing the team’s remit, the consultant proposed that staff roles be realigned across functions in a client-centered model. This had the additional benefits of dealing with key person risk, enriching the relationship of the team with the business, creating job interest and fostering knowledge sharing.

End result

Once the new operating model was defined and agreed with the Director, jobs were redesigned and the knowledge and skill requirements defined. Existing staff were placed in the best-fit roles by agreement. A knowledge transfer and skills development program was designed and initiated, with the Director acting as lead mentor on technical skills development while the consultant worked with staff to enhance their relationship management and reporting ability. Along with an orientation kit and other tools, the Director was provided with a lasting program for ongoing growth of the team.

Realignment of structure following a merger

Following the administrative creation of a new entity from two former government agencies, new organisational arrangements had been recommended to the Executive Director by an independent consultant. An implementation plan was now needed and no resources were available to undertake the project.

Action

Executive sponsorship and a steering committee, project budget and a project management office, project communications (e.g. intranet site, newsletters), progress reporting and stakeholder management were put in place at the outset – including a consultation process with staff and unions. Following drafting of a functional organisation structure and incorporation of feedback from stakeholders, a suite of position descriptions were developed and workshops conducted with staff to walk through the results. A number of key business processes, which were impacted by the organisation change, were identified in these reviews and revised to mitigate risk and reflect new arrangements. When the design and planning stages of the project were completed, the Executive Director reconfirmed the final and overall results in an all-staff meeting.

End result

When workshops were completed and feedback reviewed by the Steering Committee, a resourcing change management plan was finalised to guide employee placement and recruitment. In addition, a transition plan was provided to support the steering committee and project management office in implementation and the communication and consultation mechanisms established during the project became core tools to support change.

Implementing a new business support system

The new executive director of an asset management division needed a system to coordinate the work of four branches with complementary and yet potentially overlapping remits, following a realignment of the organisation. A common approach to planning, scheduling, resourcing and monitoring work to achieve focus and drive results was needed, and managers would be required to move from their current practice to a new, common way of operating.

Action

Following analysis of current plans, and the management and reporting needs of the new division, business requirements were signed off by the director. Thornton Mack’s Work Planning tool was then customised and presented to the management team along with a systematic approach to planning, reporting and performance management. Workshops and individual review and coaching sessions were conducted to fine-tune the deliverables and aid the managers in adjusting their work practices, and those of their staff.

End result

The new business support system was adopted by managers and used by the executive director to carry on coaching the managers and drive performance of the branches.

Implementing a leadership effectiveness and cohesion program

Substantial changes were made to the structure and function of a major division, including creation of new service lines and a cross-divisional management function. The CEO needed to put sustainable planning and management systems in place for the leadership team – most of whom were taking on new or additional responsibility.

Action

Thornton Mack met with the CEO and each senior manager to understand their concerns and identify key gaps in current arrangements. A terms of reference was drafted, to define working arrangements for the team, and a high level framework for planning and service delivery was developed. Following this, a two day leadership workshop was held to agree how the team would work in future regarding planning, developing the culture, managing risk and monitoring progress.

End result

Each leader exited the program with a new set of agreed business methods and tools to use jointly with peers, a level of shared understanding with their colleagues and ownership of a joint plan. Individual managers were provided with guidance on implementation approaches for their group.