Tom Burton: Shetler’s challenge in the court of the mandarins


paul-shetler

Malcolm Turnbull’s new star recruit for his $250 million digital transformation play, UK tech bureaucrat, Paul Shetler, will have some interesting challenges when he arrives from London in a few weeks.

Malcolm Turnbull’s new star recruit for his $250 million digital transformation play, UK tech bureaucrat, Paul Shetler, will have some interesting challenges when he arrives from London in a few weeks.

For those of us who have drunk the digital Kool-Aid, the tech revolution will take no prisoners. But many of Canberra’s hard-nut career bureaucrats remain to be convinced.

The bright star that was Gov 2.0 flamed out, partly because it had no ministerial patron after then Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner retired. But that movement also waned because the promise of open government and personal democracy is not something that interests the top end of the federal bureaucracy.

If any thing the opposite. The slow, quiet and largely unprotested death of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, which had a remit over freedom of information, is a good reminder the culture of quiet and private decision making, runs very deep in Canberra.

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  • Shahbahraz

    Nice piece. The biggest challenge is that the public service does not do failure, so it will not take risks.

    The first question asked when change or innovation is proposed, is “who else in commonwealth government has already successfully done that?” As Sir Humphrey might put it, “anything can be done, but nothing must be done for the first time”. How can you build a digital culture on that basis?

    The second biggest challenge is a culture of perverse incentives. By creating a competitive model for scarce spending, we create a model that encourages overblown claims on scope, cost and time, so we then have projects that are doomed to fail by the standards they were sold on. Finally, we create the perverse incentive that politically, Mandarins need their colleagues to fail, as it is much easier to prevent a colleague succeeding, than to genuinely deliver change, which might itself fail.

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