Stephen Sedgwick: culture kills the strategy — so fix the culture

In his final days in the role, the outgoing Australian public service commissioner reflects on culture, performance management and skilling the service for future needs.

As many of you will know, I’m very proud of our Australian public service. The evidence is clear that it is a well-led resilient institution with a committed workforce that exists to advance the interests and wellbeing of Australia and its citizens.

That evidence is to be found, for example, in the pages of the State of the Service report (which, amongst other things shows consistent rises in employee engagement over the past three years); and in the reports of capability reviews (which consistently praise the commitment of APS employees).

Yet we face the need to deliver not just incremental change but transformational change if we are to meet contemporary needs. The necessary changes are not confined only to what the APS does for citizens on behalf of the government of the day. They relate also to how we organise and govern ourselves.

Why do I say that? Let’s start with the second issue: how we organise and govern ourselves.

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