Geoff Gallop: public sector education and the art of strategy

The business of government and the role of public servants is changing — the educational pathways for bureaucrats need to change with it. The art of strategy is a class for all.

It’s now over a decade since the push to extend and improve public sector education began in Australia, the creation of the Australia and New Zealand School of Government at the national level and the Graduate School of Government in New South Wales being two case studies. All of this was inevitable and necessary — the philosophy and practice of government was changing and along with it legislation and policy for public servants and the public sector more generally.

It posed some questions. What did it mean to be a good public sector manager in 21st century Australia? What should be taught by our schools of government?

Part of the answer to those questions took us to modern managerialism. Good government required good management and that had to mean education in a wide range of technical capacities and skills, including those we need to inform, consult (and in some cases engage) the public, to utilise new technology and new management systems in the interests of efficiency and effectiveness, and to give policy advice using multiple criteria and the best evidence available.

The second part of the answer takes us to the issue of governance generally and the need for an education in thinking and acting strategically. Geoff Mulgan, who worked in the British Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Office between 1997 and 2004, called it “the art of public strategy” or “mobilising power and knowledge for the common good”. Plenty of textbooks followed on strategic planning and implementation, including one by Mulgan himself.

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