Chris Chapman: resilience from giving permission to change

INTERVIEW: When change happens faster than many can keep up, ACMA is driven to stay relevant. ACMA chair Chris Chapman talks about his 10-year transformation exercise and giving staff permission to experiment.

In 2006 the public sector was in a very different place, and Chris Chapman, the then newly installed head of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, was about to undertake a plan that would initially provoke scepticism and later near sector-wide consensus.

Approaching the end of two five-year appointments, Chapman (pictured) will today release the fourth iteration of its internal review, meeting our standard, cataloguing nearly a decade of transformation of virtually every aspect of the agency.

“At first staff found it an oddity,” Chapman tells The Mandarin, sandwiched between initially sceptical staff and no blessing externally. “You’re the idiot in the middle … that’s not management, that’s leadership.”

“You feel naked; this is a very unusual thing to have done. The transformation was multifaceted with a lot of external indicators that are used internally as well. The success of transformation, which is ongoing and never reaches an end point, is the degree to which it becomes part of your DNA.”

FREE membership to The Mandarin

Receive unlimited access, get all the latest public sector news and features, plus The Juice, our daily news update sent direct to your inbox.

The Mandarin is where Australia's public sector leaders discuss their work and the issues faced within modern bureaucracy. Join today to discover the latest in public administration thinking and news from our dedicated reporters, current and former agency heads and senior executives.