Kym Winter-Dewhirst’s hot desk — open plan, open mind

By The Mandarin

Tuesday March 22, 2016

Kym Winter-Dewhirst
Kym Winter-Dewhirst

South Australian Department of Premier and Cabinet’s new open plan office fit-out was officially opened last month, and the state’s top mandarin hopes other departments will follow his lead.

DPC secretary Kym Winter-Dewhirst gave up his office in the process and now hot desks like everyone else on Level 16 of the State Administration Centre.

“I looked at it and thought, ‘I can’t work like this’,” Winter-Dewhirst told InDaily of the rows of cubicles he inherited.

“Every dollar I spend on this program results in the return of $6 … We want to run this program through the building, which will save $5 million to $6 million over the forward estimates.”

Not content with just tearing down the walls (and silos) the former BHP exec turned mandarin bought staff Microsoft Surface Pro tablets and upgraded boardrooms to facilitate collaboration on shared documents in real-time.

Stay within your means

Winter-Dewhirst didn’t seek any additional funds from Treasury for these upgrades, he says.

“In the first month I was here I set some basic rules,” Winter-Dewhirst says.

“Rule number one – and I’ve said it again and again – you cannot spend what you do not have. That challenged everyone, who were not quite used to doing that in many ways … People are now starting to think much more strategically about their part of the business … We don’t need to go to the budget process.”

Flat(er) structure?

The SA boss he says he came up with the flatter structure for DPC’s “very steep pyramid of command” while between his BHP and DPC roles. He wasn’t impressed with the 1400 page briefing that awaited him:

“From a purely organisational point of view, I looked at it and thought, ‘boy — this is a complicated system’. It looked overly complex. It did appear to me at first blush that the place had been used as a somewhere where you put things in government where you hadn’t quite worked out where you put those other things.”

Cleaning that up meant 11 DPC executives lost their jobs.

“There was nothing personal about it,” he says.

“I always felt that in this job time is my enemy … And so I decided I would make some significant changes and I would start at the top, and I would create opportunities for others to step up and seize a new agenda.”

Top photo by Nat Rogers, used with permission from InDaily.

Continue reading at InDaily to see more photos of the new DPC fitout.

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