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Creative videos enliven DFAT’s red tape busting

When diplomat Louise Hand came back to Canberra after an overseas posting, she was tasked with putting the recommendations of Barbara Belcher’s independent review of internal red tape into action, but she didn’t want to produce yet another long and detailed report to the secretary.

Instead, she decided to convey the findings of her review and her 70 recommendations to strip out unnecessary red tape from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the form of a short video that shows the difficulties she identified. Hand found $16 million in potential savings and a lot of the recommendations have already been implemented, cutting out an estimated 36,000 unnecessary transactions already. And it was clearly a lot of fun, too.

Members of the Institute for Public Administration Australia got a preview at a forum on the overall push to simplify and streamline public service procedures in March. Now DFAT has made the video — and its new sequel — available to readers of The Mandarin.

Apparently, the creative first assistant secretary even darkened the room and served popcorn when she first showed it to senior executives. Some of the biggest changes DFAT has implemented as a result are short “stand-up meetings” held in common areas of the building that only last 7-10 minutes and forbid  “long explanations” as well as increased use of verbal briefing.

One of the key overall themes of the experience is to create a culture of permission in DFAT, where relatively junior staff are trusted more to question the need for time-consuming process.

The videos have both been seen by senior staff members are are being disseminated to the whole organisation including overseas posts over the next week. The department estimates it only cost $110 to make both with an existing handheld camera and in-house talent.

The sequel follows up on the stories of the characters in the first video to see how they have overcome their struggles with complex processes that keep them from applying the skills and experience they are employed for.

Author Bio

Stephen Easton

Stephen Easton is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Canberra. He's previously reported for Canberra CityNews and worked on industry titles for The Intermedia Group.