Transformation nation: set free the public sector’s intrapreneurs


OPINION: Intrapreneurs are the public service warriors who won’t accept the status quo and embrace change. If the bureaucracy wants more intrapreneurs, the system must change to allow good ideas and good people to flourish.

The system is broken. We are burning more and more money to achieve fewer outcomes, like the wasted ideas boom ads and exclusive agendas. Making big splash announcements of giving more incentives to investors (who were investing anyway) while we are no closer to dealing with big demographic challenges.

Talk to some people in government and they tell you the status quo is killing good ideas and losing good people. A failed program isn’t just an embarrassment to a politician, it’s a disaster for the people it was meant to help and a blow to the public servants who have to administer bad policies, programs and projects. Process-driven systems are failing people — both our employees and citizens.

“The cost of staying the same is greater than adapting to change.”

Will anyone care in six months’ time to remember what was promised and what was delivered?

Take the NSW Premier’s innovation initiative — almost three years down the track and nada, nothing, zip — well, don’t know about you but I reckon that one is so dead it’s gone. Is it acceptable that a program like this run by the Department of Premier and Cabinet, no less, can just disappear?

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  • Geoff Edwards

    Sounds optimistic, Anne-Marie. In reading your post, I don’t think I’m quite crystal clear as to what is your diagnosis of the causes of the ills besetting the current “broken” system, or their remedies.

    If the cause (or at least one common cause) is the predilection of governments for announcing new programs such as innovation incentives without putting in place the preconditions for them to actually happen, then I fully agree. I suggest that this is partly because most Australian governments now hold to a faulty theory, being the assumption that business drives economic activity whereas in fact economic activity depends upon a range of public institutions such as research, education and prudential regulation, supplied by public agencies. Business is a beneficiary of these services not the driver of them.

    As to the remedies, I am wondering whether the key ingredient of the success you have been observing is digitisation as such, or rather collaboration + codesign. If digitisation as such, it would seem not to be a universal remedy because not all public functions can be automated; and some such as nursing will always require face-to-face human interaction. If collaboration + codesign is the key to success, with digitisation simply being the trigger or rationale, then yes it could be applicable to all bureaux dealing with multi-headed policy challenges. So long as they are funded adequately.