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How ANZSOG works with the Tasmanian Government to strengthen capability

6 November 2019

News and media


Hobart evening shot

Developing leadership and capability to operate in an increasingly complex environment is a challenge for all public services.

ANZSOG began working with Tasmania’s State Service Management Office (SSMO) in 2016 to help them meet that challenge by designing and delivering a program that provides national and international expertise, but recognises the unique context of Tasmania.

The leadership program has now finished its third year and has been completed by a total of 96 senior officers. The program’s objectives are to:

encourage executives from different agencies to work collaboratively
build skills in high level thinking and leadership skills
undertake a work-based project, which considers the future of work and real-world problems facing the public sector.

SSMO Director Jane Hanna said that ANZSOG had been chosen as the preferred provider because it was a global leader in education and government-focused research relevant to the public sector.

“Tasmania, like every jurisdiction in Australia and New Zealand, has a public service operating in an environment of increasing complexity,” she said.

“ANZSOG and SSMO have together created a deep and genuine commitment to building leadership capabilities in the State Service by exposing them to senior leaders – academics, practitioners and politicians.”

ANZSOG Associate Dean Dr Chris Walker was the leader of the intensive six-day program in 2019, which he said focused on contemporary challenges for senior executives of public service agencies, with an emphasis on leadership and strategy.

“The program looks at the growing need for public sector agencies to collaborate and develop a multi-portfolio response to problems,” he said.

“ANZSOG can draw on its national and international networks, and experience of working with other jurisdictions, to benefit participants.”

He said that participants appreciated the program’s practical focus and the chance to hear from ‘heavy-hitter’ practitioners from across Australia, as well as academics who understood the challenges public managers were facing, and how they applied to Tasmania.

“We are not just teaching them generic Leadership 101. We have a lot of familiarity with the work they are doing, as well as experience in executive education with adults who are already working at a high professional level,” he said.

“People are interested in a grand view of leadership as well as what is happening in a local context. For example, the feedback when we have put together a panel of four Tasmanian secretaries is great – people always wish it had gone for longer.

“We draw on academics who have an emphasis on engaging with issues in an applied context, such as myself and Professor Liam Smith from Monash University’s BehaviourWorks.

“Our teaching focuses on debate and discussion with participants. We engage academics with that orientation: it’s not just about what you should know, but also about how we can make it work in the context of your work.”

Practical focus delivers benefits

Professor Walker said that the program had looked at some non-traditional issues – dealing with extreme outside agitators, such as protesters, sessions on community engagement and dealing with the media.

Course presenters have included former Victorian Police Commissioner Christine Nixon, and former Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett, who shared insights from his political career in a session on politics and policy, and his views on the importance of emerging technology to policy and what changing technology means for community engagement.

Trevor Hill, IT Director at the Tasmanian Department of Education, was a 2018 participant and said he liked the program’s mix of practical and theoretical focus.

He said that spending every day with a different group of public sector colleagues from across Tasmanian government departments gave a great insight into different viewpoints and had helped him think more about how his team could have more input into his agency’s broader service delivery.

“Even though I’ve been in the public sector for 20 years and have been part of various whole-of-government working groups, this program added more because it was an open discussion across high-end topics, not based on specific issues or projects,” he said.

“Speakers like former Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett showed us how the political thinking plays out, when we’ve normally approached things from an operational perspective.

“The speakers have all got great practical knowledge. They told the horror stories. They didn’t try to hide anything, just told you what might happen and how you could take a different path.”

He said the most useful session for him was one run by Nick Fleming on complex problems.

“The workshop highlighted that there are very few truly complex problems and taught us how to recognise the ones that are. It was a really useful session. I’d have liked to bring my twenty or so top people to it,” he said.

Kate Polglase, Principal Legal Officer at the Department of Communities Tasmania, was a 2019 participant and said that she benefited from the program’s focus on leadership and the chance to work with people from other departments.

“The speakers were a good blend of academic and practical-focused people,” she said.

“What I was not expecting was for speakers to relate their material to what was relevant to policy in Tasmania, but that was a highlight, how they tied it together and brought out the common themes.

“The key thing I learnt about leadership was that it is not a position, it’s an action. I really enjoyed the Christine Nixon session; you can be a leader at any point in your life.”

She said doing the program had helped her change her leadership style to become more consultative and more aware of the competing interests involved in decision making.

Ms Hanna said the course was delivering the benefit of building stronger networks across agencies and connecting senior officers.

“We have a program that stretches participants in many leadership aspects,” she said.

“It has created an environment of genuine collaboration where senior executives can discuss complex policy issues and discuss a broad range of topics from many perspectives.”

Tasmania Program details

ANZSOG select faculty for each program delivery, based on the SSMO’s requirements, with a mix of practitioner and academic experience.

The 2019 program was led by ANZSOG Associate Dean (University Relations) Dr Christopher Walker. He was joined by ANZSOG Professor (Practice) and Associate Dean Gill Callister, Dr Christine Nixon, Dr Nick Fleming (Innergise), Professor Liam Smith (BehaviourWorks), Maura Angle (The Media Angle), Emma Fletcher (DemocracyCo), and a range of local contributors including Jenny Gale (Head of the State Service and Secretary, Department of Premier and Cabinet), Kim Evans (Secretary, Department of State Growth), Michael Pervan (Secretary, Department of Communities Tasmania), Ginna Webster (Secretary, Department of Justice) and John Whittington (Secretary, Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment).

The two modules delivered over six days included topics on leadership and change; being strategic; public value; complexity and problem analysis; collaboration in practice; human behaviour; authentic communication skills; democratic policy; policy and politics; technology and the future.

Tailored Learning

ANZSOG works with governments to deliver tailored learning approaches that help to meet the professional development needs of public sector officers, executives and leaders.

Contact us using the Tailored learning enquiry form to find out how we can design a solution for your organisation.