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Measuring public value in the 21st century: learn how with Mark Moore

13 September 2017

News and media


In two decades the concept of ‘public value’ has become widely known across the public sector as a way of understanding the unique role of government and the unique benefits it can provide to communities.

Now Harvard Professor Mark Moore, the creator of the concept, returns to Australia to present a ANZSOG workshop on how public value thinking can be adapted to meet the practical challenges of the 21st century public servant.

His work has given public servants a set of concepts that value what they do, and encourage them to think more deeply about their work, and to deliver improved outcomes for their communities. 

Breaking away from the trend of transferring private-sector concepts and business-speak to the public sector, without regard for their relevance or suitability, public value appeals to many public servants because it encapsulates the reasons they joined the public sector.

Professor Moore has years of experience across the world in determining how public value can be identified and created, and how to apply it to specific problems. His most recent book, Recognising Public Value (2013), takes the concept a step further and outlines a way of measuring performance in organisations where profit is not the sole reason for being.

Public sector managers now operate in a ‘VUCA’ (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world. Their authorising environments keep changing and their organisational capacity is no longer fixed, with public sector managers often relying on contractors or other agencies to get the job done. Despite this, they are expected to deliver quality outcomes amid political uncertainty and the demands of a 24-hour media cycle.

Identify, capture and measure

To respond to these complex, contemporary challenges, ANZSOG has designed with Professor Moore the executive workshop, Recognising Public Value. It delivers on the promise of Professor Moore’s teaching and writing for public officials: how to identify, capture and measure public value in the work that governments do.

It will help public sector managers answer the question: what does success look like and how do we get there?

While many public servants may have heard of Professor Moore’s ‘strategic triangle’, most have not been trained in how to use this organising framework to guide their thinking and daily decision-making. In simple terms, the triangle asks managers to consider their organisational capacity, legitimacy and public value before deciding on a course of action.

Justin Rowlands, General Manager for Customer Services at NZ’s Department of Internal Affairs, was part of the 2016 intake in ANZSOG’s Executive Fellows Program – and says that learning how to use the strategic triangle inspired him to think more deeply about how to drive improvement in his organisation.

“The ‘strategic triangle’ concept is something that resonated with me. It was a real benefit to be able to pitch ideas in that format, and I did sometimes think “if only I’d known that before,” Mr Rowlands said.

Mr Rowlands was inspired by the course to instigate an organisation-wide program to communicate with frontline staff and harvest their ideas for improving DIA’s operations.

“You pick up some brilliant one-liners and one that stuck with me was Mark Moore’s harnessing ‘the restless, value-seeking imaginations’ of people. I was looking for staff who wanted to be innovative but were buried so deep within the organisation that their voices were hard to hear,” Justin said.

Real life experiences

The Recognising Public Value workshop will focus on implementation strategies of Moore’s theories on how to identify, capture and measure public value in the work that governments do.

Professor Moore brings to his teaching a wealth of understanding gained through research, observation and the case method of teaching. He facilitates a learning environment well suited to senior executives accustomed to high-level independent thinking and action.

Using the case method of teaching, he gets participants to put themselves in the shoes of a particular manager and to bring their different perspectives and experiences to addressing their problem. This allows for a diverse and robust discussion which allows participants to reflect on the issues in their own workplaces.

Professor Moore continually urges participants to focus on the long-term and on major issues with a big impact on performance, concentrating on an organisation’s ultimate ends, not short-term needs.

Participants are also urged to focus on the ‘value chain’ as a whole, not just their particular role in delivering public value.

Public value is a concept that has stood the test of time and inspired thousands of public sector managers.

Professor Moore’s workshop takes public value into a new era and explains how it can be used in the challenging environment of the Australian public service in the 21st century.

Recognising Public Value will be held in Melbourne on 9-10 November, registrations are now open.