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Seven things to think about in 2024

3 January 2024

News and media


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As the COVID-19 pandemic recedes even further into the past, the work of the public sector will remain as complicated as ever in 2024. Public sector leaders will need to respond to difficult economic times, a volatile global political environment, and the seemingly sudden rise of Artificial Intelligence as typified by ChatGPT.

In Australia, the biggest political issue of 2023 was the debate over the Voice, and while the referendum to establish it was defeated, the importance of finding new ways for governments to work with First Nations peoples will continue through 2024.

Below are summaries of seven recent articles from the ANZSOG website, all tackling a different aspect of the challenges facing the public sector, and all featuring one or more of the high-level academics and practitioners that share their expertise in ANZSOG’s programs.

How to sharpen your political nous in government

Political nous is a key skill for public servants who want to be effective without being drawn into partisan politics. But it’s one that is rarely formally articulated. Nous involves building trust with elected officials, understanding the broader political environment, and being bold and proactive, while at the same time, understanding there are right times and places for communicating ideas to decision-makers. ANZSOG’s Sally Washington draws on her experience in Aotearoa New Zealand to explain how to improve your relationship with elected officials, and be influential without losing your independence. Read More

Why understanding data and digital are essential for your future

Former NSW Minister Victor Dominello spearheaded the digital transformation of service provision in New South Wales. He says all leaders in the digital age need to get up to speed on the digital world and its tools to have any chance to being effective. Building in-house capacity to use data better is vital, as is creating a culture that understands the importance of collecting and sharing quality data and using it to drive change. He says governments that can innovate in a way that benefits citizens will see trust increase. Read More

What works in leadership development?

Well-skilled people are a vital asset for any public sector organisation but only 10 per cent of leadership programs deliver concrete results. The Harvard Kennedy School’s Dr Dana Born, a world authority on leadership development and a regular presenter of ANZSOG programs, says that leadership development works best, and was able to show an impact and a return on investment, when it changed ‘the whole person’ and delivered psychological value. She outlines seven factors that contribute to effective leadership programs which can drive personal growth, a clearer sense of self, greater meaning and purpose in life and at work, greater happiness, and reduced stress. Read More

How to support staff and change systems to reduce burnout

A 2023 study conducted by The Future of Work Lab at the University of Melbourne found that 50 per cent of workers between 25-55 were exhausted in their job, with about 40 per cent reporting feeling less motivated about their work than pre-pandemic. Future of Work Lab’s Leah Ruppaner says all organisations need to support employees work/life alignment and look at their structures to reduce stress and create a stronger sense of purpose. These issues are particularly important for the public sector, as it seeks to retain employees and build high-performing teams. The chronic job stressors that cause burnout come from several kinds of ‘mismatches’ that reflect a bad fit between the job and basic human needs, such as competence, belongingness and psychological safety. Read More

Learning to work with First Nations Peoples

In 2023 ANZSOG launched a new program on working with First Nations, structured around the Priority Reforms in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. Program leads Geoff Richardson PSM and Professor Catherine Althaus talk about how public service need to change their thinking to build partnerships with First Nations communities where decision-making and accountability are shared. They talk about the importance of being open to First Nations culture, bringing together the siloed efforts of the many organisations, government and non-government, working to address disadvantage and shifting from a ‘service delivery modality’ to one that creates long-term development. Read More

Making your organisational transformation a success

Seventy per cent of attempts to transform organisations fail, but every public sector leader is confident they will be in the thirty per cent that don’t. Grant Freeland, adjunct Professor at Dartmouth Tuck and a former Global Leader and Senior Partner at the Boston Consulting Group, says leaders who don’t underestimate the difficulty of change, and understand where their organisation is starting from have the best chance of delivering successful change. But to do so they need to get buy-in from senior leaders and then the rest of the organisation, and have the resilience to push through tough times. Read More

Working with uncertainty and discomfort

Public servants need to learn to deal with increased uncertainty, outdated structures of spending and accountability, and the greater expectations placed on governments in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, says Professor Paul ‘t Hart. He says that public servants can’t risk-manage their way out of the reality of a world that is going to throw up more shocks, and governments need to change the way they work with a focus on collaboration and taking a broader perspective on challenges, and how they are interlinked. Read More