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Managers and political astuteness: Lessons for the Victorian Public Service

13 May 2014




Public managers work in an inherently political environment. They must work with external institutions and stakeholders – government and civil society organisations; lobbyists and pressure groups as well as with internal factions or groupings. The growing role of outside bodies in influencing policy and co-producing services – and the requirement for managers to interact with such bodies – increases the need for managers to exercise the skills of political astuteness. Meanwhile, globalisation and uncertainties about world governance, national stability or local priorities may have unexpected repercussions. A 24-hour news cycle and ever-present social media demand rapid responses by governments and a keen appreciation by managers of how policy and practice are perceived by media and public audiences. Most public managers will be familiar with the ‘wicked problem’ – one where there is little agreement about what the problem is, who is responsible for it and especially how it might be tackled.

As these problems become increasingly prevalent for governments and public services, managers must become more attuned to the political challenges and tensions that go with them. How they navigate this landscape is the focus of this paper.

This is a Victorian Public Service Commission/ANZSOG Occasional Paper. It is an output from the ANZSOG-funded project Leading with Political Astuteness.

Suggested citation

Hartley, J., Alford, J. Hughes, O. & Yates, S. (2014). Managers and political astuteness: Lessons for the Victorian Public Service. VPSC/ANZSOG Occasional Paper. Melbourne: ANZSOG.

Authors: Jean Hartley, John Alford, Owen Hughes and Sophie Yates
Published Date: 13 May 2014

Case study

Download the case study: hartley_et-al-2014-managers-and-political-astuteness (PDF 240 KB)