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Transforming an agency in crisis: driving change at the Immigration Department (A) 2011-120.1

14 October 2014



The Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) had been through a tough few years when, in July 2005, Andrew Metcalfe returned to his old agency as Secretary. A few serious slipups and the consequent public backlash had played a part in the dismissal of three of Metcalfe’s predecessors. Yet the staff of the powerful and busy department felt that they had been unfairly scapegoated by the media and by an inquiry that suggested the problems were deep-rooted, systematic and cultural. Morale was low, but the stakes high in an increasingly tense political environment. To add salt to the wound, an inquiry into an unlawful deportation had found that, despite the urgent need for departmental reform, the much-loved, now dismissed executive management team had lacked ‘the perspective or capacity to lead and bring about major changes in the mindset and practice that are required’. For Metcalfe, the challenge was not only to enact major changes, but to also convince his new staff to take them on.

This rich, three-part case can be used to discuss topics such as organisational change, crisis management, and public sector leadership, as well as immigration policy. Part A in particular can be used to discuss managing change in a strong workplace culture and against a backdrop of political debate on a subject of national interest.

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Authors: Professor Paul 't Hart, Karen Tindall
Published Date: 14 October 2014
Author Institution: Australian National University
Featured Content Length: 1
Content Length: 8
Product Type: Part A, Primary resources