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Trimming the FAT: change at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade 2013-142.1

27 August 2013



Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully had has his eyes set on an organisational shake-up for some time when he made John Allen the new Chief Executive of its Ministry (MFAT). An “outsider” formerly from New Zealand Post, Allen’s good entrepreneurial skills and charisma made him an immediately popular choice in the media. He arrived, however, less than a year after the National Party (McCully’s party) had come into power, right around the time that the Global Financial Crisis had begun to bite. Public sector reduction was in the government’s sights. McCully publicly outlined dramatic changes to MFAT’s business in 2011, already ruffling diplomatic feathers, which became Allen’s job to manage. Not everyone was sympathetic, especially not when the terms of the shake-up were released, along with a series of unprecedented leaks from within the Ministry. McCully, who had a history of clashes with those reporting to him, decided to state his own concerns in a letter to Allen, which he then subsequently also released to the media. Allen now had to implement organisational changes that were not only complex but which also, it seemed, were everybody’s business.

This is a case that lends itself to a number of discussion areas including leadership, change management, ministerial relationships and making the transition from the private to the public sector. It could also be used to examine the role of the media, and its relationship with ministers and public sector leaders.

Authors: Todd Bridgman, Ruth Berry
Published Date: 27 August 2013
Author Institution: Victoria University of Wellington
Featured Content Length: 2
Content Length: 6
Product Type: Case with teaching note, One-part case, Primary resources