How to stay engaged in the midst of a restructure?

Restructure and change in government departments is inevitable. Rather than railing against the disruption, bureaucrats must plan community interactions around them.

[Note: The full text of this post was originally published and can be read on The Mandarin as Staying engaged when your agency is restructured (again).]

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I hear a common refrain from exhausted public servants …

“Here we go again! A new government, a new name for the agency, a new structure, another amalgamation/de-amalgamation. This happens every time. The community has no idea who we are. How are we meant to keep people engaged when they don’t know who their dealing with, and half the time, neither do we?”

I feel their pain.

In 2004, I was working with the NSW Department of Planning. We’d been rolling out the “Planning NSW” brand for several years, working hard to be an enabling agency rather than a regulatory one. Things were humming along nicely. Then one day, everything changed. We came to work to discover that the entire department was to be amalgamated with the Department of Land and Water Conservation and parts of the Department of Transport, to create a monster called the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources. It was more than a mouthful. It’s fair to say that there were no winners that day. Of course DIPNR is now long gone, replaced by, wait for it, the Department of Planning within a few short years.

[pullquote]’we were going backwards in time to a bygone era of beige short-sleeved shirts, brown shorts, long socks and sandals'[/pullquote]

Along with all of the usual internal staff moral issues that come from confusion, dislocation and fear of change, as a very small agency, we felt very strongly that we had lost our identity. That identity was wrapped up in the contemporary Planning NSW brand. Our new name alone made it feel like we were going backwards in time to a bygone era of beige short-sleeved shirts, brown shorts, long socks and sandals.

The communities we dealt with on a daily basis were, quite naturally, even more confused. Keeping track of who was who in the zoo was, understandably, a little mind-boggling. As if dealing with government isn’t difficult enough for the everyday citizen. Continuous name and structural changes make for a maze with many dead ends.

There are steps we can take to minimise the impact of structural changes on the community, but those steps need to be taken early in anticipation of the next restructure. It requires that departmental staff acknowledge the inevitability of change.

Read the rest on The Mandarin, here.


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Published Date: 15 December 2014 Last modified on May 29, 2018

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