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Now hiring public entrepreneurs: Four steps Australian public sector leaders need to take

Read Accenture’s report on hiring Public Sector Entrepreneurs and learn more about four steps Australian public service leaders need to take.

Overview

Public sector leaders are under pressure to develop new approaches to service design and delivery in response to shrinking budgets and increased demand for more and better services.

At Accenture, we believe Australia’s public sector should make a fundamental shift from public management to public entrepreneurship if they are to deliver better services for the future. This would require enhancing procurement, improving access to government data, making greater use of technology and increasing the diversity of new public service models.

To achieve these changes, public sector organisations should focus on their core missions and encourage contestability for all other services. This means adopting leading practices from – and looking for opportunities to collaborate with – the private and not-for-profit sectors. It means being innovative, willing to take risks and prepared to experiment with unorthodox solutions. In many cases, it would involve changing an organisation’s culture so it encourages and accepts trial and error.

Background

Seismic economic and demographic shifts are forcing governments around the world to re-imagine the way they design and deliver public services.

Australia, in particular, must look for alternative ways to deliver services so it can address a widening gap between revenue and expenditure and cater for a rapidly ageing population. According to Accenture research, the cost to Australia of meeting future need for public services at current levels of demand will grow to an additional A$54 billion per year by 2025.

The efficiency dividend – asking agencies to do more with less – has run its course. Accenture believes the Australian public sector needs to be fundamentally revamped – a transformation that would require public service leaders to make a step change and adopt a more entrepreneurial mindset.

Analysis

Pilot new ideas
Public sector executives who want to be effective agents of change should constantly strive to have their organisations perform faster, better and more cost-effectively. One way to do this is to create living labs – pilot programs to test and experiment with new, more effective ways of delivering outcomes. This could include a ‘hothouse’ for testing new leadership approaches and incubating innovation and business acumen.

Explore contestability
Contestability involves determining how services can best be delivered, whether by government agencies or through co-sourcing or outsourcing. Greater contestability encourages the public service to improve productivity and efficiency to ensure its departments remain competitive. It also creates an environment where innovation, entrepreneurship and collaborative leadership can be developed and valued.

Investigate new business and service delivery models
There is also growing interest in the potential for alternative financing models such as harnessing social finance from the philanthropic or private sectors to help fund some public initiatives. Acute funding pressures, economic change and demographic shifts mean the public sector must act now to overhaul outdated business and service delivery models.

Drive cultural change
Based on the findings of our research, delivering a new, sustainable public economy would require a substantial cultural change. Transformation hinges on building:

  • An appetite and ability to handle risk rather than avoid it

  • A shift in the outlook of public servants from that of gatekeepers or compliance stewards to that of facilitators and partners

  • Recognition that this transformation is not about diminishing the public sector – it’s about transforming the sector’s skills and efforts to produce greater diversity and choice.

Introduce new core competencies
Leaders should create an environment – including by providing incentives – that draws people with industry experience into the public sector. In the area of technology, for example, the public sector would never become a leader if it lacks skilled employees with recent industry experience.

Recommendations

Accenture believes tomorrow’s public sector leaders would need the following four key capabilities:

  1. An ability to change organisational culture

  2. A deeper understanding of risk

  3. Openness to collaborating with other sectors

  4. Experience in fine-tuning performance measurement