Capability review: Department of Communications

Last updated: 02 Jun 2015

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Foreword

The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has undertaken 23 capability reviews of Australian Public Service (APS) agencies. The reviews identify organisational strengths and areas for improvement, helping to lift the productivity of individual agencies and the APS
as a whole.

I thank the Department of Communications for its professional and enthusiastic engagement at all stages of the review process. Staff who participated in interviews and workshops displayed great passion for their work and provided valuable insights into the department's capability.

I would also like to thank Dr Michael Vertigan AC, the chair of the review team, other senior members of the team, Ms Kathleen Conlon and Ms Elizabeth Cosson AM CSC
and the staff from the APSC who supported them.

John Lloyd PSM
Australian Public Service Commissioner

Context

The Department of Communications has recently undergone a major restructure to align its internal operations with the evolving communications sector. The aim of the restructure is to meet efficiency targets and align people to new priorities whilst investing in capabilities, including people management.

The new structure has three policy divisions—Infrastructure, Digital Productivity, and Consumer and Content. These divisions cut across traditional industry boundaries to account for changing market structures. The department was previously organised around the telecommunications and broadcasting industry groups, which was less conducive to the development of integrated policy.

The three policy divisions are complemented by a new Bureau of Communications Research which aims to support the early identification of emerging market trends, a Strategy Group to provide cross-divisional oversight of departmental and portfolio activities, a Corporate Division and an Office of the General Counsel.

A key element of the restructure was a reduction in layers from seven to five. Spans of control have also increased to an average of 5.2 positions per manager (with a target band of between three and seven). The revised management layer structure is explained in this table.

Layer number Comprises Part of Meeting name

* These EL2 officers report directly to an SES Band 2 officer, not through an SES Band 1
** These EL1 officers report directly to a SES Band 1 officer, not through an EL2

1 Secretary Executive Leadership Team (ELT) Executive Committee (ExCom)
2 SES B3 & SES B2
3 SES B1 & EL2* Senior Leadership Group (SLG) Senior Leadership Group Forum (SLGF)
4 EL2 and EL1** N/A N/A
5 EL1 and APS 1–6 N/A N/A

The restructure is very recent and, therefore, the capability assessments in this review are based on the plans the department has in place and how well it is tracking towards its intended outcomes. To facilitate this analysis, the review team arranged for a survey to be conducted to obtain staff feedback on the department's progress in implementing its plans.1

1 About the review

A capability review is a forward-looking, organisational review that assesses an agency's ability to meet future objectives and challenges. It is conducted in accordance with the Australian Public Service Commissioner's statutory function to review any matter relating to the Australian Public Service under paragraph 41(2)(j) of the Public Service Act 1999.

This review focuses on leadership, strategy and delivery capabilities in the Department of Communications. It highlights the department's internal management strengths and improvement opportunities using the model set out in Figure 1. A set of 39 questions is used to guide the assessment of each of the 10 elements of the model covered by this review.

Capability reviews are designed to be relatively short and take a high-level view of the strategic operations of a department or agency. A review is primarily informed by interviews with Ministers, senior leaders and external stakeholders. It also considers the views of staff who attend a series of workshops and round-table discussions. External stakeholders interviewed include ministerial staff, private sector companies, peak bodies, interest groups and central agencies.

This review considered more than 330 documents, as well as the results of 13 internal workshops with more than 130 staff, 27 interviews conducted with individuals within the department and 56 interviews with external parties.

Figure 1—Model of capability

The Capability model

1 The Department of Communications Reorganisation Survey was conducted between 20 and 24 October 2014.
The survey was again undertaken between 8 and 12 December 2014, with a subset of the survey questions (a pulse survey) to assess progress made.