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Implementing the Diagnostic Instrument

This section outlines the approach that will be adopted to facilitate implementation. As indicated earlier, the overarching aim of the Diagnostic process is to support APS agencies in achieving high performance. To facilitate the achievement of high performance, the Diagnostic process has been designed to:

  • gauge the extent to which an agency's practices and its people capabilities align with those which have been demonstrated to positively impact performance (high performance principles);
  • assist APS agencies to assess their baseline condition, identify areas of strength and weakness, and the required actions to achieve more consistent and better practice; and
  • utilise quantitative and qualitative inputs to identify key areas requiring improvement and provide suggestions for action.

In order to achieve this, a series of steps will be undertaken as outlined in the Diagnostic Implementation Workflow (see Table 1).

Table 1: Diagnostic Implementation Workflow

Strengthening the Performance Framework: Towards a High Performance Australian Public Service

The Performance Management Diagnostic is a self-Diagnostic tool and the process can be undertaken by an agency by following the steps outlined in this workflow. If required, the APSC is available to assist agencies with the process.

Phase one: Diagnostic preparation
Step Action(s) required Lead responsibility Timeframe Status

Agency responsibility

APSC or external facilitator responsibility (if assistance sought)

1 Prior to undertaking the Diagnostic process, an agency needs to firstly understand the performance management (PM) context/ environment of their agency. This can be achieved in several ways:
  • Research and review all the relevant PM material within the agency (i.e. check PM intranet/ internet pages; speak to HR personnel regarding the PM system; review agency policies etc).
  • Access the Performance Management Diagnostic package and information about the Strengthening the Performance Framework project, including reports and discussion papers.
  • Read the report Strengthening the Performance Framework: Towards a High Performance APS, available at: http://www.apsc.gov.au/publications-and-media/current-publications/strengthening-performance
  • Read the information about the Performance Management learning materials.
  • The agency is able to request from the APSC material which will provide the agency with an overview of its performance management environment:
    • analysis of relevant data from the State of the Service Report (SOSR) employee census. Obtaining the previous 3–4 years census data (if available) will provide year-to-year changes;
    • agency specific surveys/questionnaires; and
    • Capability Review findings.
3–4 weeks prior to undertaking the Diagnostic exercise  
2 After reviewing an agency's internal performance system and after reading the material on the Diagnostic instrument publicly available, if required, an agency is able to contact the Performance Project team at the APSC and set up an initial meeting to discuss:
  • The background/reasons why the agency wants to undertake the Diagnostic process.
  • Agree on date(s)/ location(s) and number of Diagnostic interviews and focus groups to be conducted. This will vary depending on the size of the agency and what the agency hopes to achieve from the Diagnostic exercise.
  • If applicable, agree on specific roles and responsibilities of each party (i.e. the agency and the APSC).

The agency's HR area coordinates and manages the logistics for the Diagnostic process. This involves a considerable amount of planning and investment of time to schedule and conduct interviews and focus groups. For example, HR officers will need to seek volunteers to participate in the Diagnostic process, monitor responses, schedule interviews and arrange rooms to hold interviews. This is quite a labour intensive exercise and plenty of time should be allocated for the planning of how the Diagnostic exercise will run in the agency.

If APSC assistance is sought

If an agency seeks assistance from the APSC, the Performance Project team is available to:

  • Explain the overarching purpose of the Diagnostic process (e.g. to achieve high performance within an agency).
  • Explain how the Diagnostic instrument will support the agency to achieve high performance (e.g. it is a tool that will assist APS agencies to identify key areas of strength and weakness and the required actions to achieve consistent and better practices internally).
  • Develop an agency specific questionnaire and communications material which an agency can use to promote the Diagnostic process and invite employees to participate.
2–3 weeks prior to scheduled Diagnostic exercise.  
3 An agency is encouraged to independently research, review and analyse all the information that is available in order to gain insight where the data has indicated areas for improvement.

The agency reviews the set of Diagnostic questions (see Annex 1) and determines (a) the core questions that will be asked to all participants based on the key areas of focus relative to the agency and its aim and objectives and (b) if there are any agency specific questions that should be asked.

The agency promotes the Diagnostic process, via the intranet or email communication to:
  • Provide background on the project.
  • Invite employees to take part in interviews or focus groups.
  • Encourage all staff to complete the agency specific questionnaire which will be open to all employees while the Diagnostic process is being conducted in the agency.

In regards to the performance management all staff survey, the initial communication will (among other things) highlight: why they are being surveyed; who's conducting the survey; how the results are going to be used; how long the survey will be open; when the survey will start; and what they are going to have to do. This is typically via email though it can be done via face-to-face or via the agency's intranet.

If APSC assistance is sought

If the agency requires further clarification/ information, then this is their opportunity to contact the Performance Project team (APSC) to discuss any issues prior to the commencement of the Diagnostic process. The discussion is intended to be an informal Q&A conversation and should resolve any agency concerns before starting the Diagnostic process.

1–2 weeks prior to scheduled Diagnostic exercise  
Phase two: Data process (see Annex 1 for the full set of Performance Management Diagnostic questions)
Step Action(s) required Lead responsibility Timeframe Status

Agency responsibility

APSC or external facilitator responsibility (if assistance sought)

4 Using the Diagnostic questions, the agency facilitates semi-structured interviews (EL and SES) and focus groups (EL and APS levels) across agreed areas (e.g. All groups and Divisions across the agency; or focus on one Division within agency). Specific emphasis is being placed on uncovering the how and why practices are effective or ineffective and identifying specific actions that can be enhanced (if effective) or addressed (if ineffective).

A broad set of questions have been prepared, covering all aspects of the Principles for High Performing Government framework. The Diagnostic line of questioning has been designed so that any number of questions can be asked to gain insight into the agency's performance environment. However, based on analysis of available agency data, some core questions must be asked to all participants in order to gain unique insight where the data has indicated areas for improvement.

The results will be analysed and interpreted by agency who has conducted the Diagnostic process.

NOTE:

To avoid perceived bias, an agency may want to consider bringing in an external facilitator or seeking the help of another agency to conduct the semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions.

Also, larger APS agencies are encouraged to undertaken the Diagnostic process simultaneously by in-house HR personnel and also by an external facilitator. By doing so, the agency will gain broad data from across the agency and will then be able to compare with the findings from the external facilitator. In addition, the agency will gain a sense of whether employee perspectives on the agency performance system differ when speaking to external facilitators.

Agency specific performance management questionnaire

An agency Pulse questionnaire focusing on performance management will run alongside the Diagnostic process and all employees will be invited to complete it.

The performance management questionnaire explores both employees and manager's perceptions of manager behaviours and agency processes. The purpose of the survey is to contribute to a broader Diagnostic process that the agency is undertaking to assist in identifying areas of the performance management system that can be strengthened.

On the first day an email or intranet notice should be sent to all staff, which lets employees know that the survey has opened and includes a link to the survey site (the link is normally provided by the survey provider).

About half-way though the survey period, the agency should provide some idea of the proportion of responses received, and it can be useful for the agency to send out another email/intranet reminder for those who haven't yet participated to join their colleagues who have already participated.

On the last day of the survey, a final reminder should be sent inviting those who are yet to participate to join their colleagues who have and reminding them that this is their last opportunity to participate.

As soon as possible after the survey closes, a thank you note should be sent to employees including how many people participated in the survey and some idea of how long it may be before they hear about the results of the survey.
The Diagnostic process can take between 1–2 weeks to complete depending on the size of the agency  
Phase three: Data analysis
Step Action(s) required Lead responsibility Timeframe Status

Agency responsibility

APSC or external facilitator responsibility (if assistance sought)

5 The agency or external facilitator who conducted the Diagnostic process collates and analyses the data in terms of findings that reflect each Principle and Foundation element of the High Performance Framework.

The data is drawn from two data sets—the Pulse questionnaire (quantitative) and the interview/focus group discussions (qualitative).

A draft Diagnostic report findings is prepared. To view a template of the Diagnostic report, see Annex 2.

NOTE: If applicable, for agencies that conducted the process simultaneously through in-house HR personnel and by an external facilitator, each party independently reviews and analyses the data and prepares draft Diagnostic report findings.
2–3 weeks depending on the volume of the data to be reviewed and analysed  
6 The agency should now have completed the data collection and analysis stages of the process and prepared a draft report which is designed as a reflective tool for the agency. The agency arranges a workshop session with the agency's Executive Team.

In the report, under each section in ‘key areas for improvement’ there is a heading ‘high performance practices that enable improvement’ A workshop session is arranged with the agency's Executive Team as part of the report development process. This step is necessary if there is to be real buy in to any changes emerging from the process, it is important that they are developed with the Executive Team in such a way that they are realistic and seen to be able to add real value.

The draft report is circulated to the Executive Team prior to the workshop. What needs to be considered is both the contents of the draft report and also what are the specific actions that are considered to be appropriate for the next steps in developing effective performance management in the agency.

At the workshop, a brief overview of the findings will be provided and the agency is able to then:
  • answer questions about the report findings and suggestions; and
  • lead a discussion as to the next steps to be taken and why?

The objective of the workshop is so that an agency can then add the proposed actions into the draft report which will then be finalised.

1 week—draft report is sent to the agency Executive team a week prior to the scheduled workshop session  
7 The agency finalises the Diagnostic report based on the conversation with the Executive Team at the workshop session. The agreed actions that were considered to be appropriate for the

next steps in developing effective performance management in the agency and why is added to the Diagnostic report. Timeframes for implementation of strategies should also be included in the final Diagnostic report.
1–2 weeks  
8 The agency implements the necessary actions identified in the report to address areas of improvement in their performance system. Actions should be prioritised into short/medium and long term. Within 2–3 months after the final Diagnostic report findings are presented to the Executive Team  
9 Using the Diagnostic questions, the agency facilitates semi-structured interviews (EL and SES) and focus groups (EL and APS levels) across agreed areas (e.g. All groups and Divisions across the agency; or focus on one Division within agency). Specific emphasis is being placed on uncovering the how and why practices are effective or ineffective and identifying specific actions that can be enhanced (if effective) or addressed (if ineffective).

A broad set of questions have been prepared, covering all aspects of the Principles for High Performing Government framework. The Diagnostic line of questioning has been designed so that any number of questions can be asked to gain insight into the agency's performance environment. However, based on analysis of available agency data, some core questions must be asked to all participants in order to gain unique insight where the data has indicated areas for improvement.

The results will be analysed and interpreted by agency who has conducted the Diagnostic process.

NOTE:

To avoid perceived bias, an agency may want to consider bringing in an external facilitator or seeking the help of another agency to conduct the semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions.

Also, larger APS agencies are encouraged to undertaken the Diagnostic process simultaneously by in-house HR personnel and also by an external facilitator. By doing so, the agency will gain broad data from across the agency and will then be able to compare with the findings from the external facilitator. In addition, the agency will gain a sense of whether employee perspectives on the agency performance system differ when speaking to external facilitators.

Agency specific performance management questionnaire

An agency Pulse questionnaire focusing on performance management will run alongside the Diagnostic process and all employees will be invited to complete it.

The performance management questionnaire explores both employees and manager's perceptions of manager behaviours and agency processes. The purpose of the survey is to contribute to a broader Diagnostic process that the agency is undertaking to assist in identifying areas of the performance management system that can be strengthened.

On the first day an email or intranet notice should be sent to all staff, which lets employees know that the survey has opened and includes a link to the survey site (the link is normally provided by the survey provider).

About half-way though the survey period, the agency should provide some idea of the proportion of responses received, and it can be useful for the agency to send out another email/ intranet reminder for those who haven't yet participated to join their colleagues who have already participated.

On the last day of the survey, a final reminder should be sent inviting those who are yet to participate to join their colleagues who have and reminding them that this is their last opportunity to participate.

As soon as possible after the survey closes, a thank you note should be sent to employees including how many people participated in the survey and some idea of how long it may be before they hear about the results of the survey.
To be considered on a case by case basis  
Phase four: Evaluation and key learning
Step Action(s) required Lead responsibility Timeframe Status

Agency responsibility

APSC or external facilitator responsibility (if assistance sought)

10 An agency reviews progress against the implementation plan approximately 12–18 months after implementation.

The agency can also request the APSC to review agency employee attitudes to performance management based on the yearly SOSR employee census data. This will enable the agency to monitor its year-on-year performance.
It is recommended that the Diagnostic process is conducted again in approximately 12–18 months after the agency has implemented the necessary short/medium and long term changes to their performance management system  
11 The agency Executive to prepare a letter addressed to the Australian Public Service Commissioner on the key agency learnings and feedback on the Diagnostic process. 2–3 weeks after the agency has presented their final Diagnostic report findings to the agency Executive  

As indicated in Table 1, three sets of quantitative and qualitative data will be used to inform the process:

  1. State of the Service Report (SOSR) census data:
    this presents base line data deriving from specific questions within the report regarding the implementation of performance management. The purpose of including this data is to provide the Agency with insight into the broader context which performance management is implemented.
    It also provides a data set to facilitate reflection on the Principles and identify the key areas of strength (for the Agency to build upon) and weakness (areas that need to be addressed) that will need to be considered in order to improve performance within the Agency.
  2. Diagnostic Framework Questions:
    this presents a series of qualitative questions (primary and secondary) designed to explore the Agency execution of each Principle and Foundation elements. These questions will enable a shared and improved understanding of the Agency's performance management systems and processes, highlighting areas of strength, as well as those that need improvement. The objective is to generate a discussion as to how to improve current practices in order to achieve higher performance.
  3. A Performance Management Pulse Survey:
    a survey specifically targeted at the Agency and designed to build a deeper understanding of employee perspectives of performance management within the Agency. This will provide a snap shot of data at exactly the time of the qualitative data collection for comparative purposes across the Agency.