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Part 5: The department's response

The department welcomes the Capability Review report.

The department chose to be an early participant in the Capability Review Program, at a time when it was itself just over one year old, because it saw an opportunity to gain valuable insights into where and how it should focus its future efforts in order to translate the Government's service delivery
reform agenda into a day-to-day business reality.

It is pleasing that the review recognised the department's strengths, particularly its exceptional performance and reliability in delivering activities of extraordinary scope and scale, and the conviction, commitment and resilience of its workforce. These are people for whom public service has special
meaning, reflective of their personal exposure to the needs, aspirations and hopes of the department's customers.

The department is committed to building on what the review describes as a 'very strong footing to perform both now and into the future' to achieve its strategic vision of excellence in the provision of government services to every Australian. Our action plan will provide the focus.

The department would like to thank the chair of the review team, Professor Peter Hughes


, and the other senior members of the team, Christine McLoughlin and Ewen McDonald, and the officers from the Australian Public Service Commission who supported their efforts, for the engaged, constructive and collaborative way in which they approached the review.


The department welcomes the review's finding that it has done a solid job in communicating the vision and rationale for the integrated department, 'crafting an institutional account that virtually everyone in the organisation concurs with and strives to reproduce'. It also welcomes the recognition
of the considerable work done in establishing the department's vision, along with the complementary next level planning in the areas of


, human resource management, financial management and governance, culminating in the release of the Strategic Plan 2012–16.

The department accepts the corollary that it must now translate the vision into concrete form, and develop a narrative of how and why the department is changing, in a way that strikes a chord with both frontline staff and people outside the department. In communicating this, the


Executive is acutely conscious that it must operate, and be seen to operate, as a high performing team, and commits itself to working in a highly collaborative way, where relationships are characterised by mutual trust, confidence and respect.

While noting that the department's


has rightly focused to date on binding the department together by leveraging the strong pre-existing cultures of service delivery in its predecessor agencies, the review suggests that the time is now right to be more proactive in establishing and articulating a unified '


culture', by communicating, modelling and reinforcing the behaviours that are required to achieve the department's vision.

The department has already undertaken the groundwork for this task, examining the leadership behaviours needed and developing a set of service commitments that inform interactions with our customers and each other. Once enacted, the smaller set of core APS Values, with its emphasis on respect and commitment
to service, will also assist in articulating and modelling the shared behaviours that will be needed going forward.

Observing that the future shift in skills and approach required of the workforce is arguably without precedent in the APS, the review commends the planning work done to date for transitioning the workforce from one that manually processes transactions on a large scale to one that is focused on developing
relationships with clients and within the community and using those relationships to make connections and achieve outcomes for people. While this is pleasing, the department acknowledges that there is considerable work in store to ensure that the planning work flows through the organisation at all levels,
including into customer facing roles.


The review notes that, having articulated its vision for the future of service delivery, the critical next step for the department is the development of a detailed 'service design map' and implementation pathway for delivery of the strategic vision. The department supports this suggestion, while acknowledging
that this is a challenging task in a complex and constantly changing service delivery environment. Clearly though our people are seeking a clearer picture of how they can actively work towards the department's vision and the process of communicating this to staff has already begun. The Service Delivery
Operating Model, for example, is a good starting point.

The department is cognisant that it must move from a transactional view of the customer to a holistic one, and is already moving in that direction. For example, service offers are a personalised selection of products and services best matching the needs of individual customers, delivered in a manner
that is tailored to the individual's capabilities and situation. The current service offer design program is a significant component of the Service Design Map suggested in the review findings. The department also recognises that the Network—which includes face-to face-services, smart centres (call
and processing) and self-managed services—is one of its key assets, and will introduce the necessary measures to ensure that it is better able to capitalise on the wealth of knowledge and operational intelligence it holds.

The department agrees that its 'whole of life-cycle' perspective means that it is strongly placed to work with its partner agencies to contribute to better policy outcomes for government and customers. The department will draw on its extensive data holdings to build greater strategic intelligence,
and strengthen its policy capability, so that it can add even greater value in the policy development cycle.


plays a pivotal role in the department's service delivery and change agenda and supports the review's finding that changes to


must be, and must be seen to be, driven by the business, and the business must be accountable for delivery. The department welcomes acknowledgment of the strategy developed for the maintenance and sustainability of its existing legacy systems, based on an "'evolve to replace' philosophy", as an 'appropriate
and commendable' approach. Given the constraints the legacy systems impose when the government wishes to change or implement policy or programs and the increasing cost of both this and maintaining the systems, the department agrees it is now imperative to build a shared understanding with central agencies
and government of the need for change and how that might be managed and funded.

The review notes that the time is right for the department to clearly define its risk appetite and to build an assurance framework, both of which should be clearly communicated throughout the organisation. This finding is supported and the department is already moving in this direction. For example,
to heighten the attention paid to the issue, it was recently decided to add risk to the Business Continuity and Security Committee's responsibilities and to appoint an independent Chair of the committee.


The department welcomes the finding that it consistently delivers on an extraordinary range of activities to the satisfaction of customers, the community and government, and recognition that it is trialling positive new modes of service delivery that align with OECD best practice.

Recognition of the


Network as innovative, driven by the desire to make people's lives better and to become more efficient, is also pleasing. The department supports the review's suggestion that this innovation in the Network would benefit from a formal framework and guidelines. The department is already moving to put
such a framework in place.

While welcoming the acknowledgement of the many excellent examples of change managed effectively within their own streams, the department also supports the review's finding that there is a need to establish an enterprise-wide change-control mechanism that ensures that all change is sequenced and managed
against departmental resources.

Next steps

The review found that a key requirement of success going forward is a cohesive leadership group that shares the department's strategic vision and communicates it in a meaningful way to all staff. Recognising this, the department's action plan will be developed through an inclusive, collaborative process,
inviting input from all


employees, as well as selected executive level staff.

After discussing the key issues in the report and the actions that flow from them, the Executive group (Secretary,


Band 3s and


Band 2s) has grouped the 10 recommendations into eight projects to be progressed simultaneously, and around which the action plan will be built. Each project will be sponsored by a member of the Executive and led by an


Band 2, supported by small groups of


Band 1s and several of our talented



The action plan will give the department a focal point around which to draw together work already underway to form a cohesive picture of what is happening across the organisation, against which progress can be tracked and reported.

Kathryn Campbell,


Department of Human Services

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018