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PUBLICSECTOR Rangai Tumatanui

Journal of the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand Volume 39 : 4 • December 2016

TURNING ONE’S THINKING AROUND: Beyond the rhetoric of customer focus


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VOLUME 39 : 4





The Institute of Public Administration New Zealand PO Box 5032, Wellington, New Zealand Phone: +64 4 463 6940 Fax: +64 4 463 6939 Email: Website: ISSN 0110-5191 (Print) ISSN 1176-9831 (Online) The whole of the literary matter of Public Sector is copyright. Please contact the editor if you are interested in reproducing any Public Sector content. EDITOR John O’Leary:

Turning one’s thinking around


Reducing reoffending


CONTRIBUTORS Dave Armstrong Shelly Biswell Annie De’Ath Nasi Jenkin Girol Karacaoglu John Larkindale James Lockhart Rebecca Morrissey Rose Northcott John O’Leary Jim Scully

Water, water everywhere

Customer focus, really?

JOURNAL ADVISORY GROUP Annie De’Ath John Larkindale Karl Lofgren Len Cook Lewis Rowland Margaret McLachlan Ross Tanner

CONTENTS President’s Message by John Larkindale .........................................................


IPANZ News: One Young World: Walking away with a fresh perspective and a challenge ........................


Guest Editorial ..............................................................................................................



COVER STORY Turning one’s thinking around: Beyond the rhetoric of customer focus ............................................................


Public Sector welcomes contributions to each issue from readers.

The Auckland Co-Design Lab .................................................................................


Beyond the rhetoric of reducing reoffending ................................................


Q&A: A woman of influence: A conversation with Jo Cribb .................................................................................


SPECIAL FEATURE Water, water everywhere .........................................................................................


Reader contribution: Working towards working together ...................................................................


Customer focus - really?...........................................................................................


Point of View: Delight is on the other side of disruption ..........................


ADVERTISING Phone: +64 4 463 6940 Fax: +64 4 463 6939 Email:

Themes for 2017 issues are: April: Better Public Services review July: Public-private partnerships September: Guarding the border December: Open issue Please contact the editor for more information. SUBSCRIPTIONS IPANZ welcomes both corporate and individual membership and journal subscriptions. Please email admin@ipanz., phone +64 4 463 6940 or visit to register online. DISCLAIMER Opinions expressed in Public Sector are those of various authors and do not necessarily represent those of the editor, the journal advisory group or IPANZ. Every effort is made to provide accurate and factual content. The publishers and editorial staff, however, cannot accept responsibility for any inadvertent errors or omissions that may occur.

Public Sector is printed on environmentally responsible paper produced using ECF, third-party certified pulp from responsible sources and manufactured under the ISO14001 Environmental Management System.

1 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016


The Importance of Trust

By IPANZ President John Larkindale

Recently I was asked whether I would be interested in contributing to a programme on good governance and good government for senior figures from overseas. Having agreed in principle to consider this, I began to think about what are some of the fundamental principles and values that underpin good government. Clearly, a broad adherence to the concepts of democracy, freedom and individual rights is important – at least in the context of our kind of society based on openness, inclusion and the ideas developed through the Enlightenment and the consequences of a longstanding JudeoChristian heritage brought to New Zealand by way of European settlement. While this may be a necessary condition, it is clearly not a sufficient condition. We saw this very clearly in postSoviet Russia, where the concept of freedom and individual rights was seized upon by some in society, but in exercising these concepts there was no understanding of the inherent rights and responsibilities that need to sit alongside them, rights and responsibilities that we in New Zealand learn as we grow up by observing how our society works. My thinking then led me to coming to view “trust” as perhaps the most important foundation on which our society is built. We trust the fact that a $10 banknote can be used to acquire that value of goods or services. We trust the fact that if we travel by train or airplane we are unlikely to get injured or killed. And we trust the government with some of our money to deliver services such as health, education, assistance for the disadvantaged in our society, as well as ensuring that our borders are secured and protected. This last aspect of trust is very important. It represents a social contract between the people and their government. In virtually every case I can think of, where government is dysfunctional or inadequate, these are also places where there is little trust between those who govern and those who are governed. The most common manifestation of this is corruption; if people have

2 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016

no confidence that their taxes are being used for proper purposes, then they are far more likely to resist paying them. But corruption is not the only way in which trust in government is eroded. People need to better understand public policy; policy needs to be effectively communicated. To my mind a case in point was the significant failure by successive governments in New Zealand following the economic reforms of the 1980s to communicate properly what the purpose of those reforms were. They were not simply to ensure that New Zealand’s economy was efficient and created wealth. The fundamental purpose was to ensure that New Zealand as a society was wealthy enough to be able to afford the kind of health, education and welfare systems to which our people aspired. A broader understanding of this ultimate purpose may well have contributed to a greater sense of unified national purpose. Hard to gain, easy to lose Trust is hard to gain, but easy to lose. Increasingly, throughout the developed world, we are seeing symptoms of a decline in the trust that people have in their governments and their institutions. The Brexit vote in the UK is one example. The rise of right-wing and populist parties in many countries in Europe is another. And of course the paramount example is the US presidential election where what seemed unthinkable only a few months ago has come to pass. The paradox is that those who were the strongest supporters of Brexit and of Trump are the ones most likely to be negatively affected by the consequences of their political choices. Donald Trump has essentially based his entire election campaign on negativity, on undermining trust in the United States’ mainstream political institutions. He began by describing decisions such as the introduction of Obamacare, the nuclear agreement with Iran and the North American Free Trade Agreement as terrible decisions. He portrayed America as being besieged by adversaries who were not being

countered. And as his campaign became ever more likely to fail, he stated in ever stronger terms that the “system” was rigged against him and that the political and media elites were conspiring to ensure that he didn’t get elected. It’s easy to dismiss these statements as election hyperbole. But words matter. In particular, statements such as these serve to confirm to those who already have a degree of mistrust in society, in government and the economy that their views are not wrong. They become ever more confirmed in their views. And these views will live on long after the election campaign is over, undermining the ability of policy-makers to lead the country in a constructive direction. Trust undermined is not easily restored. We are a much smaller and more cohesive society in New Zealand, and I think it is unlikely that US-style politics of the “big lie” could gain much traction here. But nevertheless, it behoves our political leaders to ensure that they do not lose the trust of the people and thus their acceptance of the social contract to guide the direction of our society. Part of that leadership is to listen to what the people are telling them they want and need, but another part, too, is to rise beyond poll-driven populism and do the right thing. The public service as one of the central pillars of our system of government has a critical role to play. It is in effect the transmission system linking the country’s political leadership with the day-to-day lives of its citizens. It is the quality of people’s interaction with the public sector that determines to a significant degree whether trust in government is reinforced or eroded. It is that interaction that is effectively the front door leading to confidence in our political and social institutions. The public sector thus needs to get right the interface with the population at large; in particular, as society and technology change, so must the means of that engagement change. That understanding must always be kept front of mind. John Larkindale President, IPANZ


One Young World -

Walking Away with a Fresh Perspective and a Challenge

are currently facing in an uncertain economic and

thinking and responsive, and to be part of a

political landscape, it was clear that the summit

Public Service in which we can be free, frank and

was going to be thought provoking, challenging

confident in the advice which we are giving. Sadly

and inspiring.

something that is far from the reality of many of the countries represented at the summit.

Over the next 4 days I was surrounded by

Rebecca Morrissey Senior Advisor, HR Programmes Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment IPANZ New Professional

forward-thinkers, progressive leaders and youth

Most importantly I came away with the belief that

on the forefront of social innovation, from every

we can make a difference, and that we need to use

corner of the world; converging on topics such

the networks that we are part of, such as IPANZ, to

as refugeeism, extremism, peace and security,

do so. We need to leverage these networks to learn

education, global business, gender equality,

from, encourage, and challenge each other, to

LBGTQ and mental health. Some of these topics

drive initiatives through to fruition. I have returned

I had not known a great deal about, and others

from the One Young World Summit with this front

had not resonated as they now did by hearing

of mind as my challenge. I challenge you too, to

first hand: a delegate from Micronesia express the

consider how you can work with your network to

effect of climate change on her country; a delegate

drive positive change.

from Jordan speak about training 12,000 women Alongside 1300 young leaders from over 190

in self- defence; and a discussion over dinner with

countries, last month I had the incredible

a delegate from Mozambique who is working to

opportunity to travel to Ottawa, Canada to attend

combat the 50% of girls who are married before

the One Young World Summit; a summit which

their 18th birthdays.

brings together world leaders and youth to learn, discuss and debate the pressing global issues that

Having been engaged in social causes throughout

we are faced with today.

my life, a session which resonated with me most strongly was hearing from Nobel Peace Prize

With the summit opening on the grounds of

winner Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder

Canada’s Parliament, Prime Minister Justin

of Microfinance. Professor Yunus spoke of starting

Trudeau called on us to ‘create a future we will

Microfinance as ‘we did something that others

all be proud of,’ closely followed by Sir Bob

needed, others picked it up and it became global.’

Geldof’s grounding words on the challenges we

To me this session highlighted the importance of

One Young World Opening Ceremony on the grounds of Parliament Hill, Ottawa.

taking a small piece of a challenge and committing to this, the power of networks in making a difference and achieving these challenges, and in turn the importance of providing opportunities for others to grow. I came away from One Young World with my eyes wide open, with a fresh perspective on the world and the issues we face. I came away with the confirmation that here in New Zealand we are Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau

privileged to live in a country which is forward

Flag Ceremony, fronted by UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson, former Secretary-General of the UN Kofi Anan, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus and founders Kate Robertson and David Jones.

The demand for policy professionals continues! We are working with some truly great teams across the public sector and have exciting policy opportunities across a range of subject areas and departments. If you are an experienced policy practitioner thinking about what’s next then call us today. In particular we are looking for senior policy advisors and senior policy analysts who are looking for a new challenge. If you want the scope to be innovative, lead complex policy work and develop your leadership ability then it’s likely we’ll have some options that will spark an interest! Take control of your career by staying informed about what’s happening in the market – email to hear about current and upcoming opportunities. Policy Contractors – We are still working with a variety of government agencies who are seeking experienced policy contractors to lead and be involved in significant policy programmes. If this sounds like you please contact our contracting specialist Georgina Makarios at For more details, visit or call us on 04 499 9471.

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3 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016


Girol Karacaoglu Head of School of Government, Victoria University of Wellington

Citizen-Centred Public Policy in a Complex World

“the investment approach” to public policy. What

accompanied by increased sources of funding –

roles should the central government play, in an

with associated strong controls and incentives. As

enabling and supporting capacity, to ensure that

the NZ Initiative says in its report titled In the Zone,

all regions of New Zealand prosper in a way that

councils should be given a share of additional

The ultimate purpose of public policy is to improve

reflects and benefits from an increasingly diverse

tax revenues generated when economic growth-

people’s lives, now and into the future (i.e. their


enhancing policies are successfully implemented


If we genuinely believe in a “citizen”- or “customer”-

in the regions.

The most fundamental point, which serves as a

focused government and governance, then more

This all fits in nicely with a very rich literature on

strong platform for wellbeing-enhancing public

decision-making could be devolved to the level

“complexity economics”, institutional economics

policy, is that individuals and communities are

of government that is in closest proximity to the

and evolutionary economics, which are totally

constantly striving to improve their lives, as they


in tune with the Darwinian theory of evolution in

wish to live them. The role of a citizen-centred

arguing that a deliberate policy of encouraging

public policy is to support people and communities

A drive towards localism

in their efforts to improve their lives by enhancing

A deliberate drive towards “localism” offers one

amplifying the successful ones, can help complex

potential way of increasing the effectiveness

economic and social systems evolve and flourish.

and efficiency of the government’s “investment

The distinctive role of policy is to encourage, nudge

approach” in general, and its “social investment

and support, while putting controls in place to

approach” in particular. Proposals on what we

prevent the building of excesses.

their opportunities and capabilities to pursue the lives they have reason to value, while respecting and celebrating the diversity of valued lives. In a country where different communities, cities and regions are prospering, potentially in very different ways, people have far wider opportunities to live the kinds of lives they want to live, without

should be investing in, when and how, would come from the communities, and then be assessed for their effectiveness before any public money is

different experiments, and then selecting and

The communities and regions across New Zealand are neither asking for handouts from the central government, nor advice on how to solve their

leaving the country.

committed to them, if required.

Widely spread and diversified prosperity makes

Central government agencies, assisted by

problems – asking central government to facilitate

technology that enables the collection and sharing

and participate in exploratory conversations around

of information on what various communities are

a recalibration of the roles and responsibilities of

trialing to improve their lives, could provide a live

central and local government in promoting regional

database for everyone to contribute to, and share

economic development and broader wellbeing.

information about their experiments in improving

They are keen on a partnership model.

for a much more resilient NZ as a whole. It is more commensurate with a higher potential economic growth rate – and more broadly wellbeing growth - since the fundamental source of economic and wellbeing growth is the drive of people to better their lives, and their use of new and/or combinations of existing technologies to do so. It is more equitable because (again) it is more closely

their communities’ lives. Central agencies also have access to the analytical capabilities to assess what works and what does not, to aid with investment

problems. They want to own and solve their own

The investment approach is not only about generating good public policy ideas. It is also about effective and efficient public policy delivery so that

aligned with giving diverse people with diverse


preferences, the opportunities and capabilities

Several people, including Friedrich Hayek in his

This is precisely why a better coordination of

The Constitution of Liberty and Oliver Hartwich

community, regional and central government

in the NZ Initiative report A Global Perspective

activities and investments is so critical for a citizen-

on Localism note that the fundamental case for

centred public policy in a complex world.

to better their lives. It is more conducive to social cohesion because it can accommodate diversity much better. For all these reasons, it provides a platform for a sustainable improvement in collective wellbeing. All of the above are in the nature of public goods and therefore of great interest for wellbeing-

localism (deliberately promoting and supporting the flourishing of local communities and economies) is that local government is closer to the people it serves, it is better able to reflect the

focused public policy.

needs of communities, it is critical for the health

In this context, one of the most important changes

variety of choice that can accommodate different,

that policy advisers and governments will need to

valued lives.

contemplate is the respective roles of communities, regions and central government in implementing

4 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016

and vitality of democracy, and it provides a greater

This increased devolved responsibility needs to be

good ideas actually result in improved outcomes.

During a recent visit to Feilding I was told that there are 83 social service agencies of all sorts operating there in a relatively uncoordinated way, while the public would like a “one stop shop” service. Clearly, something is wrong with the institutional and incentive structures operating there. And surely, fixing these would be a worthwhile investment towards building social infrastructure there. Here is a simple and practical example of an effective social investment opportunity.


beyond the rhetoric of customer focus

Grant Wallace

Jeff Montgomery

CEO, Assured Systems New Zealand Limited

Registrar General and General Manager Births, Deaths, Marriages, Citizenship, and Translations.

Customer focus... it’s one of those phrases that’s become ingrained in our work culture. It’s so familiar, indeed, that it’s almost lost its meaning. But as editor JOHN O’LEARY found out, innovative, customer-centric initiatives across a raft of public sector agencies are giving new meaning to the words. Imagine a one-stop shop where you can go to do all the things you have to do when a baby is born: registering the child, getting him or her a tax number, organising a passport, assessing the benefits available and so on. Imagine, moreover, that this one-stop shop is virtual – that you can do all these things from home via your PC, or even through a tablet or smartphone if you’re on the move. Sounds futuristic? In a way it is – but in fact such a one-stop virtual shop is already being built as part of the larger Better Public Services Result 10 programme which aims to make it easier for New Zealanders to complete their transactions with government in a digital environment. “We started in 2015 with Birth Registrations Online,” says Jeff Montgomery, Registrar General and General Manager–Births, Deaths, Marriages, Citizenship, and Translations. “BRO has made it possible for new parents to register their child online rather than by sending in paper forms through the post. “Parents can also order a birth certificate and apply for an IRD number for their child. Doing these things online saves the parents time and hassle when they are already very busy. “It also increases data accuracy and delivers efficiency gains for DIA.”

BRO has proved very successful, says Montgomery, so much so that less than two years after its introduction 93% of births in New Zealand are registered online. So impressive is BRO that it won the 2016 Deloitte IPANZ Public Sector Excellence in Digital Government award [see the story in our September issue]. A smart start BRO, however, is just the beginning. Expanding upon it, explains Montgomery, is the larger SmartStart programme, which as of December this year will help new parents to digitally organise themselves, from when they find out a baby is on the way, through to the first six months of their child’s life. “The idea is that all the things new parents need to do in this period will be able to be done quickly and easily online: things like keeping track of immunisations, getting benefits assessed (if the child is eligible) and applying for a passport. “All these different transactions will be brought together in one place, so parents don’t have to visit half a dozen different agency websites. It’s a bit like Amazon or TradeMe – you visit one website which allows you to do a number of different things while using just one username and password.” SmartStart, says Montgomery, was grounded in partnership with a range of government and NGO organisations including IRD, MSD, MoH, Plunket and the New Zealand College of Midwives. “We also spoke to people at conferences, on marae, in malls, even in knitting groups – the idea was to get as wide a spectrum of input as possible. The suggestions that came back were great. One was for the website to contain a checklist, so that parents can keep track of what’s been done and what still needs to be done. Another was to put in a section on post-

5 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016

natal depression, which is a real problem for some mothers.”

is being given with consent – with SmartStart, for example, parents can choose which agencies they

SmartStart itself is merely the first in a series of innovative,

want to share information about their child with.

customer-centric programmes designed around significant life events that are in the pipeline. These life event initiatives form part

“In the same way, we’re not worried about

of the work plan for the future of the Service Innovation Working

security. The use of the RealMe will ensure that

Group (a group of tier 2 leaders across the public sector).

information can’t be stolen or improperly inputted – there’s little chance of “ghost” children being created for nefarious reasons.”

“The birth of a child life event was a priority,” says Montgomery. “Next up is the end of life event – what happens when we die and

Basic questions

how to make it easier for those who are winding up deceased estates. Other agencies are also working on life events. MSD

Initiatives like SmartStart and the life event programmes that are

are leading turning 65 (the retirement life event) and Police are

following it are examples of the new, innovative, highly customer-

leading becoming a victim of crime. The end of life event is actually

centric thinking that is increasingly being used in the public sector.

quite tricky to design, because it tends to involve private sector

Drawing on principles of co-design, services thinking and systems

organisations like funeral directors, who currently handle a lot of the

thinking that have long been used in the private sector, more and

clerical work around a death.

more government agencies are taking a step back and asking very basic questions like “why do we exist?” and “What are we really here

“It’s a bit like Amazon or TradeMe – you visit one website which allows you to do a number of different things while using just one username and password.”

to do?” The answers can be enlightening, pointing the way forward to creating a truly customer-centric service. “The challenge is that many government agencies have traditionally been focussing on the current state,” says Grant Wallace, whose

“We hope that in time all the main transactions with government

consultancy firm Assured helps organisations change their thinking

which take place across a citizen’s life will be digitised in the way of

about what they do, why they do it, and how they might serve their

SmartStart, to everyone’s benefit.”

customers in the future.

But wait – isn’t there a danger in all this digital information being

“Too often agencies have an unconscious bias to do the wrong

collected and collated by government? Are SmartStart and the life

things better, instead of doing the right things right. Assured helps

event programmes that follow merely steps in the march towards a

agencies stand in their customers’ shoes so they can turn their

Big Brother surveillance state?

thinking around and see what needs to be done to become truly Montgomery doesn’t


think so. “With

As an example, Wallace points to the work Assured recently did with

programmes like

Inland Revenue around a ballooning tax debt and overdue returns.

SmartStart, we’re not collecting information

“This was becoming a real problem, with large-scale financial

that we’re not already

implications. Traditionally, the way to deal with it would have

gathering. Also, it’s

been reactive, transactional and after the event. Matters could

important to remember

escalate quickly through interest and penalties. As a result of the

that all this information

collaborative work we undertook, Inland Revenue has instituted a more customer-driven, friendly, holistic approach, recognising that

Remember the days when if you wanted to know something about a subject you had to go to a library and find an encyclopedia? Now, all you have to do is consult Mr Google. Accessing useful, user-friendly numerical data hasn’t been so easy, however – until now that is. Organisations like Figure.NZ are taking data and presenting it all in vivid, easy-to-understand graphical formats, making it truly customer focused.

Lillian Grace CEO of Figure.NZ

6 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016

“I founded Figure.NZ in 2012 based on the realisation that everyone is actually capable of using numbers in their thinking, but that it’s been too hard to find and use for most people,” says Lillian Grace, CEO of Figure.NZ. “To truly democratise data, it needs to be published in a place that everyone can find, and in consistent formats

that range from what an expert wants to what those who have never used data before need. “Our mission is to help everyone make sense of data so they can see New Zealand clearly - we see numbers as a language that holds a lot of stories about our country, people, communities, businesses and environment. We believe that everyone will be able to make betterinformed decisions when they are literate in that language. “We are a registered charity because, similar to Wikipedia, knowledge infrastructure for a country needs to be an independent platform where people - those contributing content and those using it - can trust how it’s been

in most instances people do in fact want to do the right thing about

– actually doing it is another. Leaders need


to make sure they involve staff at all levels in discussions from the very outset, so that

“It’s about deep customer insight, agility, and taking differentiated

everyone has a common

approaches recognising different customer needs and

sense of what needs to

circumstances. It’s about making things as simple and easy as

be done, and why, and a

possible for taxpayers – making it easy for them and giving them the

clear idea of how to get

opportunity to do the right thing.”


Inland Revenue’s new approach has worked. In the past five years

“There needs to be the mandate and

tax debt has lessened, more tax returns have been filed, and an

commitment (buy-in) for the change.

extra $1.47b collected in revenue, money which goes to paying

Building change capability within the agencies is critical and

for government services so increasing New Zealand’s social and

typically grossly underestimated. Acknowledging complexity while

economic wellbeing.

driving process simplicity with the customer as the organising focus

Inland Revenue’s initiative in this area won it a 2016 Deloitte IPANZ Public Sector Excellence in Improving Public Value through Business Transformation award [see the story in our September issue]. How Inland Revenue dealt with the problem of late tax payments

is not easy.” “In my opinion every government service should be tested, not just for efficiency, but for effectiveness and appropriateness.”

and unfiled tax returns is an example, says Wallace, of the kind of thinking that should be broadly adopted across the public sector.

A Step Change

“In my opinion every government service should be tested, not just for efficiency, but for effectiveness and appropriateness. Is this

New, innovative, customer-centric thinking lies behind the Ministry

service the right service for the outcomes sought? Is it delivered in

of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Result 9 Accelerator

the most appropriate way given the customer’s needs, capabilities

project, which aims to further the goal of making it easy for New

and circumstances? Is it delivered by the most appropriate service

Zealanders to do business with government.


“I think it’s fair to say that, in the past, government has been more

“Public servants need to be asking basic questions like “does this

focused on impacts to its own business outcomes,” says Linda Oliver,

actually still work?” “Is there a better way to solve this problem?”

Result 9 Manager Strategic Directions at MBIE. “Now, Result 9 focus

Is there a root-cause-fix such that this service is no longer even

is about the impact we have on business customers – this is behind

required? These questions require thinking at the agency and system

everything we do. We’re looking for a step change in the way we offer


services, and the Accelerator project is a good example of how we’re succeeding.”

One difficulty, observes Wallace, is that while many leaders in the public service are now advocating for this new, innovative, customer-

The Result 9 Accelerator was launched in 2015 in partnership with

centric approach, many people at all levels in the organisation don’t

seven other government agencies. Now in its third cycle, it sees

know how to go about instituting this change.

up to 10 teams of three to four people from the public and private sectors using lean, start-up methodology to work on projects aimed

“Understanding it and discussing it in an abstract sense is one thing

at removing the “pain points” business customers can experience

treated. Collaboration is at the heart of everything we do, and we partner with government agencies, private sector companies, other NGOs, media and the education sector as the best results come from a cohesive system.” An example of what Figure.NZ does is seen in their Business Figures product, which helps businesses find data relevant to them without having to know what to search for - with insights into industries, communities and markets, allowing a tradesperson to view simple graphs showing all kinds of relevant information. Government departments Figure.NZ has worked with include Department of Internal Affairs, Statistics NZ and the Treasury.

7 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016

when dealing with government.

SmartStart at DIA, the Result 9 Accelerator at MBIE– these are just two examples of the innovative, customer-centric initiatives that are

“The teams start with a ‘rev up’ one weekend,” explains Oliver. “Then

being developed by government agencies, often in partnership with

there’s a structured process that involves a month of customer

the private sector and NGOs like Figure.NZ [see inset story]. Whether

research, finding out what exactly is causing the pain and coming

they herald a genuine, broad-based revolution that will take the

up with possible solutions, followed by a month of design and

public sector beyond the rhetoric of customer focus remains to be

development of the product.

seen – as Grant Wallace warned, there remains a gap between what

“The last month is spent preparing for Demo Day when the new product is unveiled and pitched to its potential audience. The idea is to set up stand-alone businesses.”

“We’re looking for new business models. Think of how Uber and Airbnb have revolutionised their industries – that’s the kind of radical thinking we’re interested in.”

Innovative products the Accelerator teams have come up with in the past include Shoppin, a tool to help retail and hospitality businesses decide if a location will be suitable to set up shop, Vizbot, a web application that will make the building consents process more efficient, and Nexus Marketplace, an online service that will help businesses find government APIs (application program interfaces) which connect computer systems to allow them to share data [for more about these and other Result 9 Accelerator products, see story in our September 2015 issue]. Current Accelerator products include Visard, an application designed to speed up visa applications for Chinese visitors to New Zealand, and 2Shakes, which simplifies the process of obtaining authority to act for bookkeepers. “The idea is to create something genuinely useful, something that makes a difference,” says Oliver. “We’re looking for new business models. Think of how Uber and Airbnb have revolutionised their industries – that’s the kind of radical thinking we’re interested in.”

is understood and talked about at the senior level and what may or can be done in an organisation. But there’s no question that change, in this area as in many others, is in the air.

CONTRIBUTIONS PLEASE Public Sector journal is always happy to receive contributions from readers. If you’re working on an interesting project in the public sector or have something relevant to say about a particular issue, think about sending us a short article on the subject. While we will always look at well written pieces on any public sector subject, it would help if your article touched on or related to one of the journal’s quarterly themes. Themes for 2017 issues are: April: Better Public Services review July: Public-private partnerships September: Guarding the border December: Open issue Contact the editor John O’Leary at

Figure.NZ makes it fast, safe, and painless to publish your public data. Find out more at: Lillian Grace, CEO +64 21 234 2374

8 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016


Jane Strange Director, Auckland Co-Design Lab

A major tool in the creation of innovative, customer-centric public services is codesign. This relatively new approach to designing services and – increasingly – policy, seeks to broaden the conversation about issues by tackling them with users, with the aim of producing innovative solutions quickly and cheaply. One example of where co-design is being used in the

in this way, a driving licence can have a range of

that tested positively with people is a text-based

public sector is the Auckland Co-design Lab, a cross-

benefits and costs in addition to driver safety.

service that encourages people to keep moving

agency neutral space hosted by MBIE and funded by the BPS Innovation Seed Fund and Auckland Council where a range of participants work collaboratively on complex, difficult-to-solve problems or issues. Those involved in the co-design process embark on a process of empathy conversations with agencies and citizens who are most affected by the issue, which lead in turn to a recognition of insights and themes, the establishment of design principles and, ultimately, tangible projects and initiatives that really do make a difference.

“Through empathy interviews we learnt that parents from across society turn a blind eye to partial or unlicensed driving; even so young drivers

resources or available testing places and times.” Jane says that while it’s always tricky to quantify the

make getting a licence extremely difficult. Barriers

cost saving the Co-Design Lab’s recommendations

could be a lack of English language skills or written

might produce if implemented, NZIER estimated

literacy, another might be a lack of money to pay

that over 10 years an investment in getting more

for lessons and the test, a third might be lack of

people licensed would result in savings of hundreds

access to a legal car or a fully licensed person in

of millions of dollars.

their family to supervise their driving. A lack of resources to pay fines and consequent convictions can mean that the consequences are particularly

the Driver Licensing Challenge,” says Jane Strange,

harsh for these families as well.

puzzling choice by many for a cross-agency project,

The service could offer vouchers for lessons, links to

from vulnerable backgrounds face barriers that can

“The first big cross-agency challenge we tackled was who directs the Co-Design Lab. “This was seen as a

through the stages of the driving licence process.


The Driver Licensing Challenge’s recommendations have been well received by government agencies and a cross-agency working group is exploring options, says Strange. The Co-Design Lab has completed a second co-design initiative called the Attitude Gap which focuses on the problems which

as it was seen as a simple safety sector issue, but we

“A team of people from central and local

found that the issue crosses multiple sectors and

government agencies and NGOs interviewed,

complex social norms. Although we have high take-

brainstormed and tested potential solutions

up of the system overall, a number of young people

to this conundrum with more than 360 people

“We found that the ‘attitude’ gap is in fact a

drive without getting their licences. This can limit

across the country – everyone from the young

complex combination of expectations, norms

job opportunities and their capacity to contribute to

people themselves to frontline providers,

and generational, economic and cultural factors.

society, as well as upping the accident rate and their

operational managers and policy teams from

Although they want broadly the same things, young

involvement in the justice system, with ensuing costs

across government agencies such as NZTA and

people and employers are worlds apart in their

to themselves and the community in general. Viewed

ACC, employers, training

experiences. There is also an accountability gap –

organisations, driving

there are many agencies with a part to play but no

instructors and others. As

one organisation is responsible, so we identified

a result of this process, we

areas where different people could link up or

developed a series of ideas

eliminate duplication.”

designed to get drivers on track to obtaining a licence, keeping them on track, helping them get back on track if they stray away from

potential young employees and employers have in relating to and understanding each other.

“It’s been an exciting project,” says Strange. As part of the approval process, government ministers have commented that it will be useful and one minister recommended it as essential weekend reading!”

it, and fast-tracking them if

The Co-Design Lab is currently tackling an

appropriate or necessary.

Early Years challenge that has implications for

“An example of one of the concepts that came out of the brainstorming sessions

health, education and community facilities and programmes run by Auckland Council. See

9 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016



of reducing reoffending

Annie De’Ath Strategy and Support Manager, Department of Conservation

When one thinks of environments that

himself and the other men involved. “We all

much in the last 16 years it is quite amazing.

foster progressive, innovative ideas with

pride ourselves on the work we produce and

Being supported to make that transition and

it is a great opportunity to showcase the work

connect back into the workplace and use those

we can do”. He said the men were both amazed

social skills is massive”. The five men who

and terrified about the level of public interest

have since graduated from the programme are

and support. Prison is an isolating environment,

now working in the hospitality industry - one

and the inmates there are acutely aware of

employed full time, and four others nearing the

new initiatives in prisons are breaking

public perceptions. “We didn’t realise how

end of their sentence on the release-to-work

the mould, as ANNIE DE’ATH found out.

much publicity it was going to get. It [engaging


As a generalisation, society tends to have a

Mainly because the only thing we see is how

pretty negative view of prisons and prisoners.

much we are despised and hated by the general

So how can the huge popularity of Rimutaka

public. All the waiters were inmates, too, so we

prison’s ‘Gate to Plate’ event be explained?

weren’t sure how people were going to react to

Hosted as part of the Visa Wellington on a Plate

that at first”.

the customer at the centre, a prison probably doesn’t spring to mind. In fact, a quick google of Corrections reveals some pretty dismal news headlines. But

festival, the event offers members of the general public an opportunity to tour the prison and enjoy a three-course meal catered by prisoners being mentored by chef Martin Bosley. Tickets to the three evenings sold out in under three minutes, with more than 5000 people trying to buy tickets when they went on sale. Just under 300 people came through the prison gates this

with the public] was extremely nerve-wracking.

outcomes for the customer is the Mothers A future beyond the wire

Christchurch women’s prisons. These units offer a unique opportunity for mothers in prison

interested in the skills they are learning, and

to be with their child while getting support to

praising the quality of the food, is extremely

make positive changes and avoid re-offending

motivating, says Jack. It challenges prisoners’

upon release. Catherine, a Corrections staff

perceptions about how the public responds

member, explains that women are hugely motivated by having their baby around. “It is a fantastic

Prison Director Chris Burns puts

opportunity to refocus the

it down to curiosity. “For a large

women… to shift their focus onto

number of New Zealanders

supporting their children and

prisons are a mystery and not

their families”.

something they are ever likely to experience outside of this event.

Babies in prisons

The evening is deliberately aimed at demystifying prisons and

At first whānau were not overly

informing the public about what

supportive of bringing children

goes on there”.

into a prison environment and the staff have had to think

For the men on the programme

‘outside the box’ to deliver this

it is an excellent opportunity to

programme. They work alongside

learn from professional chefs

many other organisations

and gain valuable skills for

including Child, Youth and

employment upon release. Jack sentence and has been involved with the programme since it was launched in 2013. He describes it as a hugely positive experience for

10 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016

with Babies units in Auckland, Wellington, and

To have members of the public genuinely

year including sponsors. Rimutaka

is nearing the end of his 16-year

Another programme achieving positive

Family, and Plunket, and have to inmates, and gives them hope for a future

even gained sponsorship from Treasures for

outside of the wire. Jack is now working

things like nappies and wipes. The baby itself is

in a bakery and has accepted a three-year

not a prisoner and the programme design keeps

apprenticeship. “The world has changed so

the baby at the centre of things, aiming to give

him or her as normal a life as possible. Children

focused initiatives. “The ultimate customer

style correctional system, and more towards

still spend time with whānau in the community,

is the general public… public safety is our

some of the growing European trends. “There

attend playgroups, and have access to other

bottom line,” Chris Burns says. “All it takes is

has definitely been a shift [within Corrections]

educational and developmental support

one prisoner to have a bad day and the whole

in the last seven years towards a work- and

services. Research has shown that strong

programme is ruined... The amount of work that

education-based system. They have to keep

bonding with the mother in early years is crucial

goes on behind the scenes is huge.” The very

going; it’s hugely positive”.

to a child’s development. This programme is

real implication of something not going to plan

not only making a difference to the prisoner

is more victims. Combine this with the negative

by motivating them to remain offence-free

perceptions surrounding prisons and prisoners,

upon release, but is also influencing the next

and the result is a very low public appetite for

generation by ensuring the babies start life with

risk and innovation in a prison environment.

He said the men were both amazed and terrified about the level of public interest and support.

a strong mother-child bond. In the four years Catherine has worked in the Auckland units,

Take for example another customer-focused

she says, they have never had to remove a baby

programme run through the prisons to remove

Efforts such as ‘Gate to Plate’ and the Mothers

from the mother in the unit, as mother and

visible tattoos (particularly on the face, head

with Babies units which are gaining positive

baby have left prison together, and only one

and neck) which were inhibiting employment.

results are celebrated and admired, but the

woman (out of 35) has returned to prison.

After one prisoner who had received this service

same institutions are quickly chastised for

attacked a prison guard, public outcry resulted

any failure, however. The evidence supporting

Going beyond the rhetoric of customer focus

in the programme being completely shut down

this approach to reducing reoffending is

means getting real results, and that relies on

for all (tattoo removal is still taking place but

strong, but not strong enough to dominate

an openness to thinking differently. In both

is no longer paid for by Corrections). And in

the negative attitudes prevalent in society.

examples above, the people involved all

2014, after strong media coverage of Phillip

Given that citizens are responsible for shaping

emphasise that this couldn’t have happened

John Smith’s escape from prison and flight to

the environment in which Ministers and

without the dedication and support of a few

Brazil, the release-to-work programme was

government departments feel able to take risks

passionate individuals determined to make it

temporarily halted and a re-evaluation of the

and think differently, it seems that influencing

successful, and the leadership that allows them

programme was undertaken. Now, the number

the attitudes of the general public is the bit

to do it. These are people genuinely motivated

of people involved in the programme is about

missing to enable the work programme to make

by the desire to change someone’s life and

half what it was.

some real gains. The greater the awareness and accountability felt by the general public, the

prevent future victims. Other initiatives have been started for the same reason. ‘Puppies in

Putting the prisoner at the centre

more that will shape the environment which enables prisons to think innovatively about

Prison’ gets prisoners to train mobility dogs, and the ‘Good to Grow’ partnership with the

Corrections has made massive changes

reducing reoffending to benefit society as a

Department of Conservation gives prisoners

in recent years to change their approach


practical work experience on conservation

to reducing reoffending by putting their


immediate customer (the prisoner) at the centre

Jack says he would like people to think about

of their programme design. Jack would like to

their ability to influence change. “We are too

At the end of the day, however, Corrections is

see more people in the public arena advocating

small a country to keep doing things this way.

limited in how far it can take these customer-

for a shift away from the traditional, American-

We can make up our minds to change”.

11 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016


A Woman of Influence A conversation with Jo Cribb

Dr Jo Cribb Outgoing Chief Executive of the Ministry for Women

Dr Jo Cribb seeks out roles where she can make a positive difference for New Zealand women and families. This has included senior management and policy roles in the Office of the Children’s Commission and the Ministry of Social Development, and most recently, four years as Chief Executive of the Ministry for Women. Several days before she stepped down from that job to pursue opportunities as a consultant and researcher, Dr Cribb spoke with Public Sector’s ROSE NORTHCOTT about some of the Ministry’s key achievements under her leadership and the constant battle to get gains for women. Did you set out to be an advocate for women and children? After I finished my Masters I really wanted to work on social issues. We have a strong social conscience in my family and a long history of service to the community. From a very young age I had a fascination about society and communities and how they work. The complexity of the human condition never ceases to fascinate me and throughout my career I have had amazing opportunities to directly support families and whānau.

PhD in Public Policy at Victoria University (completed on maternity leave). When I did my PhD I was working in the area of granting funding to NGOs. The contracting regime wasn’t working for anybody and I looked at how we could improve it. University gave me a structured environment to work through something I wanted to change.

Aged just 39 when you were appointed, you were one of the youngest public sector chief executives? What led to that?

In the next phase of my career I will take up an opportunity to continue to research. I think it is crucial to keep building our knowledge and insights. As a consultant, I hope to be able to apply my research insights in a practical way so as to offer the most robust solution to the problem at hand.

One of my first jobs following my Masters was at the State Services Commission. It was fascinating. I got to understand the mechanics of the government system and how it operated and all worked together. It’s a really important thing for a young analyst to see.

The Ministry for Women’s role is to provide high-quality analysis and advice and improve outcomes for New Zealand women. What were some of the important initiatives you introduced to really make a difference?

On my first day at the SSC, a senior woman said I should aim for the top. And I was lucky. I was given a break to prove myself while working in the Office of the Children’s Commission when I led a substantial review of Government policy on vulnerable children.

A big thing was implementing a whole new business model. The way we (the Ministry) think about ourselves now is more like a consulting firm where the product we deliver is influence – we influence others to act and change their behaviour. We are continually working out who to work with, how to influence them, and what they need to do to be successful.

Being appointed chief executive came at the wrong time. I had young children, but my family backed me and I did it. Opportunities don’t come when you want them to. You’ve got to find a way. For me it was just someone saying they could see something in me and I should aim for the top. I want senior leaders to install this confidence in the next generation – all it takes is reaching out and encouraging talented people to step up.

What role has education played? I’ve used my time in educational institutions to solve problems. I did my Masters in Arts at Canterbury, followed by a Post-Graduate Diploma in Management at Cambridge University in the UK, then a

12 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016

Our ‘clients’ don’t necessarily choose to work with us; we choose them and influence them as to why they need to work with us and what they need to do. We have a range of ‘clients’ depending on what piece of work and outcome we are trying to achieve. For example, if it’s women on private sector boards we could work with board chairs around recruitment. If it’s working to prevent violence against women, we will work to influence the frontline behaviour of officials and the policy process. It’s about being completely customer centric – working with the ‘client’ who needs support to achieve a goal.

What are some specific achievements? One of our recent work streams focused on better utilising women’s skills in the economy. We worked out where women’s skills were least utilised – in the trades – and that’s where we focused. We used the Christchurch rebuild as a test case and worked alongside all the key players to attract women into apprenticeships. We worked with the Industry Training Organisations, polytechnics, construction companies and the media. We more than doubled the number of women working in the rebuild. We also focused on ‘how do we keep women and girls safe?’ The best way is if no violence happens. We can prevent violence against women and girls. Our insight and research was able to bring a new dimension to this issue, and the government’s strategy now includes prevention at its core.

What success have you had in getting more women onto state sector boards? The participation rate of women on state sector boards was 43.5% in 2016 (up from 40.5% in 2012). That’s an international phenomenon. Every time there is a vacancy on a state sector board we put up a list of capable women. We actively recruit women to nominate. Even talented and experienced women don’t put themselves forward. There’s a lack of confidence and they sell themselves short. They don’t see what a wide range of skills they have to offer. It’s satisfying to be able to ensure we have a strong pool of women to put forward and see them selected.

Meanwhile, female representation on private sector boards is languishing at 17%. What can be done to increase that? No one has a mandate over private sector boards. We’ve learnt that initially quotas may fix the problem but they don’t generate systemic change. Quotas don’t necessarily create a whole pool of female talent and women resent being the quota board member. Having said that, just keeping on going the way we are is not working. What we’ve found in Australia is that a group of brave men have stood up and said it has to change and are driving through change with considerable success.

You described the Ministry’s work as a constant battle. What did you mean by that? I was talking about getting gains for women. There’s a range of camps that we work with. Sometimes people want to change but don’t know how. Our role is to show them the solution. But sometimes we are working with people who don’t see a problem. Until you have been the only women in a room of 20 men you don’t know what that feels like to be different. Trying to show the experience of others can be a constant battle.

Are you optimistic that we will see positive change in New Zealand? From my perspective, I think there is a role for men to be more vocal, more brave and to champion change. We have some companies showing amazing leadership in this area, in our banking and insurance sectors for example we have very outspoken leaders. There are role models there. It just needs to be more. I am optimistic, however. I see brave men and women speaking out and walking the talk, working on their own organisations. I see a whole generation of socially conscious and active young men and women who are gender savvy. There are green shoots everywhere. Workplace flexibility is a key driver that would help men and women. Women tend to take on the burden of child caring. Often we ask women to choose or force their hands to work in roles that are below their capability so they can achieve workplace balance. If we really want to use all the talent in New Zealand, we have to think differently about how we structure roles.

How does the Ministry keep itself relevant to the younger generation? The Ministry is having far more engagement with younger women and men. We’ve made a strong investment in social media channels and think carefully about how to present material and insights so it’s accessible and used by young women and men. Wherever young men and women are gaining information, we have to be there.

What advice do you have for young female public servants? When I first came to Wellington I thought if I was going to be taken seriously I had to do a number of things. I like wearing colourful clothing and shoes and bright red lipstick but I thought I had to wear a navy blue Country Road suit every day to be seen as professional. All I would say to young women today is that you have a unique and powerful contribution to make. Don’t spend time trying to fit into an ideal that you think is necessary to be taken seriously - like my navy blue Country Road suit. Have belief in yourself. A number of female public sector CEs have made ourselves accessible in the hope that the number of female chief executives continues to grow. You can’t be what you can’t see. Senior women have a role to be seen and we have been doing this.

What do you say to people who say we don’t need a Ministry for Women? Look at the levels of violence against women, the number of women in senior positions and board rooms in the private sector, and the number of women who are in low wage, low skilled jobs. Until these negative statistics improve, we need to keep working.

13 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016


WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE... In our final article on “wicked” issues, writer SHELLY BISWELL asks how safe is New Zealand’s drinking-water?

On 3 September Havelock North residents received the “all

water supply 365 days of the year that would be 9125 person/days

clear” that they could drink their water straight from the tap. It

(25 x 365) and the Act would apply.

had been a long August for the town, with more than one-third of the town’s population of 14,000 reportedly becoming sick

The Act went into force on 1 July 2008, but to give water suppliers

due to contaminated drinking-water. Test results suggest that

time to prepare it was phased in. The Ministry of Health provides

campylobacter was the primary infectious agent, although the

a table on its website that shows when types of water suppliers

source of the contamination has not been confirmed.

needed to comply with the Act, both under the original legislation and the extended dates that were announced by the government

Asking questions

in 2009 to give water suppliers additional time to meet the requirements of the Act. The last two water suppliers that needed

In mid-September the Government announced it would begin

to comply under the legislation were neighbourhood drinking-

an independent inquiry into the Havelock North water supply

water suppliers (serving 25 to 100 people) and rural agricultural

contamination incident. Appointed inquiry members are Hon Lyn

drinking-water suppliers. These two types of suppliers were given

Stevens QC who will chair the inquiry, Dr Karen Poutasi CNZM,

until 1 July 2016 to be compliant. (Rural agricultural drinking-

and Anthony Wilson ED.

water suppliers can show that at least 75 per cent of their water

The inquiry members will look at how the Havelock North water supply system became

supply is used for agricultural purposes and have a different set of compliance criteria.)

contaminated. It will also look at how that

In terms of complying with the Act, according to the Ministry

was addressed and how both local and

of Health’s 2014/15 annual report on drinking-water, which is

central government agencies responded.

prepared by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research,

They will present their findings at the end

about 3,008,000 (79.4 percent) New Zealanders received drinking-

of March.

water supplies which met all the requirements of the Drinking-

The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is conducting its own investigation into the issue, with a focus on whether the water bores that supply the town’s drinking-water were sealed correctly. The Health Act 1956, which was amended by the Health (Drinking-water) Amendment

for bacterial (such as E. coli) standards, which the Ministry of Health calls the most important criteria, are much higher at 96.8 percent. But only 80 percent of drinking-water supplies met the protozoal (such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium) standards. The report covers registered networked drinking-water supplies that serve more than 100 people.

Act in October 2007, is the

Beyond the annual report, communicating the state of New

main tool for regulating our

Zealand’s water supplies is also done through the Drinking

drinking-water supplies.

Water for New Zealand website (

The Act applies to water suppliers that serve 25 or more people for 60 or more days per year or, if there are fewer than 25 people, where there are

Developed in 1998 by ESR for the Ministry of Health, the database is used by district health boards and local bodies to schedule and monitor water samples and evaluate compliance with New Zealand’s drinking water standards. For the public, the website provides a snapshot of the state of water supplies around the country.

6000 or more person/

On the website you can type in the name of a town or region

days. For example, if all

and find out the status of its water supply based on the latest

25 people using a water

published compliance with the drinking-water standards.

supply depend on that

14 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016

Water Standards of New Zealand that year. Rates of compliance

Managing risk

management. The World Health Organization, which wanted to encourage the approach, took notice of the advances New

Chris Nokes, a Science Leader from ESR’s Risk and Response

Zealand and Australia were making.

Group, says, “New Zealand uses a risk-based approach in managing drinking-water quality.

“We’d had a monitoring-based approach to managing drinkingwater quality prior to the 2000s. Implementing risk management

“Water suppliers use water safety plans, which are risk

principles was a real game-changer,” he says.

management plans, to protect drinking-water quality. Testing for every type of pathogen (disease-causing microorganism), for

Still, the Ministry of Health says on its website that New Zealand

example, would be prohibitive cost wise, and more importantly

has relatively high rates of preventable gastrointestinal diseases.

by the time test results become available you may have had a

“For example, the campylobacteriosis rate in New Zealand is twice

contaminated supply for some time. Water safety plans identify

that of England and three times that of Australia and Canada. This

things that may go wrong in a water supply so they can be

is at least partly attributable to contamination of drinking-water.”

addressed before they become a problem.” ESR reported 42 waterborne outbreaks with 131 associated cases

“We say no one owns the water, but that position makes our water sources vulnerable.” In preparing their water safety plans, water suppliers need to look

in 2014, all of which were linked to a specific pathogen. The three most commonly reported waterborne pathogens were Giardia spp. (54.8 percent of waterborne outbreaks), Cryptosporidium spp. (23.8 percent), and Campylobacter spp. (9.5 percent).

across the full water supply chain – from “raw” water, through

Nokes says one way to reduce waterborne outbreaks is to make

treatment, to the pipe network that carries the water, for factors

sure water safety plans are living documents. “They help guide

that may create a health risk.

water suppliers through a risk assessment and management

In developing water safety plans, water suppliers need to be aware of issues that may affect the quality of their source

process, but risk factors – such as land use – can change over time and water safety plans need to reflect these changes.”

water. For example, geothermal activity can influence arsenic

Drinking-water responsibilities of district health boards are

concentrations in a water supply. Based on this knowledge, water

undertaken by drinking-water assessors. Their powers range from

suppliers in areas with known geothermal activity may build

reviewing records and asking for more information from water

regular arsenic testing and mitigation measures into their water

suppliers. They also conduct and ask water suppliers to take

supply plans. They should also plan how they will reduce the

water samples for testing. To provide a check and balance, they

health risk if they find arsenic present at unsafe concentrations.

approve water safety plans.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, because of the resourcing associated with preparing water safety plans, large water providers (serving over 10,000 people) have had relatively high compliance rates in terms of developing water safety plans. As the Ministry of Health’s 2014/15 annual report notes, however, “In general, the larger supplies have a greater level of compliance with their current requirements than smaller suppliers. However, for medium and minor supplies, more progress is needed to meet the progressively introduced requirements for water safety plans.” In the 10 years to 2005 the government offered $10 million a year through a drinking-water subsidy scheme, to assist water suppliers, but that money ran out and the scheme was not renewed. Water New Zealand is now advocating for the scheme to be reintroduced and suggests $20 million annually is required each for drinking-water and wastewater subsidy schemes. As Water New Zealand Chief Executive John Pfahlert explains, “We’ve reached good levels of compliance with the drinkingwater standards, but to continue to improve we’re going to need to invest money and build capability, particularly in lower socioeconomic and smaller communities.” ESR’s Chris Nokes says in the early 2000s New Zealand and Australia pioneered the risk-based approach to water supply

At the source Where drinking-water falls into the “wicked” problems category is that while drinking-water supplies are managed by local bodies, such as city councils, drinking-water sources are managed by regional councils under the Resource Management Act 1991 and National Environmental Standards for sources of drinking-water. Going back to water safety plans, there can be a tension between the resource consents given by a regional council and the level of 15 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016

risk a water supplier believes is acceptable.

A stark example of how water supplies are under increasing pressure occurred earlier this year when Ashburton District

That tension was illustrated at the end of August when Hastings

Council entered negotiations to sell commercial land to the

Mayor Lawrence Yule told Radio New Zealand’s Checkpoint

foreign-controlled company NZ Pure Blue which planned to

that Hawke’s Bay Regional Council shouldn’t conduct its own

bottle South Island water for export.

investigation into the Havelock North outbreak, stating, “They are responsible for the aquifer and the quality of the groundwater

The highly publicised deal was terminated by the council in the

and the issuing of all consents. So how can they objectively test

end, but had it gone through it would have included a 30-year

our bores when they have a vested interest in proving that it’s

resource consent that had not been publicly notified to extract

either us, or not them?”

about 1.4 billion litres of bore water annually.

Water New Zealand Chief Executive John Pfahlert says there are a number of challenges that New Zealand will need to address in the near future on drinking-water. When we interviewed Pfahlert

“The outbreak in Havelock North is a symptom of the environmental issues New Zealand is facing.”

he had just returned from Water New Zealand’s well-attended annual conference. “Some of the issues that received the most attention included iwi rights and the need to grapple with the idea of ownership and responsibility. We say no one owns the water, but that position

The elephant in the water – chemical treatment During the Havelock North outbreak, Hastings District Council began chlorinating the water and announced it would continue

makes our water sources vulnerable,” he says.

to chlorinate for at least several more weeks.

Associated with ownership is water pricing. “Clearly at some

As Hastings District Council Chief Executive Ross McLeod said

point water suppliers are going to want to move to the highest value use.

during a press conference on 20 August, chlorinating drinkingwater over the longer term is “a conversation for the community to have”.

“Another issue is in areas where catchment water is fully allocated, especially in areas that are facing growth pressures. There needs to be a consistent approach to help drinking-water suppliers find ways to assess water allocations. Are there ways to reallocate water that isn’t being used? What happens when they say no?” There’s also a need for building capabilities in water management. Interestingly, this year during the Water New Zealand annual conference a management/thought leadership presentation stream was introduced and was extremely popular with attendees. “Water professionals recognise the importance of building a more strategic approach to water management. Central government is currently considering changes to the Local Government Act to make it easier for Local Government to establish Council Controlled Organisations to manage water assets.” Pfahlert says at the core of all of these issues is moving to a better understanding that drinking-water is finite and has costs.

It’s a conversation being had around the country in the wake of the outbreak, although for many communities it seems that

“Not chlorinating water from shallow bores such as those in Christchurch is like driving without a safety belt.”

chlorination remains an unpalatable solution. For example, Christchurch City Council went against its own staff advice and unanimously decided not to consider temporarily

“As a country we’ve been resistant to measuring use. There is a general resistance to water meters, for example, but as our population grows and as other pressures such as climate change and land use affect our water supplies and sources we need to make changes.”

chlorinating the water from eight shallow bores that serve about 20,000 residents in northwest Christchurch. Shallow bores are often more prone to contamination from surface sources. In what appears to be an acknowledgement of the risks associated with shallow bores, the council is accelerating a programme to replace 22 shallow bores (including the eight in question). The

16 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016

work was originally due to be finished by 30 June 2018, but that

Local authorities need to build the effects of climate

work is being brought forward so that most of the wells will no

change into their water safety plans.

longer be used as a drinking-water supply by March 2017. “The outbreak in Havelock North is a symptom of the As Water New Zealand Chief Executive John Pfahlert said at

environmental issues New Zealand is facing.”

the time of the council’s decision, “Not chlorinating water from shallow bores such as those in Christchurch is like driving without

As Woodward and Hale summed up in their blog, “Of

a safety belt.

course it is important to detect and deal effectively with the threats in our drinking-water supply. But it would be a

“We know that councillors are under pressure, often from very

great mistake to be trapped by the hazard paradigm; this

vocal groups of people who oppose adding chemicals to public

issue is bigger than organisms and disinfectants.

water supplies, but they also need to remember that, as Havelock North has shown us, there can be very severe consequences

“We have to also tackle threats to our water supply.

when the risk doesn’t pay off.”

This requires up-stream thinking, on the scale of water catchments, agricultural economies and climate systems.

Even proponents agree that chlorine isn’t perfect, water treated

It would be a great waste if the independent inquiry

with chlorine can have an aftertaste and smell that many people

focused only on the proximate causes of the outbreak.

don’t like, and many people have an issue with adding any

The bigger question is what we need to do to protect the

chemicals to their water supply. Just consider the ongoing battle

quality and sustainability of the New Zealand habitat.”

with fluoridation in some New Zealand water supplies, in spite of the scientific evidence that shows its proven dental benefits. There’s also additional costs associated with chlorinating the

Weighing up the costs

water supply.

While there are costs associated

Thinking big on water quality

costs associated with infectious

with treating drinking-water, the outbreak are high.

University of Auckland Professor Alistair Woodward and his colleague Research Associate Professor Simon Hales,

The Ministry of Health’s 2015

Department of Public Health, University of Otago, published a


blog in September suggesting that the Havelock North Inquiry


needs to “think big”.

Quality note that in 2004, OMS

October for



Consultants estimated savings of As Woodward says, “Our point is that the inquiry should look at

$13 million to $37 million a year

operations and procedures around drinking-water supplies, but

by controlling waterborne disease.

there are stresses on our fresh water resources that need to be

OMS used 1999 numbers (the most


recent at the time) which were based on 18,000 cases of notified

“These stresses range from population growth to changing land

waterborne enteric disease data.

use and are reflected in deteriorating measures of fresh water

A review by ESR in 2006 put the

quality, including a rise in nitrate levels and a fall in biodiversity,

number of cases closer to 34,000 in

across the country, and are most marked in areas where dairy

1999, which the Ministry of Health

farming is on the rise.”

notes “would give a much higher

Woodward says climate is another important driver of disease risk. The outbreak in Havelock North was preceded by the

benefit than that calculated by OMS”.

heaviest daily rainfall recorded in at least 10 years by the Hastings


automatic weather station: 82mm in the 24 hours to 9am on 6

examples, including an outbreak

August. The rainfall may have caused the first substantial runoff


in the area for nearly a year.




campylobacteriosis town


several in



(population 1790) in August 2012

“We need to look at whether we have the right settings for alerting the public to potential outbreaks.”

where 413 people became ill due to faulty chlorination of the water supply. The economic impact of the incident may have cost the town

“We put forward in our blog the possibility that this weather event could have played a part in contamination of the water supply.

between $300,000 and $500,000, not including the time off school and

17 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016

work for individuals affected.

“One of the lessons is, who is responsible for communicating that information? Is it the local council or water supplier? Is it

In early September, the Hastings District Council put early

the regional council? Is it the district health board? Is it Civil

estimates for their infectious disease outbreak at $700,000.

Defence and Emergency Management? There needs to be a clear

Of course, there are also the costs to human health. Age Concern New Zealand Chief Executive Stephanie Clare says while older people and the very young are often most susceptible to infectious outbreaks, it’s a concern for everyone. “These type of outbreaks can be the ‘last straw’ for someone who has a compromised immune system. The results can be loss of independence, slow recovery and in extreme cases even death,” she says.

understanding – not just within organisations but by the wider public – about who is responsible for providing information and where people can find that information.” Tied to that, Clare says, is the question of when situations become emergencies and when the public is notified of potential drinking-water contamination. “We need to look at whether we have the right settings for alerting the public to potential outbreaks. People were getting sick weeks before there was a public health advisory in place, so we need to ask whether the

“The goal is to make sure systems are in place so that this type of thing doesn’t happen, but equally important is making sure good, solid communications exist so that credible and accurate information can reach people through a range of channels.” Clare says there have been many takeaway lessons from Havelock North. “There were things that could have been done better when it came to communicating information to people. We need to evaluate what went right and what went wrong and make sure other communities can learn from Havelock North’s experience.

public could have been informed earlier. “It’s better to err on the safe side and have people boiling their water than to end up with an outbreak of this magnitude.” Water New Zealand Chief Executive John Pfahlert doesn’t mince words when he says we “dodged a bullet” with Havelock North. “As serious as it has been, the reality is it could have been far worse. One of the things that needs to come out of the inquiry is whether the systems we have in place are robust enough to address the increasing pressures on our drinking-water supplies.”


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Malcolm Alexander Chief Executive of Local Government New Zealand

Malcolm Alexander, who has a professional background in infrastructure and is currently Chief Executive of Local Government New Zealand, says that New Zealand needs to address together and in an integrated fashion the allocation rules for water, the quality standards to be attained, and the “3 waters” infrastructure and funding needs to deliver those standards.

increased water quality standards are factored into the equation.

benefits, but which can also strain resources.”

“From my perspective, it’s critical that we work across government, communities and industry to find cost-effective solutions that have community buy-in. In this regard the Land and Water Forum has done some really good work in getting stakeholders working together in freshwater management, but there’s more work to be done, particularly on the infrastructure front.”

LGNZ carried out its “3 Waters project” to build a better understanding of some of the issues associated with water infrastructure needs into the future, and to make sure decision-making processes can meet those challenges.

Alexander says one of the big challenges facing communities is funding the infrastructure that will be required. Strain

“As a country, until recent times we haven’t needed to worry too much about access to water, but in areas where we’re seeing rapid growth we’re beginning to see pressure on our water resources. The issues are compounded when a community’s appetite for

“We can’t put it all on local government and expect ratepayers to pay for everything,” he says. “We need to look at the changing types of use, for example, increased tourism in some areas, which can bring economic

“Combined, infrastructure for our water, wastewater and stormwater sector has an asset replacement value of about $40 billion. We have nearly 70 councils delivering these three water services to their communities, with regional councils then setting water quality standards in their catchments and managing environmental impacts. “Those councils serve communities of all different sizes with all different expectations and needs. “Whatever allocation regime or water quality standards ultimately are set, we must ensure that the infrastructure can be put in place to deliver them and that if that cost is to fall on ratepayers, that ratepayers agree.” Alexander says the 3 Waters project recommended a co-regulatory model according to which a local government-owned sector agency would have the responsibility for setting assets standards, ensuring that the overall system would remain fit for purpose into the future and providing recommendations on key industry issues.

Somewhere in Bangalore... 24 February 2012. Ekers, Paul, 1961-: [Digital cartoons published in the New Zealand Herald and other publications]. Ref: DCDL-0028481. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

“The aim is to be more coordinated and strategic in our approach to how we manage our water resources. If we don’t link up policy goals with on-the-ground implementation, then we will fail to meet New Zealand’s needs.”

19 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016


WORKING TOWARDS WORKING TOGETHER One of the keys to a genuinely customer-centric public service lies in collaboration. So why is it that, despite many policy initiatives requiring collaboration, changes to a more collaborative, citizen-focused, public service haven’t generally eventuated? NASI JENKIN and JAMES LOCKHART looked at the problem.

Nasi Jenkin

James Lockhart

Strategic Advisor, Shared Solutions

Senior Lecturer, Massey Business School

Since the mid-1980s the quest for more value from the New Zealand public sector has resulted in a series of reforms. Recently these reforms have included the transformation from New Public Management (NPM) to Better Public Services (BPS), as introduced in 2012. There has been a cultural and structural shift to a whole-ofgovernment approach, with a focus on results and outcomes and an explicit collaboration agenda, which provides opportunities for collaborative governance. Overall, it appears to have been a pretty steep learning curve for many.

managers in our research equated networking with collaboration. Although networking may lead to collaboration, they are certainly not the same thing. Considering the various literature definitions and the intentions summarised through the BPS reforms, collaboration means to work together through a facilitated process of decision making - talking together and sharing resources (people, things and ideas) - to achieve a common purpose. Often it is a temporary arrangement, but on occasions it becomes more permanent.

In an attempt to evaluate why it’s been so tough to change to a more collaborative, citizenfocused public service, we sought to identify the impediments to collaboration as understood by public service senior managers. The first theme to emerge from our research is that people (employees) are at the heart of the opportunity to collaborate, while the second theme was the requirement for a system-wide approach.

If you have been to a work meeting in Wellington you will have heard of the apparent virtues of collaboration. But what does this actually mean and how does it play out? There are some key issues that have to be considered. First, even though many practitioners appear to intuitively understand the principles guiding collaboration, implementation continues to be a struggle. Maybe this “intuitive” understanding has in itself been a cause of complacency to date, almost like I get it, now what? It is time to go beyond the intuitive and superficial and to develop understanding that is “robust, reflective and operable - that can be explained, taught, coached and implemented”.

If we don’t understand what collaboration is or how to collaborate, it is at risk of becoming the latest buzzword to which only lip service is paid and from which no real change results.

Collaboration – what does it really mean? Collaboration means different things to different people. It can sit anywhere on a continuum that spans “cooperation” of some sort through to full “service integration”. For example, some

20 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016

We have to also consider if collaboration is always the right solution. In short, it isn’t. It is best suited to complex problems that demand effort to achieve a change. There has to be a shared purpose rooted in an agreed problem definition; not an inherited pre-determined problem definition either, but one that has been

identified through a collective, iterative and inclusive process, such as design thinking and which is highly likely to be systemic, or at least near-systemic. The desired outcomes determine who is involved in the process and trust is critical to success. The apparent problems associated with collaboration across organisational silos are well versed, especially when we listened to many experts that initiated the early reforms. But to deliver the BPS outcomes, we need to go beyond in-house collaboration and focus on cross-sector collaborations, which are more complicated and challenging. This simply isn’t an easy row to hoe. You can think of collaboration like a chain: only as strong as its weakest link, at any given time and in any given situation. Sometimes an individual leader (anywhere in the system) stands in the gap and holds things together – but this is not a sustainable, long-term solution. Fundamentally, success is dependent on understanding all the parts of the package and each part working cohesively within the whole. We have to recognise that collaboration is not some linear process to follow and there is no road map. It is a complex adaptive system – so stuff impacts other stuff. If you are looking for one thing, you could miss another. If we don’t understand what collaboration is or how to collaborate, it is at risk of becoming the latest buzzword to which only lip service is paid and from which no real change results.

An entirely new way of working When we consider the trajectory of public sector reforms collaboration is essentially an entirely new way of working. Many leaders have come through a competitive system, but in this new arena success is dependent on a very specific skill set and a new style of leadership. Principles and good intentions are no longer enough. Collaborative leadership necessitates an empowering approach, a comfort with ambiguity, and an ability to learn from failure. This is particularly tough in an environment with a dominant “fear of failure” and a reward system that favours “known knowns”. We now need leaders with a new mindset – Carol Dweck of Stanford University calls this a “growth mindset” (as opposed to a “fixed mindset”) - while others have talked about “adaptive” behaviours. Whilst we did not undertake an evaluation of leadership styles in our research, nor of theory pertaining to styles of leadership, the results point to a desirable leadership style akin to servant leadership which is very much in line with the traditional public service ethos of public servants. Collaborative leadership necessitates an empowering approach, a comfort with ambiguity, and an ability to learn from failure. At the heart of collaboration is a diversity and inclusion agenda, what we recognise as genuine inclusiveness. And, in the end, it’s about people and lower-level politics. Too often the impact of human agency is underplayed. It is then no surprise that competitive self-interest thwarts the development of a shared purpose, especially when there is a shortage of trust. We have to find opportunities to link self-interest to shared interest… which is easier said than done. A whole system approach Taking a whole system approach means focusing on both organisational processes and outcomes. It means we have to make it easier to make decisions; complex governance mechanisms are unhelpful. There are both organisational and institutional tensions in a system designed for stability which is now looking to deliver agile, citizen-focused collaborative services. All evidence points to the fact that much of the value-added collaboration comes from a small percentage of employees (one research says

as little as 3% to 5%). Therefore, considering structural changes to “shift decision rights to more appropriate people” in the system (amongst other considerations) could be a significant enabler for collaboration. The challenge for leaders under these circumstances is to identify, enable and empower these successful collaborators across the New Zealand public sector to work towards the desired BPS outcomes. In their chapter entitled, “Enhancing public innovation through collaboration, leadership and new public governance”, Sørenson and Torfing identified that “the enhancement of collaborative forms of social innovation calls for a transformation of the entire system of public governance that shifts the balance from New Public Management towards New Public Governance”. Therefore, if the system is not designed for collaboration, as identified by respondents in our research (a finding which incidentally is supported by wider global research), then expecting a different outcome within the existing system is tantamount to “magical thinking”. Similarly, merely adapting the system is likely to add limited value and continue to impede progress towards genuine, customer-focused service delivery. In an environment with complex social problems, the need is to identify new opportunities to accelerate collaborative efforts. Identifying where to invest requires maturity in evidencing effective collaboration, and system mapping of initiatives to identify the end-to-end line of sight for success; and, indeed, the ability to learn from failure. The focus needs to be on recognising and promoting the right kinds of collaborative work (rather than simply the number of initiatives – a box-ticking exercise in futility). The public sector needs to be brave and innovative; it needs to identify areas where collaboration could have a real impact. When we looked at international and national good practice examples, we found success stories included collaborative governance and an extended leadership model. There were shared measures, incentives and funding models. We also found that many frameworks utilise independent “back bone” support systems for collaboration projects. Fundamentally, system collaboration is about optimising the collective impact of individual agency efforts to deliver shared value.

Key opportunities Most significantly, we identified an absence of a public sector collaborative model/framework and a gap of professionals trained/skilled in collaboration – and there was a call from participants for both. We learnt that there is an evident need to assess the current state and develop a collaboration framework that draws on learning from a variety of theories/practices, but which remains contextually specific. There are key opportunities for investment in learning and development approaches; and for a programme of work that has intentionality around culture change. As one respondent said: “everyone would agree that culture is the secret source, the competitive advantage that connects, unites and makes communities happy – despite this importance we rarely bring an intentionality to culture…” The public sector needs to be brave and innovative; it needs to identify areas where collaboration could have a real impact. We would never expect our rugby players to turn up on game day without due training… why do we expect this of managers and employees? In conclusion, the current situation could be compared to the well known “iceberg principle” – there is so much more to the picture than what we often see. The focus tends to be on the tip of the iceberg and the rhetoric that guides activity. Moving from the tip of the iceberg requires intentionality; for many this will be an investment in developing self. For the sector the focus now needs to be on developing a model/ framework that is context-specific, delivered by leaders and practitioners with the right training and tools. Just as the New Zealand public sector has a policy role and an understood mechanism for policy development, it now needs a professional collaboration role and mechanisms for collaboration that are sustainable. Nazanin (Nasi) Jenkin is a Strategic Advisor at Shared Solutions: The article above draws on insights from her Massey MBA applied research project, “An analysis of key impediments to collaboration in the New Zealand public sector” completed earlier this year. James Lockhart is a Senior Lecturer at the Massey Business School.

21 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016


Customer Focus,


Customer focus – it’s something every

So, when nearly every public and private

why do so many comedians set the ‘soup du jour’

organisation claims to have. But how

organisation in the country tells you about their

story (WAITRESS: Sorry we’ve run out of jours) in

excellent customer focus, can you be excused for

New Zealand?

many actually do have it? And is there a real way we can improve how we

being cynical?

Recently, I had a bad run of café meals. Soft eggs

In my experience, bad customer service can

were asked for and out came cold rocks, and

appear at any level of any organisation, public or

when an order was entirely forgotten the owner

satirist DAVE ARMSTRONG ponders

private. For every time I am pleasantly surprised

said “sorry, but we’re training new staff.” I must

the question…

by the service I receive, there seems to be another

remember that bad customer service is not the

where I come away disappointed. But the thing

provider’s fault but the customer’s.

Have you ever heard someone say, “then again,

that remains the same is that whether I receive

I don’t have a very good sense of humour.”

superb or dreadful service, the organisation

Probably you haven’t – the reason being that most

always trumpets its strong customer focus.

received? Or course not – I’m a New Zealander,

If we look back at our history, we might

isn’t the providers of bad customer service who

understand why our service culture is not always

are the problem but the thousands of Kiwis who

that great. Perhaps the large number of British

patiently put up with it?

serve our customers? Playwright and

people, however humourless they may appear, think that deep down they are either capable of being very funny themselves or appreciate people who are.

But did I complain about the bad service I and I didn’t want to cause a fuss. Perhaps it really

migrants who arrived

It seems to also be the same with customer

here in the nineteenth

service. I don’t think I’ve ever heard an

century, most of whom

organisation say, “Our company produces

were escaping the awful

an excellent product, but we’re really bad at

British class system,

focusing on our customers.” If you hear about a

didn’t want to bow

customer service debacle, inevitably the company

or scrape to others,

representative involved will talk about it being an

remembering how they

“isolated incident”.

had to act towards the aristocracy back home,

So, when nearly every public and private organisation in the country tells you about their excellent customer focus, can you be excused for being cynical?

and saw providing excellent customer service as demeaning? However, though we might still believe we

None of our businesses and organisations seem to believe that they lack an effective customer focus. I know someone who worked for a large bank that prided itself on its excellent customer focus. Every

are all equal in New Zealand, most Kiwis would agree that we’re less bolshie than the Australians. I love the story of the waitress serving

We smile pleasantly as we exit the café that has

well they believed the bank served the customers.

Bob Hawke red wine at a very exclusive function

just stuffed up our order or overcooked our eggs,

in the Outback. As she poured, she looked over to

then we bitch about it in the car all the way home.

The results did not make good reading. While

the prime minister, tapped him on the shoulder

Then we swear to friends and family that we will

staff appreciated the efforts of their colleagues

and said, “say when”.

never visit that café again or take to social media

year the senior management asked their staff how

and immediate bosses, the big problem was the autocratic, heads-in-the-sand culture at the top, which trickled down to affect the customers. The bank’s management duly took notice and acted – by stopping the annual survey.

22 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016

Even though it’s not true that John Cleese based Fawlty Towers on a New Zealand hotel, that particular urban myth has survived a long time, given how bad customer service can be here. And

to release our true feelings, in a peculiarly Kiwi show of passive-aggressive behaviour. As local comedian Brian Sergent once said, “the service was so bad, I almost said something.”

In my case I wrote a bitchy newspaper column

of new words to describe what are often very old

solutions with over 360 people, including young

about bad service and expected my friends


people and those who worked with them, to help

who owned cafés or worked in hospitality to be furious - but they all agreed. “I used to love going to other cafés,” said a friend who owned a café with exemplary service, “but I gave up because the service was so bad.”

Yet I suspect ‘co-creation’ and ‘co-design’ are more than buzzwords. Underlying them both is the idea that you should not just bear the customer

the large number of currently unlicensed drivers. I will watch their progress with interest.

in mind when you create a product or service,

Undergoing a co-design process involving genuine

but you should actively get them to help you to

consultation – or ‘engagement’, as it seems to be

design and create it. It

currently called – can be inconvenient, expensive

sounds sensible, though

and infuriating. But what is the alternative? More

for organisations used

years of knowing that policies are only partly

to providing services

working and a whole lot of customers, and

for their customers and

potential customers, are missing out?

setting all the parameters themselves, it can mean giving up some power. And giving up power is never easy when there’s no gun pointed at your head. So how can co-creation or co-design work? I recently attended a workshop where we had to design a wallet with a partner. It soon became obvious that Dreadful reputation

what most of us needed was not a better-designed

So what can the public service do to improve its

cash and receipts so our wallets didn’t bulge then

customer focus? In the Glide Time days it had a

break. Our current wallets were simply a symptom,

dreadful reputation, which wasn’t always justified,

not a cause, of our unordered, messy lives.

but the public perception remained.

co-create ideas and structures that might reduce

Sometimes engagement doesn’t go as planned, yet we must bear in mind that if we keep designing the equivalent of new wallets for people who don’t need new wallets, then we won’t get anywhere. In the early 1970s, soon after the Green Revolution, some biologists came up with an amazing new strain of rice that was exactly twice as productive as the usual one. One American organisation introduced the miracle rice into a Cambodian village. A year later the scientists returned to see the results of the wondrous grain. Sure enough it was twice as productive, and it tasted great.

wallet, but a better way of managing our plastic,

I suspect if we had a comprehensive co-design

I had a relative who worked for a small private

process to design new prisons that are currently

company back in those allegedly dark days. Quite

being built that involved both prisoners and

often the company would send off orders later

guards, the cost-effective solution that they would

than they were meant to. When angry customers

come up with would be to spend the money in

enquired as to where their goods were, the boss

preventing people from going to prison in the first

But when they inspected the village rice paddies

would say, “bloody Railways, late again.” He was

place. Hardly a new idea, but one of which our

the scientists saw that the locals had only

always believed as the inefficient public service

society needs to be constantly reminded.

planted half the amount of rice they had planted

myth was alive and well.

Is a reduction in unemployment numbers a

previously. The villagers were getting the same amount of rice they had produced for centuries

Today, public perception has changed. Anyone

success in customer focus? Possibly – if numbers

who has waited hours trying to contact a bank,

have reduced in real terms. But what if numbers

airline or large corporation knows that bad service

are lower because people have despaired at the

can appear in either the public or private sector.

top-down way that policy is developed? What if

Though many of our public organisations

Many of our public organisations can point to

‘clients’ opt out of the system not because they

perform well, there are a number of areas – family

satisfied customers in many areas, but can more

have a job but because the bureaucracy that they

violence is one – where progress has been slow

be done?

have to deal with in order to receive their benefit is

and difficult. Perhaps rather than throwing more

just too complicated?

money at these problem areas we need to throw

Look at almost any tender for government

but only needed to work half as hard, which infuriated the profit-driven Americans.

the problems – in the form of the people who

services and words like ‘agile’, ‘nimble’ ‘innovative’

A New Zealand organisation, the Auckland

‘engagement’ ‘co-creation’ and ‘collaboration’ will

Co-Design Lab, has with a number of partners

jump out at you. Are they meaningful words that

tackled driver licensing. Its emphasis was on the

represent a new way of engaging with customers

large number of young unlicensed drivers. It is

You never know, some high-level engagement

or simply the latest buzzwords that tired old

not difficult to speculate on the reasons: lack of

and co-creation could have interesting results,

companies are using to try to score a bit of work?

money, low written and oral English skills, bad

especially if it’s used in areas where progress has

experiences with the law, and access to training.

not been good. That way, it’s not so much of a risk.

For those of us who lived through ‘customer-based solutions’, ‘knowledge economy’, ‘big data’ and

But rather than just call in the experts, the Lab

‘information superhighway’, we have become wary

interviewed, brainstormed and tested potential

create them and those who are affected by them – at the money.

23 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016


DELIGHT is on the other side of disruption

Jim Scully Managing Director and Founding Partner of ThinkPlace New Zealand

effort. This effort included new recruitment profiles

contexts, just managing the status quo is not

and up-skilling for empathetic service delivery,

enough. Today’s leaders must be competent in

station refreshes, investing in bold infrastructural

driving both creative disruption AND operational

changes and rethinking timetables. The result?

efficiency to create new models of value. We

A significant and sustained lift in customer

cannot achieve this through the same operational

experience and satisfaction, a more efficient urban

governance, leadership and methods that are great

rail system and smart targeting of technology

at keeping us stable. I believe this aspect is less


developed than getting people to be customer

Enlightening and disconcerting Taking a customer perspective challenges our worldview; we see their needs and experience through new eyes. This can be both enlightening

“We have been focused on moving trains. We need

and disconcerting as we are compelled to act

to shift our focus to moving people”.

but don’t always know what to do. The outside-

This simple, yet impactful remark was made by a seasoned manager at Sydney Trains after a ThinkPlace facilitated co-design session.

in perspective challenges our paradigm and questions our past efforts when designing and delivering our services; we are often deeply invested in our existing services. It also raises

I have heard statements such as this many times

questions that demand answers. A fellow

over the years when leading human-centred design

collaborator, Banny Banejee, who runs Stanford

initiatives in New Zealand and overseas. Often an

ChangeLabs, uses the term ‘fish hook questions’

insight such as this is discovered and people are

to describe these questions that get deeply lodged

immediately energised to create a shift in their

in your mind. This is what happens when we get

service. However, as leaders, we find ourselves

customer focused – we uncover sharp insights and

frustrated that the seemingly simple shift struggles

fishhook questions that change our perception of

to get traction or moves at a glacial pace.

reality and nag us into action. Uncovering new customer insights results in

New insights with old methods equals status quo sprinkled with new frustrations.

change and new approaches; this often equals risk, which we falsely believe is best avoided. All change and innovation involves risk, so it should be recognised, embraced and managed through

focused. I often say “you can’t prove your way into a future that does not yet exist and have to first imagine it.” New insights with old methods equals status quo sprinkled with new frustrations. We have the privilege of taking a customer focus daily through hearing from people in poverty, listening to our vulnerable children, co-designing with Māori on deeply important issues, reimagining literacy for the Yurok tribe in Northern California, shaping e-Health experience in Australia or helping leaders transform their operations. In every case, we are in a position of both privilege and deep obligation to value this precious information. When you take a customer focus you also take on the mantel of trusted ally - you have an obligation to do something. People need to be heard like they need to breathe, then see action. Finally, taking on a customer focus requires us to truly listen with new ears and be curious. This is quite hard as we have to park our ego and the, “I’m smart, therefore I must be right” voice. Hold your voice of expertise lightly and listen for their voices of experience.

Whilst it’s crucial to have the customer focus, I

techniques such as rapid prototyping or co-

So, while being customer-focused is a great start, to

know that this is only the start of a journey. The

designing. The biggest rewards are on the other

get to ‘delight’ and ‘game-changing ‘, be prepared

ability to gain new customer insights and then

side of risk.

to have your thinking, service models and methods

actually allow them to change the reality of how you deliver your services takes nous and sustained

In today’s complex and dynamic organisational


effort. The methodologies and mindsets that enable you to run a stable operation are not the same as those needed to deliver on the customer focused commitment. Different methods are required to translate new insights into shifts in your customers’ experience. More importantly, this shift requires a series of actions layered through the service model, while at all times maintaining clear traceability back to the desired customer experience shift. This is often the reverse of what happens when customer insights are sought to validate a pre-determined service model. Taking a customer focus in a co-designed way can disrupt not only your thinking but also your existing service models for the better. The case of Sydney Trains is an example of going beyond initial customer focus to a real commitment to a fundamental customer focus pivot and the collective alignment of catalysed

24 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016

“Puff the Magic dragon...” “Your call is important to us...” 6 April, 2004. Smith, Ashley W, 1948 - : [Digital cartoons published in the Shipping Gazette, MG Business, or Presto]. Ref: DCDL-0004601. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Nominations are now open Nominations are now open

The Deloitte IPANZ Public Sector Excellence Awards recognise excellence inIPANZ the public sector, and are a genuine opportunity The Deloitte Public Sector Excellence Awards recognise to excellenceprojects in the public andthe arelives a genuine opportunity to celebrate thatsector, enhance of New Zealanders. celebrate projects that enhance the lives of New Zealanders.

If you are aware of a fantastic public sector project or initiative, why If you are awarethe of aorganisation fantastic public sector project or initiative, why not encourage to submit a nomination? not encourage the organisation to submit a nomination?

The 2017 award categories are: The 2017 award categories are:

• The Justice Sector Award for Building Trust and Confidence in Government • The Justice Sector Award for Building Trust and Confidence in Government

• Te Puni Kōkiri Award for Excellence in Crown-Māori Relationships • Te Puni Kōkiri Award for Excellence in Crown-Māori Relationships

• The Treasury Award for Excellence in Improving Public Value through • The Treasury Award for Excellence in Improving Public Value through Business Transformation Business Transformation •• Microsoft Awardfor forExcellence ExcellenceininDigital Digital Government Microsoft Award Government •• State CommissionAward Awardforfor Excellence in Achieving Collective Impact State Services Services Commission Excellence in Achieving Collective Impact •• State Commissionand andLeadership Leadership Development Centre Award State Services Services Commission Development Centre Award for for Improving Performancethrough throughLeadership Leadership Excellence Improving Performance Excellence School of Government of of Wellington Award for Excellence •• School GovernmentatatVictoria VictoriaUniversity University Wellington Award for Excellence in Public Sector in SectorEngagement Engagement Ministry of Employment andand TheThe Treasury Award for for •• Ministry of Business, Business,Innovation Innovationand and Employment Treasury Award Excellence in Excellence in Regulatory RegulatorySystems Systems The Skills Skills Organisation Professional of the Year •• The OrganisationAward AwardforforYoung Young Professional of the Year • The Ministry of Social Development Award for Excellence in Improving

• The Ministry of Social Development Award for Excellence in Improving Diversity and Inclusiveness in the Public Sector (new). Diversity and Inclusiveness in the Public Sector (new). For more information, nomination forms and criteria visit:

For more information, nomination forms and criteria visit: Nominations close 1 March 2017, 5.00pm

Nominations close 1 March 2017, 5.00pm

Proudly sponsored by:

Proudly sponsored by:

25 PUBLIC SECTOR December 2016


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Public Sector Journal 39: 4 Dec 2016  
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