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How To Succeed in the Public Service

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by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
I enjoy writing about Adelaide and its many attractions. If you think Adelaide is boring, the problem is not with Adelaide. adelaideunearthed.blogspot.com.au/
Published March 27th 2013
Get to the top - fast
How To Succeed in the Public Service

employment opportunities, jobs in government, government it jobs, government positions, careers in government, public service, public servant
Parliament House - Seat of Public Service Power


Years ago jobs in government meant having a Career. A public servant was Respected. And at the end of a long and industrious career, there was a retirement party complete with the award of a Gold Watch.

How times have changed! The likes of Fraser and Thatcher started a blizzard of change in the corridors of public power.

No longer is the public service like marriage - your partner for life. It's every man for himself in the murky shark infested waters of today's public service.

Here are some tips for survival from one who has.

I'm going to assume that you know the traditional golden rule - the harder you suck, the higher you get. And after long years of vacuuming your boss's detritus, you have at last reached the hallowed halls of Management.

Choose a Strong Title

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Choose a Commanding Title. A Crest is Optional


Titles are everything. Nobody respects an assistant manager, a supervisor, or office administrator. One needs a title appropriate to your aspirations.

Think Comptroller or Commissioner rather than Registrar or Recorder. Inspector is good, and Inspector-General is even better, having an efficient military ring to it.

Director is a bit passe as a title - there have been far too many illicit lovers promoted to that level. And Managing Directors normally can't.

I like to prefix the word "Chief" to my handle. It adds a commanding presence, like Chief Information Officer or Chief Technology Officer. It really doesn't matter what you do (no-one will understand anyway), but it does sound as if you are completely in charge. That's one of the best things about government IT jobs.

Just remember that jobs in government should command respect, and the first step is choosing the right title.

Reorganise your Department

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Organisation Charts Help Track How Many Staff You Have (Bukhrin - Wikipedia)


This is critical to achieving your goals.

One of the best known ways to gain power in government positions is to re-structure. It requires lots of resources (think budget increases), more staff, better offices, and brings more status.

What more do you want?

If you are centralised, then follow the lead of Centrelink in the 80's and devolve your offices to all the suburbs. You can claim that it brings your services to the people, while requiring many more managers and buildings. More managers need more staff, and more money.

Already de-centralised, like SA Health? Then centralisation is the answer for you. Tell the Minister that it will allow you to rein in the budget, and get more visible control over wasted resources.

Buildings in the 'burbs can be sold off (retain the proceeds in your budget), but there will be a need for extra funding. Change Management for staff doesn't come cheaply when the best consultants are used, and it's expensive to re-classify all the management positions at Head Office - yours included.

Inevitably you will lose a few of the staff at the bottom when re-structuring, but your average pay levels will increase for senior staff. You can't make a lobster and caviar omelette without breaking a few eggs!

Shared Services

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A Fitting Home for Shared Services


A particularly effective way to rocket up the management rungs is a special case of re-structuring.

Shared Services is the art of stealing your competitor's staff, assets, and budget, while earning the rosy feeling of satisfaction that comes with making government more efficient. Ministers positively love it.

It's important to initially target the staff that nobody else wants - think accountants, payroll clerks, toilet cleaners, and IT staff.

It's highly unlikely that other Departments will complain about losing these people. It's far more likely that they will throw them all at you even before you have somewhere to put them.

But don't worry, the City is full of unused office space. Be sure to target somewhere that will be able to accommodate all those you have poached - my recommendation would be the tallest tower in town. Of course you deserve an office at the very top with sweeping views from the hills to the coast.

A fringe benefit is that the Property Council will love you (and your Minister too), as it gives them a reason to build an even bigger tower. Developers will be sure to remember the Minister at campaign time.

Don't you love careers in government?

Sell Your Assets

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Does the Judiciary Protect Our Privacy?


A floor full of modern mainframes contributes more to global warming than the flatulence of Argentina's entire cattle herd, without the benefits of a yummy tender steak.

There is no point having all this expensive technology cluttering your carefully coordinated office space if you can't use it in your climb to the top.

Some departments have realised the full hidden potential of their IT assets - the data. Selling your confidential client personal data to credit agencies and the like is very lucrative indeed, and carries very little risk. After all, it can be squirted down a piece of dark fibre faster than a sparrow's blink, and who would know?

Unfortunately Ministers now want a piece of the action and have mandated that Department Heads must seek permission first, so that they can tax profits. But it does make it so much easier to get money for computer upgrades if the Minister can see an increase in their revenue stream too.

Of course there is no way that anyone would think to put in an Freedom Of Information question unless the sale was public knowledge, would they?

The Benefits of Outsourcing

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A Computer Room is Ideal for Wine Storage


An unimaginative person might think that outsourcing your IT work is a threat to your future. Not true.

A multinational company wanting to take on your IT work is likely to be hungrier than a frenzied flock of piranha fish, and will quickly gobble your entire budget unless properly managed. So you will need a colony of contract administrators to replace the gaggle of government IT jobs that just disappeared into the cloud.

A fringe benefit is that the contract administrators dress properly, have haircuts, and don't spend as much time at the pub. On the downside they always look for hidden meanings whenever you instruct them to do something.

The old computer room can be used for wine storage for the office party, while the bookshelves formerly used for instruction manuals will now be filled with contracts.

employment opportunities, jobs in government, government it jobs, government positions, careers in government, public service, public servant
Make Computer Room Budget Savings - Cool Wine Not Computers


Your overall head count is unlikely to diminish much, but salaries will need to increase significantly to be on a par with the highly paid executives of the outsourcing company. The Minister will love you too, because it will allow him to claim more staff cuts when the government is in the red again.

Nor will anyone notice that you just wiped out the local IT industry because the multinational company doesn't buy goods or services locally.

Use Best Practice in Staffing

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Rivals Are Relegated to Less Attractive Accommodation


One needs to be creative with your organisation, and the Health Department excels at this.

If you have a Contracts section to check computer purchases, why not start an IT section to monitor the contracts too? With enough qualified staff keeping an eye on acquisitions, nothing can go wrong.

Has the government put a freeze on you recruiting more public servants for government positions? Not a problem - independent consultants have never been included in head counts. And while the consultant's cost is exorbitant, she's only a drop in the ocean as far as cost pressures go.

Cost Pressure is a way that allows you to say "budget deficit" without that ugly downturn at the end of your lips. It sounds so much better, and implies that the pressure might disappear if the funding tap were turned on a bit more.

Image is All

employment opportunities, jobs in government, government it jobs, government positions, careers in government, public service, public servant
Never Allow a Competitor to Overlook You


Whenever you relocate your offices, ensure that you choose a building that reflects your goals and aspirations. Somewhere modern, lofty, and progressive in design. Preferably somewhere that overlooks your opposition, but beware of overlooking the Minister!

Having an Open Day is an excellent way to demonstrate open government, allowing the plebs to see a carefully managed image of your department in action. I particularly liked the concept of this open day - it was trumpeted in the popular press and I'm sure the Minister was well pleased, even if nobody attended.

If you're planning to do something unpopular, then it's wise to bury it in the good news. To demolish a heritage listed building or object, just hide the news in an announcement for a sparkling new footbridge for example. It's always popular to hold public consultations too, but that should never prevent work from starting.

employment opportunities, jobs in government, government it jobs, government positions, careers in government, public service, public servant
Would a New Footbridge to a Casino Enhance This View


When Malcolm Fraser introduced Freedom of Information (FOI) in 1982 he never intended it to be used as a tool by the public. He was simply responding to overseas pressure where FOI had been around for years. If you can't find a way to block an FOI request in the public interest, then you're not worthy of being called a public servant.

It's important to remember that Ministers have Powers for a reason. If they're not used, they may atrophy or disappear entirely. So whenever a pesky heritage building is standing in the way of the Minster's favourite developer, just remind him of his Powers in the public interest.

Rest assured that a Minister only occasionally uses his Power without reviewing a matter first, and then only when the Minister considers it necessary.

A fringe benefit of using Ministerial Power is that there is no right of appeal. No messy court proceedings. And nothing left for the Ombudsman to investigate - particularly if it involves demolition.

Your Minister will be proud that you thought of it, and your future will be assured. Until the next government anyway.



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Why? It's not who you know.
Cost: Only Your Integrity
Your Comment
Thanks for the comment Glynn. Sadly voting out the government isn't really the answer, because it was the Liberals who outsourced half of our infrastructure to share it with their business backers.

I think the best we can do is to keep alert to the shady practices that governments get up to, and ask lots of questions.

Is the new footbridge really just for football fans? Do most football fans like to visit the casino? And why is the government determined to build it in such a hurry?
by Dave Walsh (score: 3|7419) 537 days ago
Yes! So what do we do about it? Important follow-up article required.
by glynn (score: 0|2) 537 days ago
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