Being bold and clear will deliver better performance and accountability


Alex Gash

Performance and accountability considerations, by their nature, draw on the concepts of risk management, strategy development, and change. Performance and accountability arrangements that are the most robust, the most agile, and the most resilient, are so because of a public agency’s willingness and indeed capacity to improve them over time. 

Amidst a vast array of mostly complex expectations, agencies must be S.M.A.R.T in their approach, and as discussed in my previous post - Making public agencies S.M.A.R.T. - implement program, policy and organisational arrangements that are (S)pecific, (M)easurable, (A)chievable, (R)elevant, and (T)imely. While best practice dictates that the roles, responsibilities, and purpose of an organisation should be clearly defined, it’s also important that a bold approach is taken by senior leadership.   

Senior leaders must understand the critical risks facing organisations and develop strategies for mitigating them, in ways that are bold and innovative. This does not mean that leaders should be reckless in their discharge of responsibilities - quite the contrary. Leaders must be willing to constructively, prudently and artfully call out poor performance, explore why performance issues exist and be willing to invest the effort in addressing performance-related problems. In some circumstances, this will challenge senior leaders to deliver more of the truth, to more of the power, more of the time. 

In my view, this is a good outcome for the performance and accountability of the government. It helps to support the long-held but currently waning tradition of a frank and fearless (i.e. impartial, and professional) public service. In other circumstances, it may require leaders to strive for clarity of purpose. Such clarity helps leaders to reduce policy complexity and focus on the core policy problems the government is trying to solve.

There are indeed risks associated with this positioning, however, leaders should be actively managing their downside risks, while exploiting the opportunities for policy improvement over time. 

ACIL Allen has considerable experience analysing the performance and accountability arrangements of an organisation’s governance and operational arrangements to ensure they provide clarity, align with good practice and support the policy objectives of government. We know what arrangements work and how to get the most out of them. Our experience and track record are second to none. Our expertise includes the review and design of policy and program objectives, key performance indicators, performance information, evaluation, impact assessment and reporting arrangements. If my reflections resonate with your experiences, or if you have any questions about this topic please feel free to get in touch, or contact ACIL Allen for further information.