Western Australian State Government Agency Amalgamations
Leadership is key to unlocking public value
Western Australian Premier, the Hon Mark McGowan MLA recently announced the amalgamation of State Government agencies, reducing the number of departments from 41 to 25. The objectives of these amalgamations include improving collaboration, integrating services and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery.
How the leaders of newly formed State Government agencies choose to lead and communicate during the amalgamation process will be critical to realising the value from this change.
Most often, failure is not attributable to the structure of the amalgamation, but to cultural conflict and poor communication. The key is strong, aligned leadership and consistent communication.
Leaders may be less inclined to communicate with employees when they do not have all the answers to questions employees may have about their future. We find a similar reluctance when leaders must deliver difficult messages related to workforce reduction, a common feature in amalgamations, and already cited as a driver for the WA public sector amalgamations. However, this is precisely when leaders should not be silent.
The reality is that right now, employees will be nervous about the changes. Having access to leaders to ask questions, understand the timelines and the process will give them more confidence in the reform, alleviate some level of anxiety by dispelling myths or “the rumour mill” and clarify expectations.
Communicating key messages in a timely way and before they appear in the media is ideal, but not always possible. The only constant in life is change, and some employees adapt more readily than others. The fact that the leaders themselves are also going through the amalgamation process could be a binding factor and an opportunity to show empathy.
G20: Insights from the Social Progress Index 2014
A public sector perspective