Aotearoa New Zealand is undergoing reform on a scale we’ve not seen in decades. With so much reform in progress across so many sectors, it’s never been more important to consider the key ingredients for successful reform. While the changes are often started by politicians, they impact people, businesses, and communities just as much as they affect our public services.
Deloitte New Zealand’s State of the State 2022 explores what it will take to do reform well, and is informed by interviews with over 20 senior politicians, public servants, Māori leaders, business leaders, academics and researchers. Their insights have been invaluable as we have built a picture of reform in Aotearoa and developed recommendations for potential reformers.
Reform is all about big aspirations and sweeping changes rather than simple fixes, and they cannot be achieved by just re-ordering parts of the current system. Reform leaders need courage and creativity to build the shared narrative for where we are heading to, and how we will get there. They need to build collaboration and coalitions across multiple parts of the system, from private to public sector, and engage with community in deeper and more meaningful ways. And the new, reformed system must be created and operated even as the old system it replaces continues to serve, and impacted people are supported through the transition.
It is costly, high-risk and resource-intensive to move mountains, and reform is not a path to be undertaken lightly. We can learn from the lessons of past reform, the reflections of current leaders of today’s change agenda, and look to other jurisdictions for leading practice. Through this report, we have developed a framework for successful reform that builds the compelling case for reform, establishes the “who”, “how”, and “what” for the reform, and navigates the journey with the right people and tools to deliver results for the long term.
As to whether there are credible alternatives to reform, our interviewees broadly agree: reform is an important lever that needs to be available in Government’s toolkit for achieving large-scale change, and there is no real alternative available today. But the way we carry out reform is not perfect, some reforms are less successful than others, and there are things that we can learn that could help us to become better reformers in future.
Our report paints a picture of successful reform that has been anchored in strong public narratives, a coordinated approach to shifting mindsets as well as legislation, regulation, policy and practice, and a cross-sector approach. We also identify some of the barriers to successful reform that need to be considered. Addressing shortages in talent, creating robust mechanisms for managing results inter-generationally, and creating a blueprint that can help reformers and their actions to remain relevant in a volatile and changing world.
Our conclusions draw on the unique context of Aotearoa – not least the opportunity that Te Tiriti o Waitangi affords us to ground our reforms in a strong and evolving Māori-Crown relationship that moves beyond engagement to collaborative innovation and governance.
One of our key recommendations is the establishment of a Reform Office that can review and challenge reform programmes, capture learning and share insights, hold Government to account for reform outcomes, and contribute to continuous improvement and learning. Because if you are going to take on the challenge of moving mountains in Aotearoa New Zealand, you need to make sure you do it well.