25 September 2023

UNITED STATES: Report calls for PS vision

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A new report from the US National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) is critical of attempts to modernise the country’s Public Service over the past 40 years, saying it had mostly been “tinkering around the edges”.

The report outlines concrete actions the US Government could take to move conversations on Public Service modernisation from mere discussion and debate to concrete action.

Professor at the University of Texas at Austin and NAPA Fellow, Don Kettl (pictured) said too much time had been spent on trying to solve the wrong problems.

“So much of what we’re doing is tinkering with the individual bits and pieces of making the procedures work a little bit better; of trying to find ways of firing poor performers and trying to improve the hiring process — all of which we need to do,” Professor Kettl said.

The report, No Time to Wait Part 2: Building a Public Service for the 21st Century, is a follow-up to a paper NAPA released in July 2017.

The new report calls on experts to craft a vision for the Federal workforce that addressed a future state that today’s managers and leaders might not be able to even predict.

“In a sense, what we have is both a long-term plan we need to begin immediately and a short-term plan that we need to begin this afternoon,” Professor Kettl said.

“Between the two of them, we think we have the foundations for re-establishing and redefining a system that is based on mission; that underlines the enduring principles, redefines accountability and focuses on the ability to get Government’s work done.”

He said the need was especially dire because the nature of work across the nation was rapidly changing.

A partner at McKinsey and Company’s Washington, DC, office, Bryan Hancock said

about one-third of the activities performed at 60 per cent of today’s jobs could be automated within the next 10 years.

He said for today’s PS managers, this meant Agencies needed to prepare to reskill their employees not only for the next five years, but also for the next 15–30 years.

Professor Kettl said this required a system that was alert to the changing nature of work.

“Instead of hiring a new person to fill a static position to perform specific activities, Agencies should focus on finding top talent with the capability to meet the organisation’s mission,” he said.

Washington, DC, 28 September 2018

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