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“Tackling the bow-wave”: Bureaucracy’s PR plan revealed

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A “re-balancing” of resources to “tackle the bow-wave of infrastructure and transport service delivery” is at the forefront of a new Transport and Infrastructure Department plan to reshape its PR offensive.

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A “Proposed Organisation Change Implementation Plan” for the agency’s public affairs division, obtained by InDaily, details the “outcomes we seek to achieve from a new operating model” – which includes a complete overhaul of the agency’s media unit.

However, while it emphasises “a contemporary and customer focused public affairs function… providing greater levels of influence, visibility and access across the Department” and the use of “channels that have a clear purpose with engaging and relevant content for the target audience”, the document details a convoluted structural revamp and utilises an array of management jargon.

It details a need to “re-balance resources to tackle the bow-wave of infrastructure and transport service delivery to meet the needs of customers and communities over the coming years”.

The plan is intended to “create a step change in the quality and capacity of community engagement by embedding these functions into project delivery teams and make better use of technology and innovation to reach and engage with communities”.

SIMPLE: An excerpt from the plan.

It appears some existing jobs will be lost in the overhaul, although in a statement to InDaily the Department said “there will be no net reductions in staff numbers”.

“The Department is currently undertaking consultation on a proposed new structure for its Public Affairs Division,” it said in a statement.

“The activities the Department undertakes, and the services we provide, affect many South Australians every day.

“These services are evolving, the environment is changing quickly and in the coming period we have the largest portfolio of projects to deliver in our history.

“It is vital we keep our customers well informed and meet rising expectations of how we communicate and engage with our customers and stakeholders.

“For these reasons, the Department is taking steps to strengthen the management of functions of communications, community consultation and engagement.

“This new Public Affairs Division, is charged with ensuring that customer and community information consultation and engagement is managed effectively for every aspect of our services to the community.

“We have undertaken a review to identify areas for better practice, and are now consulting with our employees around our proposed new structure.

“The cost of implementing the plan will be met by existing budgets and allocations for project delivery.”

Increasing the “% of media enquiries within deadlines” is cited as a “Key Deliverable” in the plan.

Ironically, the Department’s response arrived after InDaily’s deadline today.

Other “Deliverables” listed included community satisfaction with major infrastructure programs, reducing the number of community complaints with major infrastructure programs and the number of “positive proactive media stories”.

The department also seeks to increase “social media levels of engagement”, Internet and Intranet visitation rates and engagement levels and to “review and streamline media approvals process to drive swifter, high quality communications”.

The agency was recently rebranded after the resignation of former minister Stephan Knoll, with Corey Wingard taking over the streamlined department of Infrastructure and Transport, and Planning hived off to Attorney-General Vickie Chapman.

The plan includes teams to handle Community Engagement, Customer Insights, Media & Digital Media, Campaigns, Partnerships, Internal Communications, Outbreak Response, Community Engagement and Public Affairs.

Resources for selling the North-South corridor project “will be fully owned by the Project Director and liaise with Public Affairs to ensure consistency and draw on support services as required… due to critical nature of the North-South project”.

In a section entitled “What does this mean for my employment?” the plan notes: “If the proposed restructure is implemented, the Guiding Principles for Change will be applied”, adding that “the Guiding Principles for Workplace Change set out how it is proposed the new organisational structure will be filled”.

A consultation period commenced yesterday and will run until Monday, October 26.

“Feedback is sought from the employees deemed in scope for this change, Public Affairs Division and unions and/or employee associations regarding the Proposed Organisational Structure and Guiding Principles for Workplace Change,” it said.

The revamp comes months after CEO Tony Braxton-Smith invited agency staff “to learn more about a Japanese philosophy known as Kaizen, and apply it in your workplace”.

He wrote in an all-staff missive that Kaizen “focuses on effective workplace organisation and continuous improvement” by employing “the 5S method (Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, Shitsuke; or Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardise and Sustain) implements and maintains an organised safe, clean and efficient workplace”.

“It may well be time to bring zen to your workspace,” he added at the time.

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