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Notes on Adelaide

Zen and the art of planning reform

Notes on Adelaide

Notes on Adelaide returns, bringing news of the head of a major SA government department who wants staff to embrace the Eastern philosophy of ‘Kaizen’ when they return to the office en masse – but what’s happened to one of his key appointments?

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The Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure has been a troubled agency of late, what with widespread frustration about a looming deadline for the rollout of SA’s new planning regime and a middle management crackdown on people voicing occupational health and safety concerns.

You may recall the kerfuffle over the recently appointed State Planning Reform Director, Ray Partridge, who commutes to Adelaide from his Sydney home only to apparently sack staff who complain about his order to work in the office during a pandemic.

InDaily recently reported that DPTI had launched an internal inquiry into Partridge’s arbitrary dismissal of a contractor who questioned his edict to cease working from home.

Ironically, it’s understood Partridge subsequently emulated his namesake and winged his way back to Sydney – although the agency assures us: “Mr Partridge remains in the role.”

More than that, though, they’re not saying.

Questions about the outcome of the investigation – or even whether it’s been completed – have been played with the proverbial straight bat.

What’s the outcome of the inquiry? “The investigation is an internal matter. The Department does not release results of investigations into matters of this nature.”

Can they at least clarify if it’s still ongoing? “As previously stated, this is an internal matter. No further comment will be made.”

Is the reclusive Ray currently based in Adelaide or Sydney? “Refer to previous responses.”

Partridge’s own take on the episode made for interesting reading: he couldn’t quite recall whether the contractor had sworn at him before or after he arbitrarily dismissed her during a video conference, but conceded: “Either way it did not end well.”

Still, the episode at least appears to have sharpened the agency’s approach to matters of an occupational health and safety bent, with Planning Reform Manager Anita Allen sending around a recent missive concerning “an incidence in a meeting room where the door was opened and a person injured behind it”.


Still, it is from breaking such eggs that we can make our metaphorical omelette, which in this instance was “an important reminder to all that as we go through our busy daily workplace to ensure that we are mindful to keep safe when moving/walking around the office”.

“Please ensure and keep alert when using the stairs, opening/closing doors, carrying heavy items or using office equipment,” Allen helpfully advised.

If that pep talk didn’t help rebuild morale, no doubt some Eastern philosophical wisdom from chief executive Tony Braxton-Smith did the trick this week.

It may well be time to bring zen to your workspace

In an all-staff email devoted to developing a plan for that old chestnut – “the new normal for our work environment” – TBS noted that “the executive team has been asked to start thinking about how we transition to increased workforce presence and sustainable working practices in a post C-19 environment”.

You’ll note his abbreviated terminology for the cumbersome verbiage of ‘COVID-19’, or “coronavirus” as those less practised in brevity might call it.

But it turns out this attractive economy with language is all part of a grand plan for streamlining the agency and creating an aura of peace, tranquility and efficiency.

All DPTI staff, as it turns out, “need to consider what role we play in shaping what a new normal looks like in the way we deliver to customers and communities, and how we work with stakeholders and business partners,” TBS went on, emphasising: “You can act now to put the ‘zen’ into clean workspaces.”

Confused? Let Braxton-Smith explain.

“Many have willingly embraced diligent cleaning habits [while] others are still working through challenges.”

Or in other words, some of you are suitably neat and tidy, while others are content to work in a pigsty.

But no longer.

“In all our workspaces, it is a non-negotiable requirement that we all contribute to ensuring clean, safe workspaces… for those in offices, this means clear desks at the end of the day, documents stored away and workspaces wiped down,” TBS went on.

“It also means working with your colleagues in your work team to use common areas appropriately and keep them clean.

“In this spirit, you are invited to learn more about a Japanese philosophy known as Kaizen, and apply it in your workplace.”

Kaizen, as it turns out, is a management philosophy that “focuses on effective workplace organisation and continuous improvement” – much like DPTI itself, really.

It doesn’t really have anything to do with ‘Zen’, per se, but TBS seems to enjoy the alliteration.

“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,” TBS patiently explained, adding motivationally: “It may well be time to bring zen to your workspace.”

But TBS is a busy man, and he can’t spend all day espousing Eastern tidying-up philosophies when there’s a perfectly good Google search function to do it for him.

“There are many links to Kaizen 5S methodology online,” he concluded.

“Please take a few minutes to familiarise yourself with this, and consider whether you might be an earlier adopter or even a champion of a new process in your workplace that will help to keep it cleaner and safer.”

InDaily did indeed take a few minutes familiarising ourselves with the Kaizen methodology online, discovering that TBS’s translation is itself contentious, with others favouring “Straighten” for ‘Seiton’ and “Scrub” for ‘Seiso’ – replacing his unfortunately-wordy ‘Set in order’ and ‘Shine’, which loses the alliterative principle of of the 5S Method.

But while DPTI staff are no doubt happily being “Kaizen champions”, perhaps they could start with Sorting, Setting in order, Shining, Standardising, Straightening and otherwise decluttering their cumbersome general media inquiry email address:

Which, needless to say, brings no zen whatsoever to the poor correspondents trying to write to them.

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