Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 3 2010 Contents 16 www.defence.gov.au/defencemagazine
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REFORM: A PROGRAM FOR ThE PEOPLE
And the implementers want your input
By Michael Weaver
“Reform of any sort really relies on what people
actually do in the workplace and their vision of
what their workplace will look like as a result of
the reform and the desire that they have to bring it
into reality,” Mr Sargeant said.
“My experience is that reforms tend to succeed or
fail at that level. So it is really how individuals in
their workplaces perceive the opportunities that
reform creates and then take advantage of this to
make something better.
“Reforms always unleash a lot of energy in an
organisation. The leadership challenge, which
everyone shares, is to allow that energy to result in
genuine and sustainable change and improvement.
The worst thing that can happen is that a reform
unleashes energy, people start to do things and
then the organisation, for whatever reason, loses
its nerve or gets anxious.
“So it is a real balance between ensuring that the
reforms achieve their strategic purpose as well as
providing people with the capacity to innovate and
make changes that are real in the context of their
“One feature of the SRP’s design that is very
important and a real driver of change, is that
it comprises hundreds of specific projects and
activities that give people lots of opportunities to
create better ways of doing their work where they
Mr Sargeant admits that there is a long road ahead
to achieve meaningful and lasting reform, and
there will be some changes to the structure of the
workforce. However, he said the real question is
how Defence manages its impending growth to
ensure that people are able to take advantage of
the opportunities available.
“We have to recognise that this is a 10-year
program that requires us to start thinking about
what sort of organisation we need to have and
how we need to work in order to deliver and
sustain Force 2030,” Mr Sargeant said.
A prime example is the reforms to Defence’s
information and communication technology (ICT).
There will be some big investments in this area,
but the result, a more integrated ICT system, will
create many opportunities for further innovation.
“What we want to do is develop a culture where
the reform process effectively creates its own
momentum and people are confident of taking
the benefits that have come from various reform
activities and then to build on them,” Mr Sargeant
“To me, that’s the really big measure of success.
It is easy to get cost reductions; it is much harder
to ensure they are sustainable, and that you get
long-term sustainable performance improvements
as a result of that.”
“The biggest hurdle is that change is always
difficult, even for people who embrace it.
“In periods of change, a lot of energy is released
and we can see that energy express itself in
innovation and good ideas and commitment, but
we can also see it expressed in frustration and
irritation. So, the challenge is keeping focussed
on what we want to be. We need to be talking
about that vision all the time, and then to take that
energy and use it to create a better organisation
and a more capable defence force.
“The challenge is not to lose focus and not be
overwhelmed by the difficulties of seeing the
SRP through. The emotion and energy released is
normal. It shows that what is being done matters.”
“The SRP is not something that’s going to flash
through on Monday and be gone by Wednesday.
It is real, it is here and it is going to stay.”
- Deputy Secretary of Strategic Reform and Governance, Mr Brendan Sargeant
The new sRP booklet is now available on the sRP website.
SRP intranet http://intranet.defence.gov.au/SRG/sites/SRP/comweb.asp?page=38679.
For breaking news
on the SRP check out
the Headlines and
DEFGRAMS on the
DEFWEB homepage or
your Group, Service or
Hear about the SRP from
the members of the Defence
Committee, who will
provide briefings at Defence
establishments during the
coming months to speak
about the SRP. They will be
speaking specifically about
how SRP may impact your
particular work environment
and what you can do to
contribute to it.
The recently-appointed Deputy
secretary of strategic Reform and
Governance, Mr Brendan sargeant,
has some very clear advice for those
concerned about how their day-to-
day work will be affected by the
strategic Reform Program (sRP).
“Let me say that the Defence budget is not being
cut,” Mr Sargeant told Defence Magazine.
“It is growing by three per cent in real terms to
2017-18 and then 2.2 per cent thereafter. The SRP
is a means by which we achieve cost reductions
in some areas to support our ability to build Force
2030. The SRP reallocates resources within the
budget. It does not reduce resources for Defence.”
This key message also walks hand-in-hand with
another equally key philosophy that Mr Sargeant
holds true: organisations are all about people.
“The SRP really needs to live in each individual; it’s
not something that’s outside the organisation.”
And if there are questions to be asked, the team
tasked with helping make the SRP a reality will
support anyone, anywhere.
“I am very interested in what people have to say.
I am happy for people to contact me or the team
directly, and we will also communicate through our
website,” Mr Sargeant said.
“We are here to support people as they work
through this change. I want to listen and I want to
help, and I am happy to talk to anyone anywhere
about the SRP.
“The program is right at its beginning stage. It
has been planned very deliberately because it is
large, complex and will have a long life. It is not
something that’s going to flash through on Monday
and be gone by Wednesday. It is real, it is here and
it is going to stay.”
Mr Sargeant returns to Defence following his most
recent tenure at the Department of Finance and
Mr Sargeant began his career in Defence in 1983
as an assistant research officer, and has since
worked in a wide range of policy and management
appointments, both in Defence and other
He is also no stranger to reform programs, having
worked on similar programs in Defence and other
Government departments. Mr Sargeant said that
previous reform initiatives in Defence have been
successful in allowing the organisation to take
stock of itself, and put its structures and processes
under the spotlight. The extent to which these
programs sought to achieve sustainable change
has varied. One of the strengths of the SRP has
been its very comprehensive planning and the
effort to learn the important lessons from previous
“In the future we need to build into our DNA the
ability to make reform part of everyday business,”
Mr Sargeant said.
“There are many parts of Defence that already do
this, and they do it well. The issue is how do we
spread that capacity and just make it our normal
way of business.
“In my view, this ability to sustain ongoing reform
will be what the world will demand of us in the
future. You already see that in other parts of
government and you see it in other countries as
Mr Sargeant said that there are some important
lessons from past experience.
Copies of the SRP booklet
will be distributed through
your Group or Service
coordination point. If
you have not received
a copy and would like
one, please email us at
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