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Intergovernmental management: a vital skill for middle managers in the public service

05 March 2024

Crawford School Executive Education met with Dr Isi Unikowski, convenor of the upcoming Fundamentals of intergovernmental management short course, to learn more about intergovernmental management and its relevance to middle-managers in the Australian Public Service (APS).

Mid-level managers play a pivotal role in providing day to day leadership, along with planning and implementation capability in their workplaces (Independent hierarchy and classification report, Australian Public Service Commission, 2022) and this course provides participants with a wealth of practical tools and resources to do that.

Isi pointed out that now is the best time to learn about intergovernmental management because “no current head of an Australian state or territory has been in power for longer than two years – except for the ACT”.

He adds, “this relatively new cohort of heads of government is bringing new ideas and agendas forward, but also confronts major issues that require effective intergovernmental collaboration, such as pressures on the taxation system, health, disabilities, programs for indigenous communities and climate change.”

1. What does ‘intergovernmental management’ mean?

Intergovernmental management is about the specific tasks and day to day work involved in designing and implementing policies across government boundaries.
It includes formal aspects like developing and managing agreements, supporting meetings to work productively, briefings, agendas and the like; but it’s also about the critical role relationships and networks play at all levels of the system, no matter whether we are relatively senior managers or whether we are supporting them.

2. Who would benefit most from this course?

The course will be of most value to middle managers in Commonwealth, state and territory public services who are working with their counterparts in other governments.

They may be providing support for intergovernmental meetings and working groups, developing and administering intergovernmental agreements or delivering programs and services on the front line.
A particular focus of the course is on trying to understand what those ‘across the table’ might be trying to achieve and why, what their strategies are, and how we can develop bargaining and negotiating strategies for the best outcomes.

3. What can participants look forward to when they attend your course?

Through a range of core and optional videos, readings, discussions and exercises in your digital interactive course workbook, you will have a choice of how deeply and widely you want to go into the federation’s formal and informal settings, history, structures, process and routines.
The self-paced learning will mainly be of interest to participants who are fairly new to the area of intergovernmental management, or who want to refresh their understanding of the federal system and forms a useful resource for you to keep.
You will be given a wide range of opportunities and tools to understand the complexity of the federal system and your role in managing that complexity by moving progressively through its formal and informal structures and processes.
This leaves as much time as possible in the online live sessions for us to focus on the more practical, day to day aspects of your work and the problems and issues you might encounter. Live sessions are recorded in case you have to miss one. An additional advantage for participants is the optional one-on-one mentoring session available after the course.

4. What’s one thing you wish you knew about/ had developed skills on when you were in the APS?

I wish I knew more about the different types of bargaining and negotiating that takes place at all levels in the public service, and the appropriate techniques that can be considered and applied in specific contexts.

5. What’s one piece of advice you can give early to mid-career public servants?

Middle managers who can identify the issues and frame them in a way that helps their senior colleagues to make quick, effective decisions are valuable to their own organisations and to the interdepartmental and intergovernmental forums with which they’re working.
Attending executive education courses will provide you with a number of tools that will support you in your role.

Another important aspect of the middle management role that we cover in this course relates to the importance of networking, its costs and benefits, and the kinds of issues involved.

Secure your place for our Fundamentals of intergovernmental management short course and save $300 when you register before 1 April 2024.

Contact csee@anu.edu.au for more information.

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Updated:  23 July 2024/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team