Productivity: creating a government of ‘doers’ not ‘gunnas’

| June 5, 2013

Too much time is spent on discussing, researching and strategising projects and not enough emphasis is placed on implementation. Peter Fritz explains how it’s time to incentivise project completion.

Decide faster, implement faster, monitor better, develop the right incentives to drive the process, that’s what’s needed to ensure Australia is productive.

Productivity is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input”.

If we examine this definition from an Australian perspective, we should look at the cost per unit over the last 10 years. Without us dropping our output, we have in fact ended up half as productive as we were 10 years ago, simply due to the doubling of the currency value.

Furthermore, any investment we make in infrastructure further increases the per unit cost.

Obviously, there is much wrong with this definition. There are areas which need to be looked at when we talk about improved productivity in Australia, in particular the decision making process in government and large corporations.

We simply take too long to make decisions, and to make matters worse, we take too long to implement them. We don’t do enough to monitor projects once they have been decided upon, and overall we do little by way of incentives across the board to help complete them faster.

Besides the obvious silos that are called departments, such as those of Finance, Innovation, Environment, Health and so on, our organisations are further divided into sections and units, few of which are co-ordinated for the single purpose.

An example of how this plays out is the introduction of electronic health records. First committed to in 1991, today after spending several billion dollars, Australia still does not have a fully functioning online health records system. Only 109,000 people have registered out of a target of 500,000 by June 2013. It should not have taken 22 years to get the project off the ground. This is just one of the many examples where our lack of productivity is failing us. It is not the billions of dollars spent that are the largest cost to the country and the community, but the opportunity costs a whole generation has missed out on.

Our leaders have become disconnected from global insights due to the number of multinationals that have moved their head offices or regional offices out of Australia. As a result of leaving behind purely the sales office functions which address the main national market, we are losing knowledge and experience in making significant decisions on the international stage.

What should we do?

We need to recognise that productivity improvements are not only about red tape or removing obstacles for achievement. They are about the fundamentals of ‘decide > do > monitor’. It is necessary to create an urgency of implementation and proper management. We must incentivise for faster results.

Metrics for how quickly decisions should be made need to be established. For example easy decisions should take two months, four months for mid-weight decisions and six months for more complex decisions.

It is time to ensure that we recognise the issues of not being productive and create a future where we shift from a country of ‘gunnas’ to a country of ‘doers’.



  1. timjames

    June 17, 2013 at 5:21 am

    Well said. A sense of urgency, stage gates and serious deadlines are much-needed in public sector decision making. Thank you for this timely, relevant and thought-provoking piece.

    • picman2

      July 1, 2013 at 11:50 pm

      A Better System For Councils
      I agree and for those interested please read my article and views here:
      Under: A Better System For Councils. This whole site is dedicated to change the way we do things but getting people to take notice is another issue.
      John Boom
      Coffs Online –
      A most progressive site tackling community grass-root issues.

  2. Ronald Forbes

    July 2, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Just one thing to add …
    I support everything Peter says here. Do I have much to add? Just one thing, a change in how people interact in the organisation. Just imagine that everyone treated one another as equals, was prepared to listen (when appropriate) to what anyone else had to say, and chose ideas to implement based on the value of the idea – not the person suggesting it.

    Add to this, fast ways of appreciating contributions and so building morale, and groups solving problems as quickly as they arise. You then have the chance to achieve much more in the time available – and, get buy-in for all decisions (because everyone was involved and had their say – and this also saves ‘persuasion time’). It adds up to culture change.

    Too idealistic? Not at all. It’s already operating in the methodology of our unique 360 Facilitated(c) survey which does all that when cascaded from top management. Apologies for having to blow our own trumpet, but we do have many clients willing to validate this. Personally, I will support this kind of culture wherever it arises and whoever creates it. It works for the benefit of all.