IPANZ E-Update - 21 November 2023


Last week we held one of our Effective Engagement with Māori workshops. It was a great opportunity to not only grow our understanding of Te Ao Māori, Te Tiriti o Waitangi and gain practical tools for effectively engaging with Māori, but to connect with colleagues from different agencies and hear what they are doing in this space. It was great to see an enthusiastic group of people so committed to their personal and professional development show up and be open to learning something new. Participating in these conversations made me reflect on the purpose of IPANZ - connecting people and ideas through a community of learning and practice about public service. Registrations for our next Effective Engagement with Māori workshop are now open (see below). I look forward to seeing you at a future IPANZ event.

Kay Booth, Executive Director


Preparing discussion papers for a new government – slow down to speed up

Here is some helpful advice for public servants at the start of a new government from MartinJenkins. The focus of this article is the discussion papers the public service will be preparing for ministers to help progress their policy ideas. For example:

  • Decide if you need a white paper (setting out proposals that are at an early stage) or a green paper (setting out detailed proposals for change). Be clear what it is.
  • Think in advance if this is a stand-alone problem and, if not, do not try to do a targeted discussion paper – let people discuss what the problem is.
  • Decide if you need some specific engagement before you even write the discussion paper – let others help you frame it.
  • Always make your paper easy to understand, write very clearly with no jargon.

This article lays out pitfalls and how you might overcome them.

Bullying and rudeness far too common in the public sector

Bullying is worse in the public sector than in other sectors. This article, to be published in our forthcoming Public Sector journal, explores the reasons for this and suggests some remedies.

The authors talk about the quality of leadership and management, among other things. Both authoritarian and avoidant bosses (those that turn a blind eye to problems) create risks. Competent bosses can set high standards without bullying. Avoidant bosses are seen as negative because they signal that harmful behaviours are acceptable.

The article also focusses on more general workplace behaviours. Basic incivility, or workplace rudeness, includes a lack of respect but is often subtle, covert, and plausibly deniable. Furthermore, bosses who are unpredictable, oscillating between support and undermining, are particularly damaging.

A sobering instance of COVID leadership failure

A number of countries are reviewing their COVID response. We have a Royal Commission of Inquiry underway, due to report in June 2024. The ACT Party has talked about a full investigation into the COVID response. There were a number of political parties which emerged from COVID, although they did not attract a lot of votes.

This brief article from Prospect describes the COVID response in the UK. Pulling out just a few quotes:

  • “staggeringly weak and chaotic centre [of government]”
  • “Prime Minister lurching from open everything to panic”
  • “the Cabinet Office is a totally dysfunctional mess”.

None of this applies to Aotearoa New Zealand. There may be some criticisms of aspects of the Aotearoa New Zealand response, but there is much of which we can be very proud, including the joined-up, collaborative and decisive leadership, and the way all levels of the public service played their part.

Hopefully over time, we can achieve a more balanced view of the strengths and weaknesses of our COVID response than some social media commentary might suggest.

Adopting agile methodologies wisely in the public sector

While many agile practices originated in software development, they are applicable in any type of knowledge work. The practices of Agile can, and often are, applied without the underlying mindset. This results in organisations not getting the expected benefits and a healthy cynicism from the people who have the new ways inflicted upon them.

This article lays out in a very clear way the key myths about agile working. It points out the resistances to using agile ideas in the public sector and outlines steps you can take to overcome this resistance. It will involve changing processes and culture, sound training and taking some risks, with considerable benefits if applied right.

Farewell to Nanaia Mahuta

Or as she herself said – “Well, I’m out, not down!” Moana Maniapoto interviewed Nanaia Mahuta last month, after her departure from Parliament following her 27-year career in politics. This interview is published in E-Tangata. A courageous, persistent, generous-hearted woman comes across in this interview. We think you will enjoy it.

Public services in the UK in "doom loop"

This article in The Guardian summarises a report by the Institute for Government on the state of the public services in the UK. It makes the point that the “consequences of successive governments’ short-term policymaking” were coming home to roost, that “public services that have for years been creaking are now crumbling” due to under-investment. Whilst the situation here in Aotearoa New Zealand may not be quite so critical, it is not a different story.

Our new government has been confirmed, with the unenviable task of meeting the urgent needs of people through public services, and yet serving New Zealanders who are reluctant to pay more taxes to finance public services.

Abuse of scientists in the public eye a global issue

As reported in The Spinoff, while COVID has faded from the discourse, the impact on many of the experts who were in the spotlight during the pandemic is profound. In March 2023, an international survey of scientists who made media appearances to talk about COVID found more than a fifth had "received threats of physical or sexual violence", 15% had their lives threatened, and about two-thirds were having second thoughts about sharing their expertise in public again.

The issue is not restricted to COVID. A poll of almost 500 climate scientists found that three-quarters of those regularly in the public eye were subject to online abuse and harassment. Multiple UK scientists say that there’s been a huge rise in abuse from climate crisis deniers on Twitter/X since its takeover by Elon Musk last year.

This reflection in The Spinoff was in response to the movie Ms. Information, which distressingly showed the abuse received by Siouxsie Wiles for her attempts to explain to New Zealanders the science of COVID in simple terms.

Ways that managers can help avoid burnout of their staff

Burnout is sometimes caused by the collaborative demands of the work, rather than the work itself. In this Harvard Business Review article the authors call some of this 'microstress' which they define as “small moments of stress from interactions with colleagues that feel routine but whose cumulative toll is enormous”.

They have particular advice for managers:

  • Avoid staff reporting to multiple leaders.
  • You do not need policies for everything – reduce complexity, consider temporary policies.
  • Change collaborative norms about communication in teams to reduce unnecessary flow.
  • Do not underestimate the impact of your own microstress – e.g. being unpredictable or micromanaging work.


Effective Engagement with Māori - Monday 11 and Tuesday 12 March 2024, all day, Wellington

Do you want to build your knowledge and confidence for engaging with Māori? If so this workshop is for you!

Day one focuses on deep historical and cultural accounts to set context, including Te Ao Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi with its obligations and legislative requirements for government agencies. Day two sees participants apply this knowledge to inform their planning for engagement with Māori.

For more information or to register for this event visit our website.


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