De Brouwer lists five elements to organizational culture

Speaking at an event in Sydney on Thursday, public sector reform secretary Dr Gordon de Brouwer said every organization struggles with hierarchies.

“How do you use the hierarchy to help people do their job and enable them, empower them to do a job rather than shift everything up?” de Brouwer posited.

Brouwer was speaking at an event hosted by CEDA, as part of a panel discussion on the Reserve Bank of Australia review in progress, with the final report not due to the government until March 2023.

The other two members who spoke — and are de Brouwer’s fellow panel members of the RBA review itself — were ANU Crawford School of Public Policy’s professor Renée Fry-McKibbin and the Bank of England’s professor Carolyn Wilkins.

The management of hierarchy was one of five elements de Brouwer brought up in the context of the culture of the RBA.

The other four were on allowing movement between silos in organizations, providing leadership development, inclusivity and diversity, and openness and contestability.

On diversity, de Brouwer said it was not a “statement of wokeness”.

“It’s actually a statement of effectiveness and efficiency. If you don’t have a diverse workforce, then we don’t get the challenge and the insight and the contestability around the ideas,” the secretary said.

Ultimately, de Brouwer said the last element of contestability was vital.

“If you don’t have a really good open debate, then a good idea can turn into lousy implementation pretty quickly.”

The secretary added the dedication of RBA staff was mirrored by the same high levels of dedication people in the public sector have towards purpose.

He said the view within the RBA was changing the culture was a “work-in-progress”, which was “pretty common” in the public service as well.

On the ongoing review of the RBA itself, the overall theme of the feedback the panel had received thus far was the importance of communication.

Fry-McKibbin said the general public knows the RBA is an important institution that is well respected.

However, she said it was important the general public was also informed on how the RBA works.

“The overarching message that we’re getting through all of these factors is about communication and the bank really needing to hone the communication,” Fry-McKibbin commented.

The panel flagged it was receiving a lot of feedback about whether or not to alter the legislation governing the RBA, with strong views on both sides of the argument.

Ultimately, the panel noted it was the decision of politicians on whether or not legislation should be changed although they repeated it would have to be a high bar.


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