Bringing flair to red tape reduction – DFAT Red Tape Review

[Originally published on the Australian Government Public Sector Innovation Network under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY AU licence]

Believe it or not, red tape can seem a pretty dry topic… However on Thursday our colleagues at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) showed us that that doesn’t have to be the case.

In an early start to Innovation Month (after all, arbitrary deadlines are really just a form of red tape) DFAT Deputy Secretary and Innovation Champion Ewen McDonald opened the launch of their Red Tape Review. This was a process for identifying how the department could work smarter and remove unnecessary hurdles and obstacles for people doing their jobs.

Louise Hand, who led the Review, shared with the audience the process that they went through and the 100 ideas that were submitted.

Louise explained that there were three recurrent themes that emerged through the ideas. These included:

  • Trust – trusting people to do the right thing
  • Making room – that people often felt encumbered rather than empowered by the systems that they were dealing with, and there was a need to make room to be able to think strategically and focus on the important things
  • New ways – that there are lots of new ways of being able to do core tasks, such as providing briefing, holding meetings and sharing information.

An important outcome of the process has been an emphasis on the need to start thinking about staff as customers for many of the services and processes.

Louise then shared a short fun and engaging video about the process, which DFAT are using to start a conversation with staff about working even smarter.

Louise noted that out of the 100 ideas submitted, some 40 had been selected for response and these were divided into four categories:

  • Things that are already underway (or soon will be)
  • Quick wins – things that will make a difference and that can be done quickly and easily
  • Worth supporting – things that would be worth testing in quick/cheap ways to see if they are worth pursuing more fully, and
  • Sorry, not this time – things that are too hard or just won’t work.

It was a great event, and a good example of the value of agencies sharing. It was also nice to see some imagination and flair given to a topic that can seem dry. As Ewen said, there’s a lot of interest from staff about how to improve things.

I look forward to hearing about how the implementation and testing of some of the ideas goes.

If you have any questions about the process that DFAT undertook, please contact us, and we’ll pass them on to the team.