Cultural change and leadership development for government

Cultural change and leadership development for government


Nous partnered with a major government department to develop a new leadership strategy and co-design its future culture and vision.

Cultural change and a new leadership strategy

Two major government departments with intersecting priorities combined to create a new department – one of the largest in Australia with more than 14,000 staff. To achieve the goals of the integrated department, it was critical to engage leaders at all levels and embed the behavioural change required to realise the new mission and vision.

The future culture was co-designed through extensive staff consultation

Nous engaged the workforce of the two organisations to gain insight into strengths and barriers, and to co-design the future culture and vision for the integrated organisation. Significant investment was made in staff consultation and the bottom-up co-design of the future culture. As part the process we:

  • Engaged staff in 30 focus groups across Australia and on international postings to map current organisational cultures and collate staff insights on opportunities
  • Met with senior executives across all functional groups to discuss characteristics of the work forces, including existing culture and change readiness
  • Analysed over 5,500 staff survey responses on key areas to get right with integration
  • Co-designed the new vision, behaviours and cultural reform initiatives through 20 collaborative design sessions across Australia, and an online survey with over 4,000 responses
  • Supported the development of communications material for national roadshows to share the new vision and behaviours
  • Developed a values and behaviours strategy to identify cultural change accountabilities, prioritise initiatives and measure progress.

Recognising that persistent focus and energy from leaders would be integral to the ongoing success of the initiative, Nous also developed the capability of leaders to drive cultural change. We:

  • Facilitated 70 leadership conversations from Senior Executive Service Level 3 down to Executive Level 1 (EL1) to develop a shared understanding of the shared behaviours and expectations of leaders
  • Equipped EL1 leaders to have similar conversations with their teams about how the Department culture should translate for them
  • Co-designed a leadership framework, and supporting strategy and roadmap, that articulated the leadership capabilities required to achieve the new Vision and Mission, and behavioural indicators across each level.

Leaders are clear about the cultural vision and where they need to focus to accelerate change

Nous continues to advise the department on methods to embed the culture locally, build the capability of leaders to drive cultural change and ensure the espoused behaviours become a consistently lived experience for all staff. Cultural change progress is measured biannually through the Australian Public Service Commission survey and ongoing pulse checks, involving focus groups and an all-staff survey.

What other organisations can learn:

  • Communicate and engage broadly to drive a shared understanding of the expected behaviours, and what that means for teams and individuals.
  • Engage leaders to role model the new behaviours and proactively lead behavioural change in their teams.
  • Design collaboratively, listen to staff, undertake regular measurement and iteratively adjust the strategy to maximise return on cultural change investment.
  • Be prepared for set-backs: culture change is challenging and requires persistent effort and focus.