Redundancy a year on…

A year since I finished with the NSW Government I’ve managed to scramble my way through a Masters in International Relations, and I was rewarded with excellent results. Two months since my last exam I’m still looking for work but I have a really hot prospect this Friday so – fingers crossed.

Some might misinterpret what I’m about to write as sour grapes, but no, I’m very happy to have moved on and I volunteered for the opportunity. I could have stayed and been part of the new structure, there were many opportunities and I would have been given a place, but to be honest I was burnt out. Secure from the vantage of a year’s distance I can’t help making some observations.

Public sector executives love buzzwords and buzz-phrases (a crutch to mask their uncertainty), and every one of them adds their personal stamp with a restructure. My old branch, renamed Business Information Services or BIS, was remade along the lines of the cutting edge “SFIA” framework (can’t remember what the acronym stands for, something forgettable). My position, my boss’s, and some of my colleagues’ were not required. However, four additional Senior Executive roles were.

A year on, my manager’s old job, my old job and one of my colleagues’ jobs have all been advertised in the past few weeks. I guess someone worked out er… who’s going to do the work? One year is coincidentally the same period which must pass before you can be re-hired without having to pay back any of your redundancy package. As an IT system administrator I have literally reinstated a person’s system access 1 year to the day from the date of their redundancy.

BIS ended up with six Senior Executives covering functions previously covered by 1 and-a-bit, and the merged establishment stayed steady at 113. At least in the BIS (IT) part of the organisation there was no need for the O’Farrell/Baird Government’s imperative “efficiency dividends” (doublespeak for staff cuts). The outcome was in fact the opposite of what the O’Farrell Government set out to do. That is to say it became more, not less top-heavy, which is consistent with the administration killing and revenue flushing experiences during the continuous ‘personal stamp’ restructures under the previous incompetent Labor Government’s musical chairs of departmental executives.

I remember a meeting when a colleague pointed the new CIO toward the O’Farrell Government’s Public Service Commission review which spelled out the framework and the context of the restructure (in which the CIO had been the second hire after the Department Head, and thereafter was supposed to be an implementer), and my colleague was belittled like he was being a bit obsessive.

A new structure was formulated with multiple “capability frameworks” (skills required for each job), making the new “role” descriptions so abstract as to be meaningless. If it weren’t for the additional info some astute managers put into job advertisements, in many cases you literally could not tell what the job was. Managers with responsibility for functions of which they had some experience fielded absurd questions from confused prospective applicants, while managers with no experience of their functions just added to the confusion. At all levels numerous people ended up with responsibilities for which they had no experience, knowledge or capabilities. A year later those people are being shifted, and the football team of new Senior Execs are dusting off old “position” descriptions and re-hiring deleted positions (note the Government changed the terminology from “position description” to “role description” because it apparently infers less ownership on the part of the occupant). Yet the genius responsible for all this has already moved on to an even higher position…

Anybody would think Labor were still running the joint.