Achieving high performance in a changing world 

Increasingly, government is less involved in the delivery of public services. Services are contracted out and delivered by non-governmental and private organisations. Consequently, there have been significant changes to both the organisation of public services and the workforce requirements of the public service. 

At the same time, there have been moves towards achieving high-performing government in ways that include adopting greater organisational agility, supporting innovation, greater intra- and inter-organisational coordination and collaboration, implementing systems approaches and adopting more flexible work practices. 

All these initiatives require high levels of management and leadership capacities. In this theme, we bring together work on issues such as human resource systems, performance management, organisational culture, workforce development and project management to explore the types of changes taking place in relation to the capability of public services and the mechanisms required to deliver better outcomes – specifically, the changing nature of work and the capabilities needed for the future. 

Competitive advantage

While recognising the importance of senior leadership, our researchers seek to understand how to support the development of organisational capability through the development of leadership and managerial skills at all levels of the organisation. The focus should be on attaining high performance, and we work with organisations to better understand their capability system and how it can lead to improved outputs and outcomes. We partner with organisations and undertake applied research to help build the knowledge and skills necessary for practitioners to implement our research findings. This is aided by our research which informs our Executive Education courses.


Our research is aimed at delivering: 

Enhanced management and leadership skills.
More effective change management.
Improved training and development outcomes.
Enhanced and integrated human resources policies and practices.

Successful applications

Professor Deborah Blackman, Professor Michael O’Donnell and Dr Fiona Buick developed the Strengthening the Performance Framework for the Commonwealth Government. The partnership with the Australian Public Service Commission resulted in amended Public Service Commissioner’s Directives, a diagnostic tool, revised performance management approaches and capability development initiatives including the Crafting Conversation Masterclass focused on more effective performance conversations.

Dr Samantha Johnson, Prof. Blackman and Dr Buick studied the popular 70:20:10 learning and development framework, determining its efficacy in improving learning transfer. The reconceptualisation of the model has led organisations to seek assistance to improve their learning and development practices and, consequently, their learning transfer.

Study with us

The Master of Strategic People Management is designed to develop middle managers. The program is based on relevant research at UNSW Canberra, including our research into Capability in the Public Service.  

Middle managers are recognised as a key element of organisational change, yet most university programs don't focus on their specific people management challenges. This online program balances advanced theory with practical knowledge, offering the opportunity to develop strategy implementation plans which effectively integrate and utilise the people involved. 

The program enables the successful incorporation of human resources into strategic plans and the achievement of desired organisational outcomes. The program adopts an organisational system perspective to enable more nuanced strategy and implementation formulation. There is a route to the Australian HR Institute (AHRI) accreditation.

Master of Strategic People Management

The Master of Strategic People Management at UNSW Canberra is designed to develop middle managers, particularly in people management.

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Our researchers

Associate Dean (Lifelong Learning) and Professor in Public Sector Management Strategy Deborah Blackman
Associate Dean (Lifelong Learning) and Professor in Public Sector Management Strategy
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Senior Lecturer in Public Sector Management Fiona Buick
Senior Lecturer in Public Sector Management
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Senior Lecturer, HR and Organisation Behaviour Catherine Deen
Senior Lecturer, HR and Organisation Behaviour
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Professor of Public Service Research Helen Dickinson
Professor of Public Service Research
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Lecturer Lhawang Ugyel
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Lecturer Vindhya Weeratunga
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Associate Professor Sue Williamson
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