Productivity: creating a government of ‘doers’ not ‘gunnas’

| June 25, 2013

Too much time is spent on discussing, researching and strategising projects and not enough emphasis is placed on implementation. Peter Fritz explains how it’s time to incentivise project completion.

Decide faster, implement faster, monitor better, develop the right incentives to drive the process, that’s what’s needed to ensure Australia is productive.

Productivity is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input”.

If we examine this definition from an Australian perspective, we should look at the cost per unit over the last 10 years. Without us dropping our output, we have in fact ended up half as productive as we were 10 years ago, simply due to the doubling of the currency value.

Furthermore, any investment we make in infrastructure further increases the per unit cost.

Obviously, there is much wrong with this definition. There are areas which need to be looked at when we talk about improved productivity in Australia, in particular the decision making process in government and large corporations.

We simply take too long to make decisions, and to make matters worse, we take too long to implement them. We don’t do enough to monitor projects once they have been decided upon, and overall we do little by way of incentives across the board to help complete them faster.

Besides the obvious silos that are called departments, such as those of Finance, Innovation, Environment, Health and so on, our organisations are further divided into sections and units, few of which are co-ordinated for the single purpose.

An example of how this plays out is the introduction of electronic health records. First committed to in 1991, today after spending several billion dollars, Australia still does not have a fully functioning online health records system. Only 109,000 people have registered out of a target of 500,000 by June 2013. It should not have taken 22 years to get the project off the ground. This is just one of the many examples where our lack of productivity is failing us. It is not the billions of dollars spent that are the largest cost to the country and the community, but the opportunity costs a whole generation has missed out on.

Our leaders have become disconnected from global insights due to the number of multinationals that have moved their head offices or regional offices out of Australia. As a result of leaving behind purely the sales office functions which address the main national market, we are losing knowledge and experience in making significant decisions on the international stage.

What should we do?

We need to recognise that productivity improvements are not only about red tape or removing obstacles for achievement. They are about the fundamentals of ‘decide > do > monitor’. It is necessary to create an urgency of implementation and proper management. We must incentivise for faster results. 

Metrics for how quickly decisions should be made need to be established. For example easy decisions should take two months, four months for mid-weight decisions and six months for more complex decisions.

It is time to ensure that we recognise the issues of not being productive and create a future where we shift from a country of ‘gunnas’ to a country of ‘doers’.


Peter Fritz AM is Managing Director of Global Access Partners, and Group Managing Director of TCG – a diverse group of companies which over the last 40 years has produced many breakthrough discoveries in computer and communication technologies. He chairs a number of influential government and private enterprise boards and is active in the international arena, including having represented Australia on the OECD Small and Medium Size Enterprise Committee.