Our research role
The Public Service Commission and the New Zealand public service are continually working to improve how public services deliver for New Zealanders. As we work on improving public services now, we must also keep an eye to the future, so that New Zealanders have a public service that better meets their needs and remains relevant in a changing world.
Part of the Commission’s core function is to provide leadership and over-sight of the public service and ensure the purpose of the Public Service Act is carried out. From time to time, Commission staff need to do a deeper dive to understand a problem. Sometimes this involves a literature review or empirical research and analysis. Other times it can involve engaging with public administration theory to develop new understandings, or reflective practice and insights.
This collection of papers have been commissioned, written or contributed to by Commission staff members in order for us to get a better understanding of various challenges facing the public service, so that we can continue to work on improving how public services deliver for New Zealanders. The Commission’s aim in sharing the papers here is to make these ideas and analyses available to a wider audience, and to inform and encourage public debate, with the ultimate aim of informing our work.
If you have any questions, would like reports in a different format or are interested in discussing this work, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: The views, opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in these papers are strictly those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the Commission or the New Zealand Government.
Please note: Prior to August 2020, the Public Service Commission was known as the State Services Commission. Documents published prior to this date refer to the Commission by this earlier name.
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How “independence” drives governance and form choices – a draft framework for future practice
A comparison of management adaptations for joined‐up government: Lessons from New Zealand
This paper explores the conditions that may have enabled the most progress and possible management adaptations when these initial conditions are not fully met.
Group Model Building: Using Systems Dynamics to Achieve Enduring Agreement
This book describes the cognitive and interpersonal effects of group model building, and presents empirical research on what group model building achieves and how.
Singular memory or institutional memories? Towards a dynamic approach
In this article, we distinguish between two different ways of thinking about institutional memory: one “static” and one “dynamic.”
Interpersonal Success Factors for Strategy Implementation: A Case Study Using Group Model Building
A case study using validated survey methods yielded promising results, and suggests that further study is needed. This application of group model building may be a manifestation of the IKEA affect, where individuals valu…
Explaining how group model building supports enduring agreement
System dynamics models are typically used to simulate the behaviour of the problem system under discussion environment, to help understand and solve complex problems. This paper creates a combined model that links the fi…
Interagency Performance Targets: A Case Study of New Zealand’s Results Programme
From 2012 to 2017, the New Zealand government has held groups of senior public servants collectively responsible for achieving performance targets for improving persistent crosscutting problems. In this report, Rodney Sc…
Joined-Up for What? Response to Carey and Harris on Adaptive Collaboration:
Carey and Harris present the concept of adaptive management as a practice for supporting effective collaboration, suggesting that performance information be used to modify actions.
Assessing the performance of agency chief executives
Monitoring and managing department chief executive performance is one of the main centrally held levers for improving the performance of the New Zealand public sector.
Results, Targets and Measures to Drive Collaboration: Lessons from the New Zealand Better Public Services reforms
The Results, targets and measures were co-created through careful dialogue between ministers, participating departments and the three central agencies: the State Services Commission, Treasury and the Department of the Pr…
Theoretical foundations of department chief executive performance appraisals
This paper assembles a set of design principles for department chief executive performance based upon the theoretical foundations of three analogous processes: employee performance appraisals, private sector chief execut…
The performance relationship between department chief executives and the State Services Commission of New Zealand
This paper explores and explains current practice to correct the incomplete descriptions of New Zealand practice in the literature today.
Joint ventures in the public sector: Translating lessons from the private sector to New Zealand government departments
Many of the challenges facing today's public servants cannot be solved by agencies acting alone. In recent years there has been increasing attention paid to the opportunities and challenges of cross-agency work.
Recent Evidence On The Effectiveness Of Group Model Building
This paper argues that future research in group model building would benefit from three main shifts: from single cases to multiple cases; from controlled settings to applied settings; and by augmenting survey results wit…
Client Perceptions of Reported Outcomes of Group Model Building in the New Zealand Public Sector
The public sector is a significant audience for group model building interventions; this paper reports on what outcomes are most valued by potential clients in the New Zealand public sector.
Mechanisms for Understanding Mental Model Change in Group Model Building
This paper explores the experiences of participants in group model building workshops where delayed evaluations suggested that lasting mental model change has occurred.
Interpersonal Success Factors for Strategy Implementation
Strategy implementation has been identified as an area of system dynamics literature requiring greater attention. Most strategies fail to be implemented successfully, and processes for effectively implementing strategy a…
The management and organisational challenges of more joined-up government: New Zealand’s Better Public Services reforms
This paper describes progress in implementing reform and reflects on the tensions inherent in layering ‘horizontal’ and system-wide approaches onto a strongly vertical system of accountability.
Evaluating immediate and long-term impacts of qualitative group model building workshops on participants' mental models
This paper reports on a case study involving four groups using group model building tools that were evaluated immediately before, immediately after, and 12 months following a 3-hour workshop.