James Broadbent is the business manager for Centrelink Audit in Canberra, in charge of strategic business planning for the national audit function in Centrelink, managing a panel of contractors providing internal audit services, and developing financial management and audit information systems for a multimillion-dollar annual budget. He is a member of the Australian Institute of Management.
AIM: What attracted you to work in management?
Broadbent: I wasn’t entirely sure after university what I wanted to do and I thought that going into something with a management flavor would cover a number of bases that I could stream into once I had my foot in the door.
AIM: Has it been an issue that at 29 you are young for a manager?
Broadbent: It’s potentially an issue if you let it be one, particularly if you have staff who are much older and have more on-the-job experience. You have to demonstrate that you are able to do the work and do it well, and with that comes respect. Being a good manager means you have to both do the work and manage people. It’s a combination of the two. Then you don’t have to worry about those types of problems.
AIM: What are some of the biggest management hurdles in setting up systems that monitor progress and budgets?
Broadbent: Making sure that you are actually tracking the right information. A lot of businesses go out and buy a product hoping it will fix their business problems, whereas all they really do is amplify those problems. Unless you have worked out very clearly what your business is, what the processes are, how it should work and what the important management information is, you are not going to get a system that will help you.
AIM: Psychologists have written extensively on how we focus a lot on the little day-to-day risks but forget about big lifetime risks. What sort of problems does this pose for managers?
Broadbent: In an area like internal audit we look at it from the other angle. You need to start with the big strategic risks for the business then try to disseminate those through the different levels of the business so that there is a clear line from the ground up and everything links in with those risks. There is a certain amount of risk that you have to accept at times if the cost of doing something about it becomes ridiculous.
AIM: You have extensive experience managing contractors working for government. What are some of the more challenging contract management issues?
Broadbent: Getting contractors to treat government as they would any private business. By that, I mean linking payments to outcomes and actively managing the contract. I was involved in putting together the Better Practice Guide on Contract Management at the Australian National Audit Office and I have seen changes that are positive in terms of public sector contract managers becoming more proactive, rather than just signing a contract and thinking that’s all they have to do. I think this concept of risk management has helped as well. There is a certain amount of risk that you can delegate through a contract but you don’t remove all that risk.
AIM: Nearly 217,000 Australians aged 35-45 are unemployed. What should be done to ensure they get work if there is an economic upswing, given their age and assuming they haven’t worked for some time?
Broadbent: The first step is getting some work, and it can be hard convincing people it’s the right thing to do. Sometimes people expect to wait until the ideal job comes up, whereas in my experience it’s a lot easier to get that ideal job if you already have a job. Getting some kind of work will provide the greatest assistance to the long-term unemployed.