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Key objective

Understand your authorising environment to generate support and buy-in from key stakeholders who can empower the taskforce to achieve its objectives.

Common problems

  • Failing to adequately nurture and maintain relationships, or adapt to changes in leadership or priorities within your authorising environment, which could leave you without support or buy-in at critical moments.

Tips for success

  • Build your authorising environment by engaging early with key players and seeking guidance on how they’d like to be involved throughout the process
  • Stay regularly engaged with your key decision-makers, including through both formal and informal status updates, to maintain your authorising environment.

What is an authorising environment?

Public sector organisations require authority to deliver on their functions. This authority comes in different forms and from different sources which make up an ‘authorising environment’. There are:

  • 'Formal' or 'hard' authorities, like those granted through legislation, budget approvals and a range of statutory, financial or administrative delegations. These are necessary, but insufficient on their own, to enable an organisation to be successful.
  • 'Informal' or 'soft' authorities, which are the mission-critical people and organisations that support and authorise the scope of work and manner in which work is undertaken. This can include ministers, central agencies, other departments, portfolio agencies and a wide range of stakeholders.

Building positive relationships with your informal or soft authorities is essential to creating an authorising environment that provides legitimacy, support and consensus around your issues and recommendations. They can become key sources of risk to achieving your objectives if they are not engaged early and actively managed. Stakeholder engagement planning will help to identify those who are critical to your authorising environment.

Understanding your authorising environment

Creating a sound authorising environment for your taskforce involves generating support and buy-in from those who can empower the taskforce to achieve its objectives, at critical moments throughout the process.

Authority in the form of a Cabinet decision or a deeply-invested minister or deputy secretary can be a great tool to drive action, particularly if you need to marshal resources or efforts around your problem.

Part of understanding your authorising environment is understanding the work required to maintain it. Regular engagement and status updates on your work with your key decision-makers will instill confidence in progress and sustain their support and commitment. This is important if changes arise throughout the taskforce process that require additional funding, staff or time – your decision-makers are more likely to grant those resources if you've maintained their support with regular engagement that justifies the additional commitment.

Understanding your authorising environment also requires you to be attuned to changes in priorities or leadership that could affect your authority to take action. If there's a change in leadership, it's important to be prepared to bring them along the journey to date, particularly if you're facing significant deliverables and need their authority to take action.

You should also identify if additional 'hard' authority is required – potentially by using the Cabinet process to renew or refocus your mandate to enable you to achieve your objective.


Last reviewed: 
29 January 2021