Learner Success

My “why?” is people

Tamara McQueen-Bryers

For Tamara McQueen-Bryers, manager of the Community Corrections Programs of NT Correctional Services, the PSMP workplace project provided an opportunity to focus on the people who were administering government programs.

She examined how to achieve maximum value through investment in the workforce – in people rather than in a process or system.

“My project was a divisional review of the individual performance agreements administered by the Department of the Attorney-General and Justice.

“Within my own team – and I have a large team – I thought how can I add value to their experience in the public sector. How can we support them to do the most critical and vital roles that we are asking our public servants to do? And how can we use or revise the existing systems to get the maximum benefit out of them. That is my ‘why’. It is people for me.”

For over 20 years Tamara has been a public sector employee, both in New Zealand and now in the Territory. Her main focus has been in correctional services.

We have a huge potential to do good and to influence positive change,” she said.

The role of staff at the coalface is critical, she believes. “If we can do the right thing at the right time with the right person, then we have infinite power for good.”

She found “very valuable” relationships with those in her cohort, with facilitators, and with professors.

Unit two of the program she considered “a big ask”, which caused everyone to look internally. “This was not an easy experience, but it was a rewarding one, and very much a highlight.”

Similarly, unit four she found particularly valuable. “The tools we acquired in that unit stood me in such good stead in my role of regional manager, such that now I am going into a new role where I can exercise all of those skills and tools.”

Initially, Tamara felt she was struggling, and felt the need to test every tool to ensure each worked and that they were relevant to her business. “I found that every one of those tools had its own value.”

She considers the program “a journey that no matter how tough has been really rewarding, both personally and professionally.

It allowed me to consolidate all of the on-the-job learning and apply that to multiple arenas.”

Tamara shares her story here:

QUT PSMP Program


Tell us about your workplace project, and why you chose that topic.

So, my workplace project was a Divisional Review of the Individual Performance Agreement, which is administered by the Attorney General Justice Department. It was actually a theme throughout the whole of the Public Sector Management Program for me, where I focused on, I didn’t focus on policy or process, I focused on the people who are actually administering the government programs and looked at how we could achieve maximum public value through investment, and the workforce and our people rather than in a process or a system.

So, I looked at that, I chose that also because I see varying shades of happiness within the public sector and within my own team. I have a large team and I looked at that and I thought, how can I add value to their experience in public sector and how can I, how can we support them to do the most critical and vital roles that we’re asking our public servants to do, and how can we use the existing systems, or revise the existing systems, to get the maximum benefit out of them. That was my why, it is people for me.

What motivates you about working in the Public Service?

I’ve been a public sector employee for over 20 years and two jurisdictions both in New Zealand and now in the territory, and particularly in the correctional service’s role, and we have a huge potential to do good and to influence positive change, and I wanted that, I fully see the role of the staff that deal with those people at the coalface as being crucial in critical and if we can do the right thing at the right time with the right person then we have an infinite power for good.

What was the highlight of your PSMP experience?

Those were the journey itself the moments I had along the way, and I had a lot of those. It was the people that were in our cohort, so the very valuable relationships, and with the facilitators, with the professors with the group, those learnings were definitely a highlight for me. But I have to say module two, unit two, that was a big ask and caused us to look very much internally, which was not an easy experience but rewarding one nonetheless, and very much a highlight, and also unit four, where we got to actually put all of them, grab everything together and to put it into practise and to I have to say the tools that you, Tony, showed us in unit four, have stood me in such good stead from my role where I was the Regional Manager now into a new role where I’m going into exercise all of those skills and tools, so it’s very much, those are my highlights.

Can you talk about tools you used in creating your project?

I actually trusted the process and went through it, I was really struggling, and I thought, no just clear the deck, stop thinking about all the things you want to achieve, and trust the process.

So, I went back through and revisited all of the tools that we had used, and put them all up everywhere, so I had, I went through every tool and tested it because I thought how do I know that these work, are they even relevant to my business, are they relevant to my project, or are you just giving me tools to keep me busy, or because it’s a tick box thing? And I practically applied each of those tools and I emptied everything that was in my head onto those tools’ end it enabled me to clear and compartmentalise and, funnily enough, Tony, they worked!

They worked, and every single one of those tools that I used had its own value and got me from an idea in my head about one I wanted to achieve to, being able to put something on paper and now being able to realise that moving forward the project hasn’t finished it still underway, it’s enabled me to get to where I’ve gotten an it will enable me to finish the project.

What advice would you give to someone considering studying the PSMP?

And this is going to sound really cliche is to just do it! It’s a journey that no matter who I’ve spoken to even though it’s been tough at times for some of us it has been really, really rewarding.

The personal growth that I’ve experienced, both, and then also my professional growth, it has given me, I’m corrections born and bred, so spent 20 years in corrections, this has given me all of the tools and the learnings to consolidate that on the job learning and to be able to be in apply that into multiple different arenas. So, that would be my advice just do it.

I don’t have any advice for study or reading lots of things, ’cause there is lots of reading it’s a Grad Cert, you’re expected to do it, you must do it to get the maximum benefit out of it, so I don’t have advice there, because however you can get it done, get it done.

Keep your people close, so I had a number of people that I relied on to off-load to, in my group, as well as friends who were supportive of me during the program, so keep them nice and close. They will encourage you in times when the grind becomes a little hard.

I guess the only other piece of advice that I would have is to make it count. Don’t do something, don’t pick topics or projects that don’t have any meaning to you or to your organisation. Pick the things that you’re passionate about and pick the things that you hold valuable because that will also that will, yeah, the potential for positive change the potential for good, and all of that comes through in your paperwork and in your submissions and your study.

If you have intrinsic why, and a drive, a personal drive to do the things that you are to do, the things that you are putting forward into, and do the investigations and things, don’t pay lip service to it, is my advice, get in there get it done. Find something you’re passionate about and make it count.


Tony is a Corporate Educator for QUT, teaching strategic thinking, strategy implementation, innovation and marketing. He has strong expertise in strategic thinking and business planning, innovation and creative processes, and leadership development. Tony’s research interests include employee loyalty, organisational climates, and corporate reputation.

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