The Ngamuru Service Design Practice – Justin Barrie

Knowing me, Knowing you – Welcome Justin Barrie

It should be obvious to everyone now, but it still needs to be said – people are what matters most in any business. No ifs or buts – great people produce great outcomes.

Ngamuru Advisory wouldn’t be the successful trusted strategic advisor it is today without the efforts of our amazing people.

Each of these passionate, highly talented people have their own unique stories and as part of an ongoing series, we’d like to share some of them with you.

In this instalment we are sharing the story of Justin Barrie from our Service Design Practice.

Justin Barrie of the Ngamuru Service Design Practice
Who is Justin Barrie?

Justin Barrie is a pioneering service designer and Lead Adviser and Practice Lead for the Ngamuru Service Design Practice.

As one of the first working service designers in the country, Justin’s career has taken him from the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery, founding a number of successful start-ups including running Australia’s first pure public sector design agency for 17 years, and delivering value through service design in a Big 4 consultancy setting.

Outside of work Justin is a husband, busy father of three fiercely independent adults and an avid, but not very good cyclist and even worse trail runner. As a born and bred Canberran, Justin is very active in the Canberra community and there aren’t many Canberra suburbs, events or landmarks that he doesn’t have an interesting story about.

What passions drive you?

Whilst Justin often yearns for leading the peloton to a yellow jersey finish of the Tour de France, his true calling is public sector service design.

This started early in his career when Justin was responsible for Crisis Communications as part of the media unit at the ATO where he found he spent the majority of his time responding to organisational mistakes.

Frustratingly for Justin, it didn’t take long to observe that most of these organisational mistakes were a direct result of systemic structural issues – often a theme faced by many similarly large complex organisations.

Soon after that realisation Justin was fortuitously identified by the then Commissioner of Taxation to become a foundation member of the Integrated Tax Design Project, which sought to re-define how the tax system was designed and delivered to the Australian public. This innovative project brought three key agencies – The Treasury (policy), the ATO (administration) and the Office of Parliamentary Counsel (legislation) together to support the collaborative development of the tax system.

The next few years saw Justin learn innovative tools and techniques from institutions at the international forefront of service design, such as Carnegie Mellon University, and then practically apply them designing and implementing the improved Australia taxation and superannuation system.

These formative experiences have remained with Justin as he is still deeply driven to supporting Government agencies to solve complex problems to realise a strong, contemporary public service for the betterment of all citizens.

He even still remembers his AGS number!

Describe your journey to Ngamuru Advisory?

As mentioned, Justin began his career as a political researcher specialising in Senate debate and regulations, then started at the ATO as a media and crisis management expert.

After becoming a foundation member of the Integrated Tax Design Project, Justin further honed his skills as part of the start-up world where he left his career as a pioneering public sector designer with the ATO to found one of Australia’s first public sector specific service design agencies – Design Managers Australia (DMA) in 2003.

For over 17 years, Justin and DMA, delivered quality service design outcomes to clients with deep practice and trusted innovative approaches. During this time, Justin’s efforts as a designer and innovator were recognised as he was awarded several international, national and state/territory awards for global leadership in public sector service design.

Following the height of the pandemic, new challenges awaited Justin, as he joined the PwC Consulting Australia as a Director within the Transformation Design and Delivery practice. During this period, Justin delivered a range of projects for Federal Government agencies tackling challenging issues associated with full-service integration, process design, organisational operating model design, and designing the strategic governance and commercial sourcing for agencies and multi-agencies initiatives. As a key Director in the Technology Advisory team, the stint at PwC was and excellent grounding in contemporary digital transformation, to add to his long-term focus on service improvement.

In 2022, Justin joined Ngamuru Advisory as part of their ongoing commitment to supporting clients in building a better Australian Public Service. Ngamuru Founder @Harry Dunstall has known Justin professionally for many years and they regularly spoke about opportunities to support clients in becoming more effective by helping them “do the right things” and making sure they “do things right” – a topic of another post [cross reference]. From there the decision was made to make a significant investment resulting in Justin joining to establish Ngamuru’s highly experienced and dedicated service design capability.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Justin has been fortunate enough to have delivered strategic service design services to transform and improve Government services, agencies and teams across a variety of fields including: ICT & digital; taxation & superannuation; policing & compliance; communications & marketing; scientific research; water management, human resources, sports, industry development and local government.

No matter the field, Justin really enjoys helping clients: cut through complexity; make effective decisions; and drive user focused outcomes through a strategic service design approach.

That said, a particular field of interest and success for Justin has been evolving service design into a method of self-determination for Australia’s Indigenous people. Justin’s work on the ‘Deadly Allstars Healing Garden Co-Design’ with Barnardos Australia to build healing spaces for young Canberrans in foster and kinship care established a formal process enabling young people to collaboratively realised outcomes in the Healing Garden with many varied uses. This was nationally recognised and awarded the Indigenous Design of the Year in 2019.

From a public sector point of view, being part of the team that embedded the superannuation guarantee payment and supporting complex multi-agency delivery on programs such as the Modernised Business Register and establishing the Safety Program for the shut down of the Home Insulation Program are career highlights.

Oh also spending time with his family. Definitely in the top 5 according to Justin.

Something not many people know about you?

Justin was once so committed to his role with the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery that he (along with his very patient wife) timed the birth of his first child to coincide with the winter sitting break. Needless to say, the fact that they had to do this so that Justin could take time off to be home was a pretty strong indicator he should look for a new job!

People should contact you if they …?

Justin is passionate about building a better public service and always happy to discuss and bounce around ideas for improving services, organisations and teams.

He is happy to talk about the impact a strategic design approach can have on not just your program but your Agency or Department. He is especially interested in re-invigorating the APS capability in regulatory compliance and intelligence-led service design.

If you want to talk about service design or a specific challenge you might be facing please reach out to Justin via email, LinkedIn or contact the Ngamuru Service Design Practice (link).