In our latest series of the ‘The Big Picture’, we examine the extraordinary achievements of individuals placed by Charterhouse, and look at the tangible difference their work has made to society.

Edition 2 | Nathan Grieve

Nathan Grieve was placed into a project management role with the prestigious NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, where he was tasked with delivering a dashboard for then-Premier, Mike Baird to show the progress of the Premier’s 12 Priorities.

Following the successful completion of that project, Charterhouse placed Nathan in another challenging role: this time, with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment working to establish the Housing Supply Portfolio Office. This project was integral in delivering the Government’s Housing Affordability Strategy which, by coincidence, was one of the 12 Premier’s Priorities (his previous project).

Earlier this year, Nathan project managed the Department’s first float in the Sydney Mardi Gras. Most recently, he’s been busy working on the establishment of a new division – Environment, Energy and Science, in the newly formed NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment. He is working in the Office of the Coordinator-General of Environment, Energy and Science Group.

This is Nathan’s story…

Good morning Nathan. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Can we please start with how you first connected with Charterhouse:

It was March 2016. A six-month contract with FACS had just come to an end and I was thinking ‘what comes next?’. I posted my CV onto,  Vasil called and that’s how we first connected.

Vasil asked if I was interested in finding out more about a role with the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC). From the very start, the role sounded intriguing. It was working in a team called the Premier’s Implementation Unit (PIU). At that time, I’d never heard of the PIU and only vaguely knew of the Premier’s Priorities, but I was keen to find out more.

This led to our first meeting, which must have gone reasonably well as Vasil decided to put me forward for that role. PIU kindly decided to engage me…. and so that’s the start of my journey with Vasil… and it’s one that’s continued through to today.

By way of a quick side-bar, who are the PIU and what are the Premier’s Priorities?

In 2015, the then-Premier, Mike Baird, launched what were his 12 priorities for NSW. Each had clear and challenging targets. The PIU was formed and tasked with driving delivery of the priorities, including regularly reporting progress back to the Premier. The Premier asked the PIU to create a dashboard that showed progress against the targets he had set and I was employed as the resource to do that.

Talk to me about the project outcomes

In October 2016, the dashboard went ‘live’ to its intended audience, who were the Premier and nine Deputy Secretaries from the various agencies leading on delivering the priorities.The dashboard had 600 individual components; received 59 data feeds sourced from 12 agencies; and was viewable on mobile and tablet platforms. The Premier and Deputy Secretaries used the dashboard in their regular review meetings.

The dashboard was important because it represented a new way of working. It used a new methodology, sourced from the Office of the Prime Minister in the UK, which focused on collaborative, cross-agency working.By February 2017, the dashboard had been embedded into ‘business as usual’ and the PIU project ended. I was thrilled that the dashboard was nominated for a Secretary’s Award.

However, I didn’t leave DPC before I’d had another unique experience there: a three-month stint as an Executive Officer to a Deputy Secretary. That experience came about as an indirect result of the dashboard project in that that project had given me opportunities to have great conversations with so many stakeholders, both in DPC and across government. When the need arose to have someone step into an EO role in DPC to cover some annual leave, I was flattered to have been asked.

The last three months at DPE involved me working flexibly across both roles: i.e. I continued to work on PIU the dashboard post-launch (to embed it as BAU) and also worked as an EO. Both were amazing experiences and I’m so grateful for them both.

After that project came to its natural conclusion, you must have wanted to do something equally rewarding? What project did you then transition onto?

After those projects ended, I went overseas for a couple of weeks. However, on my second day back, fresh off the plane and still suffering jet lag, Vasil called to chat about a couple of options. I remember the first option Vasil suggested wasn’t quite the right ‘fit’. By that I mean the project was in an area that I just wasn’t passionate about. (From memory it related to insurance.) That feedback to Vasil led to some really important conversations with him about what elements of a project were important to me and why. I explained to him that my ‘MO’ (or way of working) is to really throw myself into my projects, so much so that they become more than just a job, but essentially a part of your life. For this reason, it was important to me to not select the ‘first’ project that came along, but to wait for the ‘right’ project ... one that I was fully engaged and believed in.

Vasil came back with an amazing project idea; one involving housing affordability, a topic close to many Sydney-siders hearts. The project was working at the Department of Planning and Environment to establish a Housing Supply Portfolio Office (HSPO). The HSPO was needed to bring together a huge amount of disparate information into a single view that showed the delivery pipeline of new housing. This was done by working with lots of individual policy and project managers to get a standardised set of information on their housing-related projects. This information was then collated, analysed and reported to Cabinet.

The need for a HSPO was borne out of Premier Berejiklian’s June 2017 announcement of a $4.3 billion package to make it easier for people to own their own home. The HSPO was given the responsibility of working across Government to coordinate and manage the reporting of the implementation of a $4.3billion support package. The target to deliver 61,000 houses per year actually became a Premier’s Priority! I was thrilled to have played a part in establishing the HSPO and embed that into ‘business as usual’ at the Department.

And finally, tell us about a project close to your heart; the inaugural Department of Planning Mardi Gras Float and your key contribution to that project.

In October 2017, our Secretary established a team that reported directly to her and had responsibility for driving Transformation projects across the cluster. I put forward an expression of interest to join it and was successful. One of the most noteworthy projects I did in that role is one that came out of left field, which was to project manage a float in the 2019 Mardi Gras parade (MG). I say it came out of left field as I had no experience in delivering events. Also, the Department had a Communications Department, including event specialists. I was flattered to learn that I was chosen for the role over others due to its strategic importance to the Secretary herself. The Secretary was keen to participate in MG as a way of demonstrating the Department’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. 

The float’s theme was ‘Creating Spaces’, eluding to the fact that as a Department we are responsible for creating spaces across NSW – new spaces, safe spaces, green spaces, open spaces… The Department was proud to be ‘creating spaces’ for all its employees to be themselves, including to express themselves as they wished to. However, there were sensitivities around the Department’s MG float because it involved taxpayer money and MG was scheduled just one month before this year’s State election. I was deemed to be the trusted set of hands needed to take the Department on its first MG journey.

This project was one of the best I’ve worked on. It was a great opportunity to engage with a lot of staff from across the cluster on a topic that many people felt extremely passionate about.  There was so much emotion… and goodwill. However, this emotion and goodwill also meant there were high expectations in terms of delivering a great float… and that meant there was a bit of pressure. Of course, there was the pragmatic stuff to manage (such as managing risks, staying within budgets, delivering on plans and managing stakeholders) but in terms of ways of working, I was keen to not lose the spirit of MG and taking those participating on a fun and memorable journey. So yes, MG was a great opportunity, but many a time did I say to myself: “I hope this all goes to plan!”. Thankfully it did, as you might see from the pictures below.

Whilst MG was a really fun project to do, it was challenging for its own unique reasons. Some of the key challenges were around:

  • managing key stakeholders (particularly those who were risk owners) and involving them at appropriate decision points.
  • managing participants’ expectations (we were restricted by the MG Organising Committee to a total of 50 participants yet there was an overwhelming response from staff to be involved ... so there was a lot of energy to harness and manage)
  • running a ‘tight’ project i.e. there was no option to exceed ‘cost’ or ‘time’, meaning the only ‘tolerance’ or possible variation was on ‘scope’. 

Or put another way, we simply had to deliver the best float we could manage on the night with the available funding, come what may. The two outcomes I found most rewarding were the impact on our Secretary and on our staff:

  • Our Secretary was just amazing in the way she gave so much of her time and energy throughout the lead up. She hosted and spoke at the launch event; she allocated time in Executive Leadership meetings to receive updates on our preparation; she attended dance rehearsals in the park, and she wore the same uniform as the rest of us on the night. Sitting in her office after the event and hearing from her about the amazing conversations she’d had as a result of our participation in MG was really moving.
  • The 50 staff participants had their experiences captured in a ‘Reflections Report’, which was collated a few weeks after the parade. The intent was to try to capture the impact our participation had on people and on our workplace. The results were amazing, including that people commented that they now felt comfortable to ‘come out’ in the workplace and that barriers, either real or perceived, had been broken.

MG was just an amazing platform that enabled amazing conversations across the entire department at all levels.

Thank you for your time and contributions Nathan, they have genuinely impacted our society in a positive way. 

Click here to check out our first profile in this series.