In the first part of this two-part blog on transformation burnout, I wrote about the impacts of multiple concurrent organizational, process, and system changes to the federal workforce. I also shared potential warning signs of transformation fatigue within the workforce.
Change is inevitable and essential, but you can often manage the pain that change causes. What can agencies do to accomplish critical transformation while minimizing stress to the workforce? Consider these four recommendations.
Establish cross-cutting governance models to support the pace of change
Organizational changes and large IT system modernizations are highly complex. They require a cross-functional focus, but sometimes coordination can be haphazard. It can be easy to lose touch with the people those initiatives impact. A centralized governance function tracks goals and progress, and can help orchestrate program priorities, timing and accountability while keeping core decision-making within each initiative. Focused on the big picture and the federal workforce impact, this overarching governance function helps to translate the organizational vision in a way that enhances the ability of the workforce to meet the mission, minimizing distraction and frustration. Having this cross-organizational view can help drive critical decisions related to transformation sequencing and deployment, helping to guard against change saturation and burnout, minimizing distraction and frustration.
Plan for organizational change management
Too often, a workforce learns about planned changes late in the game. Worse, those announcements often fail to address workers’ worries about how the changes will affect them, leading them to assume the worst. Federal agencies need to consider the emotional reactions that people are likely to have when told that change is coming. This is true of both organizational change and IT modernization. As agency IT modernization initiatives adopt agile practices, including user-centric design and iterative end user testing, they must acknowledge that for large, complex systems, only a small subset of end users will be able to provide their direct feedback. Agencies must look to organizational change management experts for early assessment of the potential impact to the workforce of the envisioned changes, then proactively plan strategies to minimize those impacts. Announcing the new system is coming and providing a schedule of training is too little too late.
Transformation work is not completed the day that the new business process is launched or the new IT system is rolled out into production. Inevitably, the introduction of new ways of working results in questions not envisioned during implementation and training. Celebrate a successful go-live, but then immediately turn your attention to stabilizing the new system or process. A key post-implementation consideration is what the ongoing stabilization goals will be and how the organization will measure success. Have we launched with a set of early adopters, who may have been our beta testers? If so, how do we expand adoption to other stakeholders? Are end users satisfied with how the system operates, or have we identified new frustrations and associated system workarounds? Have we budgeted appropriately to support evolutionary improvements to improve continually the efficiency of our processes and experiences of our end users?
Create dedicated cross-functional groups focused on change management
Greek philosopher Heraclitus stated: “The only constant in life is change.” Perhaps, then, in the government, another constant should be paying attention to the impact of change. Often, organizations create change management teams when a new enterprise modernization or organizational realignment is taking place, only to dissolve them when a specific milestone is accomplished. However, if the intent is to continuously evolve and transform government to better meet the needs of taxpayers, constituents and the federal workforce, shouldn’t organizational change management also be a constant? Moving to a new home affects each member of the family. Clearly, change in the way that an agency is organized, how it delivers services, or how it operates within and across programs affects a vast number of individuals, not the least of which is the federal workforce. The creation of a freestanding cross-functional working group comprised of mission, human resources, IT, legal, and even stakeholders—citizens and industry—can help support an agency’s readiness for change, both today and in the future.
I am interested in hearing what challenges and successes you have had in managing change as your mission and workforce as you continue to evolve. Leave a comment on this post to share your stories!
For information on how CGI partners with clients to navigate strategic, operations, and IT changes to achieve mission results, read about our Federal Digital Organization Transformation services
About this author
I agree with all of your points. "Remember stabilization" sounds similar to the distinction between "installation" versus "implementation" some people might have heard. Implementation means much more than a system "go live." It includes realization of the intended business results as they are driven by people actually doing work more effectively or efficiently. In other words, it addresses WHY the business change was undertaken in the first place. I was on various deployments of the Army Logistics Modernization Program (LMP) where we were able to address some extremely important stabilization factors. Addressing them, including expanding how success is often measured, always leads to more sustainable change.