Improving Government Performance is a Culture Change
Many government leaders want to see their organizations change and improve, and start by committing to the latest technology or new management system. But real change towards improving government performance starts with a culture shift.
Technology is often seen as a panacea to system problems. It has features that are easily described, a defined price tag, and a clear justification. Organizational efficiency processes or Lean reforms often come with the same allure — the idea that a new tool will make everything work better. But many organizations still struggle to gain efficiency, even with the right tools.
Writer Howard Risher writes on Federal Times about the challenges of really improving government performance. He argues that real change only comes from leadership and managers. Risher presents a particular case where the District of Columbia’s parole agencies were in crisis. Job incumbents were entrenched in old processes, supervisors never pushed performance, and the results were dismal. It took new visionary leadership to change the entire model of the department: caseworkers were re-positioned to work with the community and engage proactively outwards, reporting and tracking practices were changed, and compensations plans changed.
Real culture change can be hard to create, but managers can shift things. Risher points out a few critical components to gaining momentum:
• Change is easier in a period of crisis. When problems exist, people are more supportive of new solutions.
• People want to be proud of where they work and what they accomplish. When serious problems exist, they will commit enthusiastically to fixing them as long as they trust their leaders and the planned changes make sense.
• Leaders need to build consensus and trust in the change by making their goals clear to everyone and involving incumbents as subject-matter experts.
All of these components are at their core management challenges. Technical tools and policies can support a new direction, but they cannot energize the workforce or build real employee engagement. In other words, technology is only as effective as the teams and staff who use it proactively and positively towards a set of clear goals.
Read more about The Real Solution to Government’s Performance Problems: Culture Change by Howard Risher.