In an effort to assist local government managers and elected officials consider organizational challenges the firm releases a white paper on Organizational Assessment.
Municipal Organizational Assessment and Change Management- Challenges for Organizations Large and Small
The economic downturn that began in 2008 continues to have lasting impacts today in 2015. The need for a clear focus on optimization of financial and organizational resources will be a focus in many Local Governments for many years to come as result of these and other impacting events. This even has spread like a virus from Wall Street to the main streets of municipal and county governments throughout the country with on-going impacts to fiscal condition of organization, but also has created a need for organizations to apply clear focus on the efficiencies in which we utilize financial resources. It seems that virtually no organization, either private or public, was immune from the impacts of high unemployment, constrained funding for capital projects, lower tax collections, and more loan and debt defaults. Municipalities are challenged with maintaining service levels while lower revenues are causing organizations to become both more efficient (savings) or raise taxes and fees (revenue) while meeting the continued increase in service delivery. Many local governments are experiencing conflicts between improving operational efficiencies, demands for service by constituents, elected official pressure for change (or for status quo), and staff concern over organizational changes that may impact them in some adverse manner.
When staff, leadership, or elected officials are tracking on a course for organizational change then it is extremely important that leadership, both elected and appointed, collectively recognize and initiate a clearly defined process for change. Organized change management through first an organizational assessment minimizes the adverse impacts of uncoordinated processes that often lead to significant disconnect between management, staff, and the customer (public). Impacts organizational change without an effective assessment and communication often leads to internal rumors, loss of job focus and stress to employees as a result of “fearing the unknown”, public opposition and negative perception, and confusion among stakeholders.
The most important element of effective organizational assessment for any step in the process, most assuredly at the beginning, is through thorough communication and situational analysis. Many times good faith intentions for change management result in political nightmares for staff and elected officials because of a failure to have a comprehensive understanding of the drivers behind the desired change and effective communication between all parties.
Financial Condition Assessment
It is quite common for financial constraints to cause local governments to attempt a “quick fix” in order to maintain public confidence and political goodwill. Unfortunately there are no easy answers when an organization needs to manage service delivery costs against future revenue expectations. Elected officials often have not had to work through the complexities of organizational assessment and change management process. Board members often believe assessment tools, such as benchmarking data analysis or customer satisfaction surveys, will provide the quick answers that organization needs in order to execute change so that a long and painful change management process may be avoided. More often than a simplistic approach to organizational change leads to greater organization discord, media engagement, an erosion of public trust, and many times the need to rework the change process altogether.
How To, And Not To, Effectively Engage the Change Management Process
The Board and staff leadership have a responsibility to facilitate and enable change from an objective standpoint and then to help people understand the basis for the change being sought and establish ways of responding positively to a stakeholder’s (staff, citizen, board member) own situations and capabilities. It is the role of leadership (Board, Manager) to interpret, communicate, and then enable the change management process rather than to instruct and impose which is rarely successful. Stakeholder ‘buy-in’ is critical to achieving successful change within an organization.
Do not “sell” change as a method of accelerating change. Change must be realistic, achievable, and measurable. Quick change prevents proper consultation and involvement and a significant loss of trust both internally and externally.
Change Management Principles- John P. Kotter’s Eight Step Change Model
John P. Kotter is a Harvard Business School professor and author on organizational change management. Kotter’s highly regarded books ‘Leading Change’ (1995) and the follow-up ‘The Heart Of Change’ (2002) describe a helpful model for understanding and managing change. Kotter proclaimed that there are eight steps in the Change Model for effective organizational change.
- Increase urgency – inspire people to move, make objectives real and relevant.
- Build the guiding team – get the right people in place with the right emotional commitment, and the right mix of skills and levels
- Get the vision right – get the team to establish a simple vision and strategy, focus on emotional and creative aspects necessary to drive service and efficiency.
- Communicate for buy-in – Involve as many people as possible, communicate the essentials, simply, and to appeal and respond to people’s needs. De-clutter communications – make technology work for you rather than against.
- Empower action – Remove obstacles, enable constructive feedback and lots of support from leaders – reward and recognize progress and achievements.
- Create short-term wins – Set aims that are easy to achieve – in bite-size chunks. Manageable numbers of initiatives. Finish current stages before starting new ones.
- Don’t let up – Foster and encourage determination and persistence – ongoing change – encourage ongoing progress reporting – highlight achieved and future milestones.
- Make change stick – Reinforce the value of successful change via recruitment, promotion, new change leaders. Weave change into culture.
DavenportLawrence 13 Step Guide for Local Government Change Management
- Recognize the need for change and seek input as to “what” should be achieved” and “why”.
- Identify change management leadership and engage outside resources (advisory and facilitation services) when able.
- Identify all stakeholders of the answers to “what” and “why” and insure they are included in the change management process. Clearly define communication tools and establish specific guidelines for the process.
- Conduct an organizational meeting of stakeholders and identify a group lead or facilitator.
- Discuss the problem the organization is attempting to resolve and ask for stakeholder input on ideas to solve.
- Seek interest statements from all stakeholders.
- Determine common ground opportunities.
- Identify tools for assessments.
- Analyze assessment results against benchmark data.
- Develop actions points for change utilizing stakeholder input, assessment data, and comparison data.
- Create a communication strategy with key messages for your target audiences
- Monitor and track feedback and progress.
- Measure outcomes of change and compare results to the original “what” and “why” statements.
There are many specific actions and tools that may be deployed that supports the steps noted above and the tactics used are often driven by the type of change being sought. The key elements of a successful change management process are to understand what the organization is seeking to accomplish, who is impacted by the change, what steps are taken to evaluate the type of change to be pursued, how the process will be communicated, and how the results are measured against the original goal.
Local governments, unlike private for-profit companies, must maintain the trust and confidence of a broad spectrum of ideas and interests within their communities while managing the inherent conflicts between service delivery and cost management. Maintaining public trust requires local government entities to engage organizational change in a very methodical manner in order to preserve the goodwill of the community and its citizens.