The Nitty-Gritty - A Practical Change Management Approach

Over the last few newsletters I've rambled on about change management in the public sector. I've written about the need to have a vision of success and the fact that most change initiatives fail due to the lack of establishing a vision that engages staff in the change process.

So, having beaten this dead horse sufficiently to establish that top-down, hierarchically-driven change rarely works in the public sector, let's talk about how to do it right - a practical change management approach for the public sector.

Step 1: Create the change management support structure. Get clear on the governance, scope, roles, responsibilities, reporting and communication requirements for this change initiative. How and by whom will proposed changes be selected, analyzed, and approved?

Step 2: Select your team(s). Based on the preceding, create cross-functional, cross-representational teams, with consideration for types of teams needed, skill sets, e.g. HR, IT, other support functions as required. I say 'teams' because you most likely will want an 'executive team' supporting the initiative and providing feedback on deliverables, and one or more working 'tiger teams' to conduct project tasks.

One important early task for your teams is to establish the vision for the changed organization i.e. what would faster, cheaper processes with higher quality, more cohesiveness, and fewer non-value-added activities look like?

Your teams may need training or consulting support for particular tasks - e.g. process mapping and analysis, business case development, implementation planning.

Step 3: Research. Your teams need to understand how the current processes and mechanisms were developed and how they currently function.This may include such tasks as:

  • Conduct a document review
  • Analysis of performance data
  • Stakeholder consultations

Your teams need to establish and/or validate work flows as they really are in the current organization.

Your teams should also be on the alert for sources of 'pain' in the current processes. If there is something 'everyone knows' is a problem, this might be a good candidate for further analysis.

Step 4: Analysis and Recommendations. Your working team(s) need to develop and flesh-out options for change, and explore ramifications with a view of ensuring processes remain flexible and adaptable to future requirement. Team tasks will include

  • Engaging process stakeholders (e.g. functional areas, regional offices), IT, HR to resolve issues, seek solutions, fix problems, plan for future
  • Seek best practices internally and externally
  • Synthesize key findings and recommendations
  • Develop a 'change matrix' of potential change initiatives incl. cost / benefit estimates, time-lines, for key recommendations
  • Identify policy priorities and changes to enabling structures – organizational, informatics, finance, staffing, training, etc – required to support changes.

Step 5: Implementation. Depending on the governance and approval requirements established in Step 1, your teams will present the change matrix to senior management for approval/selection/prioritization.

A quick aside here, this change management approach differs from the top-down, hierarchically-driven model because, while the executive is directing the 'what', the teams are deciding the 'how'.This makes all the difference in acceptance of change.

Once a particular initiative gains approval, your teams will (or certainly should) plan a pilot implementation, to test the solution and resolve issues before final roll-out. Your pilot management plan should include:

  • Project timeline, scope and deliverables
  • Communication/orientation and training for pilot participants
  • Post-pilot evaluation

One of the key things to remember here is that pilot tests are expected to find problems. Your teams take the lessons learned from pilot testing and develop a roll-out plan for wider implementation.

Step 6: Rinse and repeat. Each subsequent change initiative will follow the change management approach and be supported by the same change management structure. Build on success, learn from failure, make necessary changes to the change management approach itself based on what you have learned, and launch the next one.

By the way, it's a good idea to make the first one a 'quick hit' so the process gets established and the teams can celebrate a success. Low-hanging fruit tastes just as sweet.

Drop me a line to discuss bringing this change management approach to your organization. You can reach me at 613 302-3924 or

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