On Friday, we saw the inauguration of our new president. In his address, President Trump vowed new jobs, new infrastructure programs and guaranteed that change is coming. Each change will have a profound impact on the employees in the federal government. We hypothesize that the peaceful transition of power will likely be followed by a democratic process of bringing the administration’s agenda to fruition.
Now is the time for the new administration and federal employees alike to hear the words of C.S. Lewis: “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”
Over the last 10 weeks, we have offered the outline of an approach to change management that is based on a strategy for change and includes four key components: leadership, training, communication, and performance management. We have also shared some thoughts on how to get started by: exploring the culture of the agency, understanding the employees within the agency, getting some resources for change management, and building a capability.
We provided an outline and a solid foundation to get started, but how do we bring together a divided team and move ahead?
1. Understand the Benefits
Often change management gets discussed in terms of costs, but that’s the wrong way to think about it. Yes, there is a cost to supporting people through change, but there are greater benefits. Every time an agency spends $1 million to develop a new system and $0 to support people through the change, the program has lost $1 million.
2. Bureaucrats are the Key
The outcomes of change initiatives within the federal government are heavily anchored on the backs of career civil service employees, not the President or his presidential appointees. A failure to understand, adopt and integrate the new administration’s change initiatives will result in failed change.
3. Keep an Open Mind
There is no doubt that the new administration wants to do things differently. Is there red tape and waste that can be cut to create a more business-focused and effective government? Yes, and these approaches can bring significant benefit to the current workforce. But it will require be a different way of doing business, including effective change management.
Development of change management specialization and capabilities should be top priority. After all, the average tenure of politically appointed federal executives is roughly 2 years, which means federal career civil service employees have a unique perspective on how to deal with change. They outlast it.
If President Trump really wants to be different, he will not just call for change, but will manage it.