Government
February 27, 2020

Leading Change in the Federal Government: Lessons Learned from Past Successes and Failures

Change is a constant in the world of government operations. Agencies must adapt to new laws and regulations, shifting political priorities, and changing technologies. While change can bring new opportunities, it can also be challenging to implement. In this blog post, we will explore lessons learned from past successful change efforts in government agencies, analyze failed change efforts and the reasons for their failure, and strategies for effectively leading and managing change in government operations.

Lessons Learned from Past Successful Change Efforts

There are many examples of successful change efforts in government agencies. One such example is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) National Background Check Program. This program was implemented to improve the background check process for individuals who work with vulnerable populations, such as children and the elderly. The program was a success because it was implemented in stages, allowing for testing and adjustments before full implementation, and involved a collaboration between different agencies and private organizations.

Another example is the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Defense Business Transformation program. This program aimed to improve the efficiency of the DoD's business operations and was successful because it was implemented in stages, with clear milestones and a focus on performance metrics, and involved a collaboration between different agencies and private organizations.

Analysis of Failed Change Efforts

While there are many examples of successful change efforts, there are also examples of change efforts that did not go as planned. One such example is the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) modernization program. This program aimed to modernize the FAA's air traffic control system but was plagued by delays, cost overruns, and technical problems. The reason for its failure is that it was implemented in a top-down approach, there was a lack of clear goals and metrics, and the FAA did not involve stakeholders in the decision-making process.

Another example is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) electronic health record (EHR) modernization program. This program aimed to modernize the VA's EHR system but was plagued by delays, cost overruns, and technical problems. The reason for its failure is that it was implemented in a top-down approach, there was a lack of clear goals and metrics, and the VA did not involve stakeholders in the decision-making process.

Strategies for Effectively Leading and Managing Change

Leading and managing change is a complex task that requires a clear understanding of the change process and the ability to effectively communicate and collaborate with stakeholders. Here are some strategies for effectively leading and managing change in government operations:

  • Develop a clear vision and strategy for change: Clearly define the goals and objectives of the change effort and develop a plan for achieving them.
  • Communicate and collaborate with stakeholders: Involve stakeholders in the decision-making process and keep them informed of the change effort's progress.
  • Implement in stages: Implement the change effort in stages, allowing for testing and adjustments before full implementation.
  • Focus on performance metrics: Establish clear performance metrics to measure the success of the change effort.
  • Lead by example: Lead by example and demonstrate a commitment to the change effort.

In conclusion, leading and managing change in government operations can be challenging, but by learning from past successes and failures, developing a clear vision and strategy, communicating and collaborating with stakeholders, implementing in stages, focusing on performance metrics, and leading by example, government agencies can effectively lead and manage change.