Times They Are A Changing

This month we’ve been talking about organization development (OD) and culture, and how organizational change plays into these concepts. One real-world example of transformational change is the 2017 Inauguration of Donald Trump and the transition between President Obama’s and President Trump’s administrations. This change case study is multi-faceted, affecting U.S. citizens across the country, as well as employees throughout the government sector. As a result, dozens of agencies will feel immediate shifts in their policies and practices.

How does the public sector even begin to prepare for such change?

Presidential Administration change management

The White House has documented its transition plan in detail here. The formal process began in early 2016 with the appointment of a Federal Transition Coordinator (the first time this role has been established) to centralize transition planning across agencies, as well as two transition councils to aid in interagency preparations. Large private and nonprofit companies can empathize with the difficulty of streamlining change efforts that affect entire organizations – hundreds and sometimes thousands of employees.

Onboarding is one of the greatest staff challenges for the new Administration, responsible for filling more than 4,000 appointee positions as quickly as possible. To ensure this magnanimous task could be completed efficiently, the Presidential Personnel Office and White House IT staff worked with Presidential candidates’ transition teams to develop an online HR process that will manage the staff recruitment from application through appointment.

Additional proactive change management initiatives that took place leading up to the Inauguration include streamlining transition materials; creating a detailed guide for managing change government-wide; developing the architecture for a digital transition with a new e-filing system; and engaging more than 200 smaller agencies, boards, and commissions not typically included in the formal hand-off process.

Culture shifts

The above plans are part of one real-world agency’s effort to proactively manage large-scale impending change. However, the impact of such change on public sector culture will strike in much deeper and less disclosed ways – with nuances that transcend formal planning and process. To what extent is the federal government’s internal culture currently aware, adaptable, anticipative, and attentive? Only time will tell if these change competencies rise to the forefront during the Administration transition.

And even more importantly, how will this transition affect the culture of its external customers, the American people? The 2008 Inauguration of Barack Obama was marked by such taglines as, “Change we can believe in,” Change we need,” and most simply, “Change.” Regardless of your political ideologies or party affiliation, we can all agree that change certainly followed in the past eight years. And a new tide of change is imminent once again.

On Friday, January 20, Donald J. Trump was sworn into office as the 45th President of the United States. The words he declared during his inauguration speech depict this political and cultural change that will surely follow him: “Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or one president to another; we are transferring power from Washington D.C. and giving it back to you,” he said. “January 20, 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation once again.”

How will change in your agency be proactively planned and communicated to vested stakeholders? And how will your culture shift as a result of such change as you develop your organization to increasingly align with your strategic goals for 2017?

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