Posts Tagged Accountability

Trust—Hard to Earn and Easy to Lose

Cracked cement symbolizing broken trust between people or partieRegardless of the lens through which each of us views the OPM data breach, we can all agree that its historical significance and impact on federal employee trust is rather extraordinary.

While an investigation into how the data breach occurred and what corrective action might be necessary to prevent future breaches is best left to the experts, the way in which this type of non-routine matter is handled by agency leaders has a real bearing on trust. Trust is so hard to gain and sustain—and it can evaporate quickly, depending on how leaders respond to and manage through the unexpected.

While it is inevitable that the unexpected will occur, and only so much can be controlled by leadership, here are four local action steps that can help.

  1. Create a strategic plan. Define important and common terms so that—regardless of time zone, role, tenure, or level of experience—information is processed and acted upon according to common practices and standards. Without a common framework, there is risk that an individual or team could misinterpret an action and inadvertently cause an undesired outcome. For instance, a decision could be made that is not consistent with the necessary actions to reduce or eliminate an undesired variance. It is critical for leadership to establish common frameworks and language to support coordinated, expeditious, and desired actions.
  1. Build alignment between role/function and outcomes. Often organization decision making is hampered by role or function ambiguity. Departments sometimes overstep their capacity because clear boundaries and charters have not been established. It is paramount for leaders to define “swim lanes” and levels of accountability by individual, teams, and departments so that there is never any doubt about who is required to act, when, and how.
  1. Ensure that measures are in place. Establishing operational performance metrics is crucial to knowing when an undesired gap has occurred. Of course, metrics are not necessary to recognize when a catastrophic event has taken place—but the criticality and importance of metrics lie in the ability to understand the magnitude of undesired variance. A performance scorecard or dashboard is an excellent way to keep employees engaged and aligned with mission because of a common understanding and appreciation for the state of agency performance.
  1. Communicate corrective action procedures effectively. When the unexpected strikes, it is vital for corrective action to be a reflex activity. There will not be much time for analysis. In fact, if certain anticipated corrective measures have not been anticipated, trained, and understood, the agency will be starting from a position where recovery will be inhibited. Leadership cannot orchestrate a potential solution to all scenarios, but an 80-20 rule should be applied where a majority of scenarios are forecast. This projection will prevent the erosion of trust by providing rapid response and unequivocal confidence in the continuity of agency operations.

Leadership must be prepared to provide continuity in times of crisis. This includes proactive agency planning before having to respond and manage a crisis. By following the four steps outlined above, leadership can improve the chances of mitigating risk and provide the desired response to the unforeseen.

When leaders prepare their agencies to respond to the unexpected, there is a much greater chance of preserving the public trust, continuing to deliver on expected services, and support for mission.

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13 Not-So-Unlucky Supporters of Change

Change is inevitable. Change is good. Change is bad. Change is coming. I don’t like change. Whatever your viewpoint is about change, it’s a reality of life. Change happens in our professional lives, in our personal lives, when we’re children, and when we’re adults. It surrounds us. The key is how you as an individual react to change. A reader recently sent me a story about the bald eagle’s 150 days of “rebirth” that allows the bird to have an additional thirty years of life. Well, it turns out that the story is an urban legend but the message got me thinking about our ability to endure change in our lives and the “lows” we discipline ourselves through in order to come out on the other side a better, more fulfilled person.

Probably the biggest implementor of change is the Federal Government with issues ranging from voting for a new leader in the latest election to censorship on internet search engines. OPM Director, John Berry recently delivered the commencement speech at the University of Maryland. His comments were rather inspiring. He discussed the changes that have incurred in government over the past 30 years touching base on how public officials, both Republican and Democrat used to work together to get things done and how “thinking through solutions and arriving at compromises that make the best sense for our country” was what inspired federal leaders. If you haven’t listened to his comments on YouTube or read the entire speech, I highly encourage you to do so.

So how do we make change a positive success in our lives rather than a daunting task? In the book, Who Killed Change, co-authors share 13 foundations that can support your change effort.

  1. Culture – defines the predominant attitudes, beliefs and behavior patterns that characterize the organization
  2. Commitment – builds a person’s motivation and confidence to engage in the new behaviors required by the change
  3. Sponsorship – a senior leader who has the formal authority to deploy resources toward the initiation, implementation and sustainability of the change; ultimately responsible for the success of the change
  4. Change Leadership Team – actively leads the change into the organization by speaking with one voice and resolving the concerns of those being asked to change
  5. Communication – creates opportunities for dialogue with change leaders and those being asked to change
  6. Urgency – explains why the change is needed and how quickly people must change the way they work
  7. Vision – paints a clear and compelling picture of the future after change has been integrated
  8. Plan – clarifies the priority of the change relative to other initiatives and responsibilities; works with those being asked to change to develop a detailed and realistic implementation plan, then to define and build the infrastructure needed to support the change
  9. Budget – analyzes proposed changes from a financial perspective to determine how best to allocate limited resources and ensure a healthy return on investment
  10. Trainer – provides learning experiences to ensure those being asked to change have the skills needed to follow through with the change and succeed in the future organization
  11. Incentive – recognizes and/or rewards people to reinforce desired behaviors and results that enable change
  12. Performance management – sets goals and expectations regarding behaviors and results that enable change, tracks progress toward the goals and expectations, provides feedback and training and formally documents actual results versus desired results
  13. Accountability – follows through with people to ensure their behaviors and results are in line with agreed upon goals and expectations and that leaders are walking the talk, and institutes consequences when behaviors or results are inconsistent with those that enable change

There you have it, 13 reinforcements that you can work on this summer to make some changes for the better.

What changes, if any, do you plan on making in the next 150 days?

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From Vegas to Colombia: Scandals Impacting Government Leadership

Scandal is nothing new to the White House. Many of us can recall several “mishaps” involving former presidents. This time, however, it’s the Secret Service. On April 11th, a dozen Secret Service agents and eleven military personnel were involved in an incident that involved partying at a local nightclub in Cartagena, Colombia, heavy drinking, and involvements with prostitutes while preparing for a visit by President Obama. Since that event, two supervisors who were involved in the scandal have been identified and removed from their positions. The case has been all over the news and has been causing quite a stir for the agency responsible for the well-being of the President of the United States.

Just as they did with the GSA scandal, lawmakers, citizens, government workers, and the media have been questioning the integrity, ethics, and accountability of the agency. So who is responsible? Who will ensure behavior like this will never happen again? President Obama has said that he has full trust in the Secret Service Director, Mark Sullivan, to continue the investigation and take the appropriate corrective actions needed. That’s all fine and dandy, but what about the trust that the American people, who are losing millions of their tax dollars due to these scandals, have lost for our government? Randy Conley, Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies, says that leaders must purposely engage in four trust-building behaviors in order for individuals to maintain confidence with their leader. Those behaviors include:

  • Demonstrate competence
  • Act with integrity
  • Care about others
  • Maintain reliability

After reading many articles and watching several news stories about both scandals, I can’t say that those involved with the GSA and Secret Service events practiced these four behaviors. So what corrective actions can government leaders now take to ensure that debauchery such as this won’t continue at other agencies? After all, people do make mistakes. Even with the best of intentions, leaders make mistakes that impact the commitment, morale, and performance of the people who work for them. With investigations in both cases still underway, we’ll have to wait and see the effects that these scandals will have on the future leadership and behaviors of our government.

Want to learn three actionable steps leaders can take to self-diagnose, assess, and change unwanted behaviors? Take a break at 9:00am PST/12:00pm EST today to listen to best-selling author and consultant Chris Edmonds share insight on how leaders can avoid making some common mistakes.

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Does Your Training Program Pass the Test?

It’s very common for things to be out of date or expire and it’s up to us to update or renew those things that have a limited shelf life, like your computer, the latest app and even the gallon of milk in your fridge.  But what happens when your training program becomes outdated?  Who is responsible for updating training resources?

You can expect more from your training program if you inspect more.

Luckily for government agencies, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has a Training Evaluation Guide that outlines regulations and best practices to assist agency leaders in evaluating their training programs and initiatives.  According to the guide, the main purpose of evaluating your agency’s training program is to make good use of the agency’s resources, determine whether the current training is effective, and make adjustments to the programs, as needed.

Five key factors drive the efforts of this guide:  

1. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management Training Evaluation Regulations – 2009 OPM regulations require agencies to evaluate the effectiveness of their training programs. These regulations form the foundation for this field guide, and will increase the contribution of training to agency mission effectiveness.

 2. Accountability – Expectations for wise and documented use of training dollars are higher than ever. Clear connections between effective funding usage and agency outcomes are expected.

 3. The Open Government Initiative – The current administration has put an emphasis on government accountability. It has detailed a mandate that government spending and related outcomes be made transparent to the public.

 4. Training in the Federal Government – Within the Federal Government where mission accomplishment is vital and change is the only constant—training, and the effective evaluation of training, is critical.

 5. The Federal Chief Learning Officers Council – This group of high level federal government learning leaders has made it a priority to accomplish the previous three factors, and have committed their time and resources to collectively make it happen.

 High performing agencies are constantly focusing on improving their capabilities through learning systems, building knowledge capital, and transferring learning throughout the organization.  These agencies seek knowledge about the work environment and employee performance.  They treat mistakes and failures as important data, recognizing that they often can lead to breakthroughs.

How does your agency’s training program measure up?

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Improving Productivity and Performance in Government

A recent survey by McKinsey & Company in partnership with Government Executive magazine discovered that federal employees are highly motivated but accountability is lacking. If employees are motivated but lack accountability, what is going to suffer? Performance and Productivity!

This could be a great opportunity for government.

President Obama and OPM Director John Berry are capitalizing on the highly motivated federal workforce and placing a heavy emphasis on performance management in the public sector.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management defines performance management as:

The systematic process by which an agency involves its employees, as individuals and members of a group, in improving organizational effectiveness in the accomplishment of agency mission and goals.

Employee performance management includes: planning work and setting expectations, continually monitoring performance, developing the capacity to perform, periodically rating performance in a summary fashion, and rewarding good performance.

Performance management has been a topic of interest for Garry Ridge, President and CEO of WD-40 and leadership expert Ken Blanchard. The two paired up to author Helping People Win at Work. This book discusses WD-40’s year-round performance review system: its goals, features, and the cultural changes it requires. Ridge shares his “leadership point of view”: what he expects of people, what they can expect of him, and where his beliefs about leadership and motivation came from. Ken Blanchard explains why WD-40’s Partnering for Performance system works so well—and exactly how to leverage its high-value techniques in any organization.

Blanchard believes an effective performance management system has three parts:

Performance Planning – During this time leaders agree with their direct reports about goals and objectives they should be focusing on.

Performance Coaching – At this stage leaders do everything they can to help direct reports be successful. Managers work for their people, praising progress, and redirecting inappropriate performance.

Performance Review – This is where a manager and direct report sit down and assess the direct report’s performance over time.

Unfortunately, most organizations spend the greatest amount of their time on performance review. In order to positively influence productivity, the focus should be on performance planning and performance coaching. Driving employee passion can have profound effects on performance. 

Where is the focus within your agency’s performance management system? How is performance management being addressed in your agency?

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