Posts Tagged Innovation

Change—Moving Past the Pause


Change Management ConceptWhen we hear the word change, there is usually some pause in our thinking as we reflect on the why, when, what, and how of potential impact. This is especially true in a large organization because of the number of people affected and the diversity of views. What can agency leaders do to help individuals embrace and support change? Here are a few key areas to address.

Address the Why: Any change, regardless of complexity or scale, requires sensitivity in addressing the need for change. This should include anticipating questions and concerns about why the change is needed. If leadership cannot come up with a tangible, concise statement about the need for the change, there is likely little value in it.

Consider Impact: It is only normal for individuals to evaluate change through the lens of how it will impact them personally. Achieving buy-in calls for a detailed response to the question What’s in it for me? (WIIFM). Once each person recognizes how the change will impact them as an individual, they can begin to consider the change from a broader point of view. Communication and employee involvement are key before energetic support for change can be realized. Communication could include emails highlighting supporting points, staff discussions, town hall meetings, and focus groups. It is also very useful to involve a cross section of employees in contributing to the design and development of the desired change.

Demonstrate the Value: With an explanation for the change and grass roots buy-in within reach, leadership needs to develop a safe harbor in which to test the change. This test could take the form of a pilot in a specific part of the organization that would illustrate how the change will positively impact the organization. The duration of the pilot would depend on process complexity and degree of perceived change.

Measure, Monitor, and Adjust: Once a desired change strategy has been implemented, it’s important to monitor, measure, and adjust the strategy as required. Measurement can be in the form of qualitative survey or quantitative output measures. In both cases, results should be openly shared with employees so that everyone can objectively observe the positive contribution of the change. Managing with facts and data will secure commitment to current and future changes because it will show a demonstrated desire for positive impact.

Challenges are a reality in any organization facing a change initiative. But transparent communication, employee involvement, and adjusting and measuring impact can go a long way toward calming initial resistance, getting past the pause, and managing the change process.

Got change in your future?  Make sure to include these elements in your change strategy to ensure greater success.

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Entrepreneurs in the Public Sector: Leadership Is the Key

Light bulbs in a row with one being on Public sector entrepreneurial initiatives serve the public by improving economic prosperity and creating jobs. Many well-known technological advances have their roots in government funded research—global positioning systems (GPS), speech recognition software, lactose-free milk, LED lighting, even the Internet itself—they all owe a portion of their success to government funded agencies.

However, we cannot lose sight of the critical role leadership plays in the successful execution of these ideas—specifically, leadership courage in three forms: going against the grain when necessary; promoting big picture thinking; and doing the right thing.

Going against the Grain: When the Air Force Research Laboratory decided to establish the Entrepreneurial Opportunities Program, leaders had to work through legal and policy challenges to provide an opportunity for sabbatical and spinning off commercial products. This is something we have come to expect from Silicon Valley and universities; however, leadership courage was the key ingredient that provided the passion and drive to do what was best for the public.

Big Picture Thinking: Leadership courage sometimes includes the will to define the future and create organization models that advance public service beyond expectations. This is a key difference between management and leadership. Looking beyond present conditions, formulating a view of the future, and embracing the art of the possible creates the conditions where technology transfer and entrepreneurism in the public sector can occur.

Doing the Right Thing: In this context, leadership courage means moving beyond checking the necessary boxes to thinking about what is missing from the public service equation. This is a leadership trait often associated with change management and it requires a confidence to explain change.

Good leadership leads to empowerment and innovation. It can be defined only when it surfaces in behavior that pulls the agency beyond the norm.

The skills that have enabled public sector innovation and technology transfer can be learned. Such learning is predicated upon a leadership development framework that highlights entrepreneurism as a developmental pillar. Even without an agency focus on technology transfer, an entrepreneurial mindset can enhance the way an agency approaches public service innovation, continuous improvement, and measures of efficacy. Agencies need to find ways to reinforce training and provide for practical applications through coaching or mentoring. This creates a safe harbor environment for trial and error. Our government should leverage the advantages of leadership development to ensure that ideas for technical innovation and technology transfer are brought forward in the spirit of improving public service and economic prosperity.

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3 Tips to Encourage Collaboration

Many of the people I know who work in the public sector were drawn to their jobs by a desire to serve, to make a difference in their community or the country. After landing that first desk job though, I have also seen them lose their drive. If you’ve ever done it, you know, sitting in a cubicle day after day, surrounded by endless paperwork and coworkers who checked out years ago is anything but fun.

Getting stuck in a routine is a hazard of many desk jobs. Being around complacency is often contagious. But you don’t have to catch it and you can help build an environment that is invigorating rather than draining.

  1. Spend time innovating – It will not always be successful but actively spending time thinking about how to improve a processes, offer a better experience to customers, or solve a problem is important. It is not only useful but can be invigorating. You won’t always find a solution but working on problems and processes will keep you and your team focused on a positive future.
  2. Make time to move around – Get up, take a walk, talk to neighbors, or go to someone else’s workspace to ask a question instead of calling. A change of scenery, however small is important. You never know what you’ll learn when you get out of your regular space.
  3. Remind your team to engage their customer – Even if the only customer is internal, make a point to check in and ask if there is anything they would like to see change. It’s easy to operate with blinders on; you can’t always see how others are impacted by your habits and processes. If you and your team make a habit of asking for and responding to feedback you will learn a lot about how others work and what they really need.

Being motivated about work is not about the financial reward but the emotional reward when you experience success and satisfaction from making a meaningful and positive impact. Mixing up the routine and interacting will help create a collaborative environment. Team members can draw on the unique experiences they have which makes everyone stronger. One of my favorite sayings around the office is: “None of us is as smart as all of us”. It is the theme of High Five by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles that explains “the magic of working together”.

How do you keep your team excited about their work?  Is there something you do regularly to remind yourself why you love your job?

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Is a Disengaged Government Employee a Loyal Employee?

The answer may be yes! Studies show that while most government employees are satisfied with their jobs, many are not actively engaged in the performance and quality of their work. Yet, a hearty 63% of those public sector workers say that they intend to stay in their positions long-term. Factors such as leadership effectiveness, performance management, employee involvement, and pay and benefits have a significant impact on how government employees feel about their jobs. Why would someone stay in a job where they’re not satisfied? Have we become so immune to the fact that we should actually enjoy (gasp!) what we do or are we just going through the motions to collect a paycheck? Perhaps our lives have become so fast paced, that we are simply showing up and are satisfied getting by with “good enough.”

I recently sent an email correspondence out to a colleague asking several questions about a project we are working on together. Less than two minutes later, my phone rings. It was my colleague calling to talk about the email I sent. The funny thing about this scenario is that it completely caught me off-guard! It was so odd to me that instead of responding to my inquiry via email, he chose to actually pick up the phone and talk about the project. Sensing my initial “shock,” we discussed how we, as a society, have grown so accustomed to the “speed of light” work environment, the “just get it done” mentality, and the impersonal form of communication that has become the norm. After I hung-up the phone, I not only got the answer to my questions that allowed me to move forward on the project, I also felt a connection with my colleague that gave me a sense of satisfaction and engagement that felt pretty darn good. Since that brief conversation, I’ve continued to think about the message that I took from that telephone call and how I can become more engaged and motivated, not just with the quality of my performance, but in the quality of my interactions with individuals both on and off the job.

Motivation experts, Drea Zigarmi, Susan Fowler, and David Facer, believe that motivation is a skill that can be taught, learned, developed, and nurtured. Motivated employees, at all levels of the agency, experience higher levels of energy, vitality, and well-being by leveraging their natural tendency to:

  • Attain and sustain peak performance.
  • Craft innovative solutions to persistent problems.
  • Continually build their competence and creativity for identifying opportunities to accomplish their goals, contribute to the agency’s mission, and discover new ways of motivating others.
  • Build and continually enrich the organizational culture and community.

Employees are looking for leaders that can instill motivation, work passion, and creativity that inspires them to work hard and make a significant contribution to their agency.

Do you have a story about a situation that motivated you and created a work passion you never thought was possible? Share it here and let’s motivate each other.

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Struggling To Keep Your High-Performing Employees? Try Teleworking.

87% of employees reported that telework has a positive impact on their work/life balance.

Budget cuts government-wide have forced leaders to “do more with less” and focus on innovation within their agency. As a result of this, many senior executives are struggling to provide a work environment that incorporates high-performing teams, a work/life balance, and employee interest to stay with and support the agency long-term. A new report to the President and Congress by the United States Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) may be just the answer agency leaders have been looking for to address these concerns.

Research on workplace flexibility has found that not only does teleworking benefit employees, it also benefits the organization. The snow storm that hit DC in 2009 left many federal employees unable to get to their place of employment. The result of the forced shutdown was estimated at costing the government $100 million per day in lost productivity and opportunity costs. If agencies had a telework policy in place, employees would have had the opportunity to work from home or another easily accessible location to get their work done, despite the snow storm. In addition, agencies that allow their workers the option to telework are more apt to recruit and secure high quality employees due to the attractiveness of the work/life balance mobile working offers.

Telework; Weighing the Information, Determining an Appropriate Approach, U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, October 2011

If the government is requiring agencies to be innovative in light of the recent budget cuts, managers and supervisors need to provide incentives that will keep these high performing employees working for them. Teleworking is a benefit that would have a direct impact for employees by reducing commute times, freeing up more personal time after work, and empowering employees to work when they are at their most optimal. All of these factors have been found to empower and motivate employees and, in turn, increase performance and results.

Telework; Weighing the Information, Determining an Appropriate Approach, U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, October 2011

The Ken Blanchard Companies along with Training magazine conducted a survey to further explore how to create employee work passion. One question asked what influenced employees to remain with their organization the most. The survey conveyed several factors that impacted employees differently based on their work experiences. The factors that were ranked include:

Job Factors – Autonomy, Meaningful Work, Feedback, Workload Balance, and Task Variety

Organizational Factors – Collaboration, Performance, Expectations, Growth, Procedural Justice (process fairness), and Distributive Justice (rewards, pay, and benefits)

Relationship Factors – Connectedness with Colleagues and Connectedness with Leader

The research that was conducted reveals that employees are constantly making appraisals of their work experiences and these appraisals result in intentions to stay, to use discretionary effort, to perform at a higher than average level, and to endorse the organization and its leadership.

Want to learn about more ways to create an environment where people want to come to work and give their best? Log on to the live webinar at 9:00am PST/12:00pm EST today about cultivating employee work passion.

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Is Innovation Alive In Your Agency?

The Center for American Progress in partnership with The Young Foundation recently teamed up to identify ways public leaders can ensure a constant flow of promising ideas into the federal government.

This report, How to Generate Innovation in the Public Sector, provides the following recommendations:

Identify priority fields for innovation: The government must first identify the fields of public action where innovation is most needed.
Open up the space for ideas: The second priority should be to widen the range of options, creating more space for creative and entrepreneurial solutions.
Finance innovation: At least 1 percent of agency budgets should be used to develop, test, and scale up new and better ways of doing things in the public sector.
Fix incentives: Greater recognition may be both more effective and more efficient than existing programs and initiatives.
Change the culture: Innovation has to be supported from the top, and senior leadership in the executive and the legislative branches should signal that they recognize that some ideas will fail, and that’s acceptable.
Grow what works: There should be a much stronger focus in government on trying to scale up ideas that work—even if that means closing down popular programs or initiatives that have been less effective in the past.

This report also identifies over twenty ways governments around the world have generated ideas to stimulate innovation in government. They are organized under five themes:

• Unleash the creative talents of agency staff
• Set up dedicated teams responsible for promoting innovation
• Divert a small proportion of your budget to harnessing innovation
• Collaborate with outsiders to help solve problems
• Look at an issue from different perspectives to notice things you wouldn’t otherwise

You can read about these innovative ideas here.

In a white paper published by The Ken Blanchard Companies, Managing and Motivating Intrapreneurs, intrapreneurs are described as “someone who innovates inside a company.” A common characteristic is that “intrapreneurs like to push the envelope of the status quo.” This white paper goes on to say, “(Intrapreneurs) motivation for innovation is not necessarily increased tenure with the organization, or even to get rich, but rather their desire to leave a mark, to make a difference.” Does this sound like many of your public sector employees?

Read Managing and Motivating Intrapreneurs.

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