COVID-19's hidden opportunity: Rethinking the capacity to deliver change
Historically speaking, crises reshape society. While we don't yet have the perspective necessary to appreciate how COVID-19 will reshape our communities, some emerging trends are unmistakable. The global pandemic has accelerated innovation and advancement, especially in the digital sphere and customer experience (CX). The COVID-19 pandemic compelled many state and local governments to rethink and redesign their services and strategies to offer the public online and virtual service options. This momentum creates the opportunity to undertake a more transformational effort to make government programs more effective and easily updated.
Money from the new American Rescue Plan Act (ARP)[i], the $1.9 trillion federal COVID-19 relief package, represents an opportunity for state and local officials to "invest" in their services in new and creative ways. Additionally, the $350 billion for "Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds" gives governments a chance to move beyond relief and invest in a new and exciting trajectory by deploying the money "smartly and equitably." This funding appears to be incredibly flexible and supportive of innovative recovery solutions. State and local solutions might include changes to organizational structures and technology -- building on service modernization, expansion, and improvement. The pandemic has introduced innumerable hurdles to business as usual, calling for initiatives to modernize and improve citizen services. As state and local governments consider how best to invest ARP and other federal funding and modernize, partners in the private sector can step into the role of trusted partners to agencies across government. Drawing on flexibility in hiring and deep experience with emerging CX technologies, help state and local government take full advantage of ARP's flexibility to invest in real change.
Fast and continuous change
The pandemic pulled back the covers to expose a sometimes-disjointed ecosystem. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has shown how quickly and effectively they can shift to a technology-based operating model in response to rapidly changing circumstances. There may now exist a real opportunity to embrace this cadence of change to develop sustaining structures and support continual transformation. We will not return to the old way of doing things. The impacts and changes are expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
To create structures that can sustain the ongoing evolution of government, agencies will need to appreciate and understand how these changes impact people. As leaders try to understand and adapt to the changing needs and expectations of the workforce, they must also develop supporting plans to address changes to the workforce’s psychological, emotional, political, and structural aspects. Some examples include:
- The shift towards a hybrid workplace including the continued shift to more remote work
- The move to digital processes to improve citizen and employee satisfaction
- The exciting opportunities of intuitive AI (Artificial Intelligence)
Further acceleration of digital transformation
The trends discussed above have been taking place since the beginning of the information revolution; COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation in the government sector. As state government faces new challenges, it must recognize that change has become a fundamental characteristic of any organization. As information technology, data, and knowledge management capabilities continue to evolve; continuous change will occur even more rapidly.
Expectations of government experiences are similarly evolving. The public expects government to keep better pace with the level of convenience and service they experience in nearly all other aspects of their lives. States have set their sights on delivering a seamless citizen journey that seamlessly blends physical and digital experiences.
State leaders must be seen as change leaders who facilitate government organizational transformation efforts. Additionally, transformation efforts often require coordination with the agenda of the governor, the state legislature, and the state judiciary. However, ultimately the transformation agenda is driven by the citizens.
Addressing challenges in public administration
As the push into the information age continues, demands on government have increased. Governments at all levels must improve their operations so that they can tackle problems in new ways and earn the public’s trust. One of the most significant challenges of transformational change in the public sphere is not identifying solutions but working around organizational obstacles. Incorporating a structured change management approach can with:
- Modernizing and reinvigorating public services
- Developing new approaches to public governance and engagement
- Connecting individuals to meaningful work
- Making government AI ready
Applying organizational change management
Transformation does not occur in a vacuum or wholly within a single government entity. Change happens within a broader environment. Change management is one of the most vital and valuable skills for public managers. State and local governments cope with changing demographics, civic values, and turnover in elected leadership every day. We live time when governments are challenged to be nimbler and more effective at responding to disasters and sudden economic downturns. Governments are also called upon to address complex health, economic, and social concerns by a public divided by deeply held views and beliefs. These combined forces further exacerbate the need to bring transformational changes to government organizations.
Effective change management requires successfully transitioning an organization towards a more effective position. New technology alone seldom delivers the best results, and the most impactful organizational changes typically involve processes, technology, roles, and organizational culture and structures. In some circumstances, change may be incremental. In others, it may involve a more profound transformation. Change can be emergent, unfolding spontaneously or deliberately, via conscious reasoning and deliberate action. This juxtaposition highlights an essential aspect of managing change: organizational change is a process that can be positively facilitated through planning. However, it is vital to acknowledge that change can never be fully isolated from the effects of external contexts, uncertainty, and chance. A successful transformational change ensures:
- There is a dedicated focus on people and their success
- A clearly defined vision and rationale for the change is understood and communicated
- The system, structures, and processes developed to achieve the change are transparent
- Collective and collaborative leadership is empowered and actively involved
- The change is systematically reviewed and adapted throughout the transition
Maximus prioritizes organizational change management by employing methodologies that focus on transforming how people, processes, and technology work together to deliver critical government services. Learn more about how we can help your agency better serve the public.
[i] The American Rescue Plan's secret ingredient? Flexible ....