In highly inclusive environments, initiatives and projects will often include a combination of individuals who lack a material understanding of all the dimensions of what is being considered as well as those who simply want to contemplate and discuss things but have little impulse to do much more. The initial education of these individuals serves a useful purpose as initiatives get underway, helping the larger collective learn various dimensions of the problems or opportunities under discussion. The time comes however when action is required, and these same individuals and their desire to continue to 'understand' and 'evaluate' become roadblocks to progress.
Successful efforts in the public sector often take a different approach from the traditional pyramid of plan and action. Instead of the large-scale approach, successful efforts embrace the concept of creating and starting multiple prototypes or pilots on a smaller scale that begin with minimal planning and instead look to implementation and testing as a means for seeing what works.
Effective communications are often pointed to as a critical element of any change strategy. The prevailing opinion is often that there is no such thing as too much communication. Keeping everyone fully informed is often the communications goal of an effort. This belief however can introduce additional and unnecessary risks to change efforts.
In the general sense, leveraging imperatives as a driver for action represents a useful motivator at the organizational and leadership levels. By consistently conveying that the foundation on which something currently exists is going to come to an end or a highly undesirable event will occur, an organization will likely adopt over time the belief that something must be done.
One of the keys to successfully executing large-scale change in public sector organizations is breaking down the effort into much smaller changes or efforts, the combination of which ultimately implements a larger scale change. Smaller changes help reduce complexity for the implementer as well as the organization, they're easier for people to adjust to, and their value is more easily justified.
Good consultants understand the ‘what’ versus ‘how’ issues in the government. Through a combination of hands-on experience and understanding of the tenets of being a trusted advisor, good consultants provide deeper insights through better instincts to their clients. They're practical, they understand how to deal with complex issues, and they tell it like it is.
Realizing actual benefits from an effort stems heavily from baking activities designed to measure those benefits directly into the plan. In order to realize actual benefits, they need to be identified at the beginning preferably not in the form of high level objectives such as 'increased efficiency or effectiveness' or a working group charter, but the actual benefit expected. By defining the explicit benefits or goals, such as a 'ten day reduction in cycle time', or '30% reduction in complaints’, the foundation for measuring progress against an actual benefit is established.
Another important pace of change concept is the 'awareness tipping point'. The awareness tipping point is the point at which an otherwise unknown or unobtrusive effort captures the attention of the masses. Controlling the tipping point represents a significant factor in the ability to accomplish real change.
The ideal strategy for many change efforts is to build as much momentum and buy-in as possible before crossing the threshold of critical mass awareness. By limiting communication to selected individuals and moving forward with as much lower-profile planning activities as possible, an effort can build energy and support with reduced organizational resistance. With the groundwork laid and enough momentum, efforts have a better chance of making it through the natural organizational inhibitors of progress.
Another strategy which has proven useful in both the public and private sectors is creating overlaps between the status quo and the changed processes, approach, or technologies so their use and adoption can be phased in. Although not always possible, using this approach allows the changes to be introduced as a test or 'beta' concept which people can embrace if and when desired, followed by a change over at some point where changes become the default while access to the 'legacy' processes or systems is available. Eventually, the legacy environment or practices can be phased out. This allows people to migrate to a changed environment at different paces while lowering transition risk because the legacy capabilities are still available.
Decisions, to a large extent, create natural risk for the individuals making them. A common strategy for many leaders is to minimize this risk and the need to personally extend themselves through explicit decision-making. Instead, these leaders seek to 'engineer' outcomes through a variety of mechanisms. In some cases, the engineered outcome is equivalent to an explicit decision by the leader. But in many cases, the ability to secure explicit decisions from formal leadership is an eventual requirement for true progress.