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Organizational Change Management: A Practical Model for Government Organizations

Change can be a challenge for any organization, but the public sector has a unique set of mandates, laws, and stakeholders that add a layer of complexity to any transformation. Over the past decade, government entities have modernized their systems dramatically, with a keen eye on web accessibility, cloud infrastructure, remote services, and workflow automation. After all, business success requires effective data management and modern tech.

For an organization to propel its future growth, however, it must not only improve its data technology platforms, but also develop an intentional focus on its most important asset: its people. Streamlining data processes to reduce unnecessary complexity across the enterprise, enabling more intentional and transparent decision-making and prioritization, and increasing data literacy to better engage and empower employees: these are all people-focused change activities.

The most successful projects require a close alignment between human-centered technology design and Organizational Change Management (OCM) at all phases, including after the solution goes live.

The Business Need for Organizational Change Management for Government

Why is OCM a critical component of modernization projects? First, let’s define OCM. Organization change management is the process of facilitating a change process so that a business fulfills its strategic initiatives while maintaining strong communication, engagement, and team culture with its employees. Employing OCM during a data and tech transformation helps drive key measures of success such as increased usability, alignment of processes to business needs, and high levels of end user adoption.

Crucially, a government project guided by OCM will result in a system that end users will want to use because it improves their efficiency, eases interactions with the public, and/or enhances the way in which they deliver on the mission of the organization. For this reason, public-sector organizations must build a change leadership and implementation infrastructure that will enable the enterprise to support the current investment in its digital transformation journey.

Change is as much art as it is science, and people are at the core of both. By adopting a people-first, data driven, and collaborative approach to change, you will develop a transformational solution that optimizes stakeholder experiences to produce higher adoption and an increased return on investment, setting your organization up for success now and in the future.

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How OCM Can Help Complex Government Projects

At Launch, we work with and support many public-sector and publicly owned client businesses, and one thing is clear: government clients are unique in that they are 100% mission-driven, with their vision, mission, and objectives designed for service to specific populations. Charged with stewarding public dollars to meet the needs of their constituents, these clients are cost-conscious, resourceful, and embodiments of the term “public servants.”

Government clients are also unique in their complex environments, which include myriad oversight organizations and internal considerations that sometimes have conflicting interests or stringent requirements. During a transformation project, any or all of these might be factors to contend with:

  • Department of Finance – providing each state’s governor with fiscal advice and managing budget change proposals that provide vehicles for new projects and resources
  • State Legislation – passing new laws that impact state, county, and city policies
  • Federal funders – defining programs with spending restrictions
  • State Department of Technology – oversight body specific for technology projects
  • General public oversight and journalistic interest – creating an environment in which all civil servants are subject to heightened public opinion and judgment
  • Legacy systems – technology that needs to be updated or modernized due to lack of budget in prior years
  • Government employment and bargaining units (unions) – for example, in California, there are 152 departments and nearly 260K people who work in various classifications, many of whom are members of one of the 21 bargaining units/unions
  • Chain of command – due to the nature of government employment, there is typically a strict hierarchy and division of labor

Given the potential ramifications across these factors, when public organizations decide to invest in projects that enhance their operations, improve processes or modernize their technology, we bring out experienced Organizational Change Management (OCM) practitioners to assist.

The first step to an OCM solution is an OCM Framework. Though the organization will have written a statement of work (SOW) about their desired outcomes already, it’s important to begin an engagement with a model to gain clarity on specific needs and implementation timeline, and ensure project sponsors understand their role in supporting and leading the changes they’re looking to implement. With that sorted, it’s time to customize a solution that fits with the project goals and is set up for success.

This OCM solution accounts for the environment in which this particular organization operates, treating external governing bodies like Finance or Technology departments as stakeholders when mapping out requirements gathering, stakeholder analysis, and communication activities. For example, the State of California’s Department of Technology uses the Project Approval Lifecycle (PAL) framework, so our OCM practitioners account for key milestones and OCM requirements mandated by PAL.

At this point, the client and the Launch OCM team understand the nature of the current state, the desired future state, and the change that must happen in between those points. That means it’s time to engage the Organizational Effectiveness function to perform Change Execution, Strategic Change Communications, and Change Culture and Agility services and bring the project home.

So, what does this actually look like for a client?

neon blue and pink bars

OCM for Government in Action: 2 Case Studies

1. Enterprise IT Transformation and Workforce Planning

A public-sector client underwent a multi-year enterprise-level IT transformation that they knew would ultimately reduce cost and headcount in their IT function. The current state was the use of outdated electronic forms that were mailed in by the public, and the future state was a state-of-the-art system that would supply all types of end users, from employees to the public, with modern software forreal-time data about payments and payment history.  

Although the future state was clear, getting there wasn’t. Why? In many enterprise system implementations, business process shifts are mandated by the software platform. This requires ongoing business analysis that provides documentation for consistent communications, training, and workforce planning.

Workforce planning in particular was critical for this project because the new system necessitated significantly fewer staff. Over four years, staff needs would decrease from 400 people to 100. In collaboration with this agency’s HR department and bargaining units, we developed workforce plans that were openly and fairly communicated, creating a culture of trust in the process.

During IT Transformations, it’s vital to mitigate the kinds of factors, like a distrustful workforce, that make tech projects fail. We plan, consult, coach, and deliver, helping our clients to be successful with their financial project investments.  


2. Internal/External Data Services Enhancement

Another public sector client had a multi-year organizational change to enhance data services that they provide to both internal business customers and external organizations. This project was the creation of a “Center of Excellence,” which may sound simple on the surface. However, the alignment of future services with staffing ratios was complex and required a dedicated team of business analysts and data solution architects to design the future state.

In this project, the future state was designed, but would be built as additional funding became available through budget change proposals. Headcount tripled in 18 months, which required attention to the needs of leaders and staff such as leadership development, readiness assessments, communication, coaching, and training.

This project required communication expertise and a focus on internal stakeholders for needed collaboration. Meeting daily with project sponsors became a best practice, so that the team could quickly adapt to shifting project needs. Workforce planning, training, and strong governance needs were part of Launch’s scope, while collaborating with other stakeholders on the project. The OCM team developed schedules and managed this project with high stakeholder satisfaction.  


Lead the Next Public-Sector Transformation

At Launch Consulting, we know that you’re proud of the work you do to serve the public. We’re proud to serve and support you as you navigate that mission. This is our why: We want to help you shine. For more about the Launch Government Sector and to talk to someone who truly understands how you make change happen, click here.

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