Evans Incorporated

Change Management and Culture in the Federal Space

By Noel Assegid, MBA, Prosci CMP

The Evans Human-Centered Change Management approach emphasizes the importance of culture in all change efforts. This significant aspect of change is not always considered or even recognized, but a recent event, hosted by the Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) DC, highlighted the increasing awareness of culture’s impact on change effort success in the federal space. The panel of federal change management professionals discussed how culture affects the implementation of change efforts within their different Federal agencies.

Continuous Leadership Changes

Panelists indicated that one attribute that creates the biggest challenge is constant leadership change. Within organizations where leadership is constantly changing, influencing a culture can become a difficult task. For example, one panelist from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) commented that there were three agency Secretaries in the last four years. The constant leadership change made it difficult to get any decisions finalized. This became especially challenging with the fact that there were a lot of acting leaders that didn’t want to be responsible for taking any final actions on change management efforts.

To mitigate the continuous change in leadership, change management professionals tried to create a coalition that contained a broad spectrum of leaders. This leadership coalition was set in place to establish continuity in the change efforts. In the event that some leaders left their position, the remaining leaders would understand the value that change management can provide and could continue to move the change efforts forward.

Culture and Mission

An organization’s core mission will always contribute to its cultural identity. At the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there is a dual mission of safety and efficiency which informs all change management efforts. The panelists discussed how the challenge within a culture of safety is that there is little incentive to change and their approaches tend to focus on behaviors rather than trying to change the existing culture of safety which needs to evolve to accept the change.

Culture Focused on Product Delivery

In organizations where the culture is focused on product delivery, there is usually a resistance to adopting change management methodologies which put a greater focus on people rather than product delivery. In this case, a suggested change management approach is to create what the panelists called “snackable” content to promote change efforts. Snackable content includes short, concise and easily-consumed information that is typically included as footers on emails and within organizational newsletters.

Organizational culture can create a source of resistance or support to a major change. The panel discussion was a great way to learn more about the different cultural challenges within Federal agencies and to see why a human-centered approach to change is crucial to ensuring success.

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