By Bob Etris
How can we help to solve the organizational and performance challenges that sequestration (and its prospect to continue next year) presents? Federal agencies are faced with making difficult choices in the face of shrinking budgets, evolving work requirements, increased work demands, and significantly decreased funding outlooks. To emerge successful in this new norm of ‘doing less with even less’, organizations have to reexamine their alignment between strategy, talent, processes, structure, and incentives. Change is neither easy nor swift within the government. Individuals and institutions resist perceived threats to job security and management authority. And internal and external rules and regulations can restrict structural changes.
Attention to all of these organizational elements is necessary to optimize capabilities in any market. In the federal government, a sequestered approach to budgeting is imposing significant and indiscriminate cuts to budgets for both new investment and sustainment of current operations. This creates a paradigm shift in organizational thinking, planning, and decision making. While the requests for more funding are likely to increase (to offset shortfalls in the current year), future year investment portfolios are contracting as are the budgets required to operate and maintain the systems of ‘today’. Ultimately this creates an unsustainable equation of increasing capital demands against shrinking operating budgets, forcing the government to answer the difficult question of whether to invest less or retire legacy systems and processes sooner.
It is easy to say this cannot be sustained with business as usual. But what does that new business model need to look like? Perhaps it is more than a refined approach to individual projects, programs, and departmental priorities, requiring a more holistic understanding of the organization’s design. In this context, the ‘organization’ exists at multiple levels – the local project team, the program, the division, the department, the directorate.
In navigating the political and financial landscape within sequestration, Evans is working with its clients to examine their organizations and work to ensure they remain focused on the right things, for the right reasons. We’re making sure our customers:
– organize work around results that customers consider valuable;
– encourage and deploy process changes that focus on process efficiency, economies of scale, and effectively leveraging resources across organizational boundaries.
– shift accountability to focus on (and reward) high-quality results while modifying monitoring and oversight tools and processes to provide earlier warning for under-performance;
– invest in honest innovation and honorable relationships in creating partnerships across lines of business or agencies in ways to focus even more on the needs of the customer;
– empower and trust employees with the authority, skills, and information required to do their jobs, and focus on the managers’ role to that of team leader, coach, or facilitator;
It’s critical to see organization design as the process of shaping an organization to align its structure, process, rewards, metrics and talent with the strategy of the business. This approach maximizes the value of thinking about and working on sound organization design. It is at the center of all that organizations do – in their approach to change, in looking at the people side of a business’s strategy and in execution. It’s more than the boxes on the org chart. It is the delicate and intentional interaction of all facets of a business needed for success.
What do you think? How is the design of your organization working?