It’s no secret that government organizations aren’t particularly known as places of high performance. Most people dread having to interact with their local government offices. There are a lot of factors at play that continue to perpetuate that perception in addition to the fact that striving for excellence is not the norm. As we’re all aware, the tight budgets and how difficult it is to get rid of, aka fire, a government employee is.
There are exceptions, however, and I believe we’ll start seeing a new government emerge once the baby boomers who are kicking their feet up waiting for their big retirement payday get out of the way.
It’s actually quite simple but it takes determination and someone to drive it home. In just four steps you can turn the ship around. Starting with the leadership.
Here is the simple (but not easy) four-step process to excellence in government:
Step 1. Get leadership at the helm who care.
Step 2. That leadership needs to create a new set of expectations. Ones that say the heck with how things have always been done, this is how we’ll be doing things now. People can get on board or get out.
Step 3. Once you’ve got a new set of values to promote, you’ll need a way to drive that home to the citizens and stakeholders. This is where the real heavy lifting will come in and you’ll need time to see the results happen. If you’ve gotten this far, you’ll start to get some positive results.
Step 4. Rinse. Wash. Repeat. Without putting work into any system it will degrade. Build a house and it is only new the day that last shingle went on. Bought a car? It depreciates from day 1 off the lot. The moment you stop working on elevating your work systems is the moment they start to degrade. Be sure to put processes in place within your systems that allow you to learn, adjust, and keep the momentum going.
If this is truly all it takes then why is it the norm to not be excellent, to be average or even below average? One reason is that old habits die hard and there is a high level of inertia to overcome in traditional government. Many leaders who do care try to push the rock up the hill only to have it come crushing down on them when they can’t get enough people on board to help carry the weight.
Another critical factor is that there is usually a leader that steps up to drive the change and once they go so go their efforts. If you are a caring leader and find yourself in a position where you might actually be able to strive for excellence, be sure to focus some effort on putting systems in place that can be continued if and when you leave.
I believe there is a change coming for two major reasons. First, we will be seeing a more diverse representation of populations in leaders who care more. Secondly, with the high startup economy we are experiencing private companies are taking over duties that governments long held. Health care is a big example. When citizens are given a choice, governments will have to improve or perish. Government leaders would be smart to take on these 4 steps now before they find themselves obsolete.
Laura Thorne is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is an organizational improvement consultant. She specializes in helping business owners and individuals to be more effective. Laura has over 25 years of professional experience and has had opportunities to work with some of the best and worst performing organizations. Read her posts here.