Government organizations are often encouraged to institutionalize best practices, freeze them into place, focus on execution, stick to their knitting, increase predictability, and get processes under control. However, today governments face a radically shifting context for the workforce, the workplace, and the world of work. To move forward toward better government, leaders must be catalysts for change, recognizing that “doing things differently and doing different things” are prerequisites for creating a climate that can penetrate a risk-averse culture that limits innovative thinking.
Organizational change involves moving from the known to the unknown. The question is change to what? Employees invariably have expectations about the results of organizational change. These expectations play an important role in generating motivation for change. Expectations can serve a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading employees to invest energy in change programs that they expect will succeed. When employees expect success, they are likely to develop greater commitment to the change process and to direct more energy into the constructive behaviors needed to implement it. The key to achieving these positive effects is to communicate realistic, positive expectations about the organizational changes. Information about why the change is occurring, how it will benefit the department, and how employees will be involved in the design and implementation is most helpful.
Before attempting any kind of culture change initiative, the organization’s executives need to know what the culture is (i.e. prevailing) and how it works, what type (i.e. preferred) of culture would best support organizational strategy, recognize and use the levers that influence culture, and be clear about whether it wants to change the culture.
It is critical culture change must not be perceived by employees as another in a series of fads, “management by best seller” as in a flavor of the month. Often employees are skeptical of these “just add water” fixes to the workplace. Failed attempts to change, unfortunately, often produce cynicism, frustration, loss of trust, and deterioration in morale among organization members. Employees must also understand that culture change is not only essential for the organization to adapt to new realities, but also that it will help them, and their fellow employees perform their roles better and derived greater job satisfaction.