From Bureaucratic to Responsive and Agile

We worked with the Director of a large, complex, and technologically advanced federal agency.  Its mission was critical, but it had become arrogant,  bulky, and unresponsive.  The number of policies, procedures, products, services, and projects continually expanded - leading to more and more bureaucracy.

The agency ended up with too many departments and each acted as a rigid silo.  Interaction between departments was  challenging.   The organizational hierarchy was steep and rigid.  The management style was command and control, and (not surprisingly) employees felt disengaged.  Too often when difficult problems surfaced, management disappeared behind closed doors, threw money at the problem, and announced new changes that seldom met objectives.

We introduced and led several agency-wide improvement initiatives that improved performance, and streamline costs by several hundreds of millions of dollars.  The successes of our project teams were exciting, but as we looked to the future, we knew substantive changes were needed.  We proposed reinventing the whole agency.  The Director not only agreed but was fully committed.

Select the Right Reinvention Team Members

We worked with the Director to carefully identify those that would be the ideal next round of top leaders.  These hand-selected individuals were assigned to work full-time on one of three different reinvention teams.  These teams were organized around the core missions of the agency.

Process 

We took the leadership teams through a five phased process highlighted below.

The employees, customers, and stakeholders were engaged throughout this process.

Changes

The changes made were significant.  The core products and services were redesigned based on a thorough understanding of the customer needs.  Processes, technology, roles and responsibilities, organizational structures, leadership and people practices,  and measurement systems were carefully engineered to optimize the delivery of products and services.

Major mission changes were planned, that required a significant change in the skill-sets. We identified what positions would be shrinking, and why, and by how much.  We identified the positions that would be in the greatest demand, and why, and by how much.  We specified what the requirements would be for the new positions. We created after hour cross-training programs for employees who wanted to stay.   Most of the employees who were in shrinking positions took advantage of the cross-training programs.  This was an exciting opportunity for them to develop new skills in high demand areas.

Like most organizations, we offered traditional early retirement benefits and financial benefits for those who decided they wanted to leave. We also provided career counseling and outplacement services.

Results 

Mission outcomes were significantly improved, costs were substantively reduced, and a high-performance culture was created.  The agency is recognized today as being one of the most agile, responsive, and effective in government.

A firm foundation had been laid, and the agency successes continued to grow.  The Director was eventually promoted to a top prominent role in government - where he successfully led the integration, redesign, and modernization of several critical departments and agencies.