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Perspectives

Insights from federal transformation leaders

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Whether you are leading a program, a division or an agency, our federal transformation insights will help you navigate the complexities of organizational friction, appropriately manage expectation, and address the people aspects of change—all while continuing to get the job done.

Transformational leadership: debates, dilemmas, and decisions

Talk of what needs to be fixed in government fills the news, but many miss the fundamental challenge: change is constant and managing it requires constant attention. Implementing meaningful change in an organization while delivering results is hard. For government, the challenge is heightened by both the criticality of mission and the current environment of fiscal uncertainty.

Transformation Central brings together decades of experience in leading large-scale transformation programs from leaders with federal, military, commercial, and academic experience. Our commitment to you is to weave this experience together into a practical, implementable set of ideas to help you today, and in the future.

We’ll help answer questions such as:

  • How do you overcome cultural resistance to transformation? 
  • How can you serve as an effective transformation leader?

We deliver them in easy-to-consume articles you can read between meetings.

Beth McGrath, the government leader and change agent

My take on transformation—achieving transformational change requires a different way of thinking: During my 25 years in government, I learned that change is constant and to truly transform an organization. While the drivers of change are ever in flux, it takes leadership, agility, and a different way of thinking.

While the drivers of change are ever in flux, its current catalysts are shrinking resources Beth, the government leader and change agent and the relentless pressures to cut costs. While agencies will naturally turn their focus inward to look for insights, this is no time to play “small ball.” Agencies should be bold as they look to improve mission effectiveness and modernize operations. The current fiscal environment requires different, more strategic thinking about how to make budget decisions and achieve the mission within the fiscal targets provided. These circumstances pose obvious challenges, but they also provide forward-leaning government leaders opportunities to make gains by concentrating on priority mission functions, investing more in shared services, working to reduce duplication across organizations, and fundamentally changing the way they execute their business.

Ed Van Buren, the builder and strategist

My take on transformation—a wave of transformation is coming: I’ve had the opportunity to work with federal leaders across a wide range of agencies, from Department of Defense agencies and military departments and services, to treasury agencies like the IRS, to quasi-governmental for-profit organizations like the United States Postal Service. Today’s environment pits citizens with rising customer-centric expectations against agencies with constrained budgets and infrastructure in need of modernization. I’m seeing an increase in energy around programs and projects to help provide mission and citizen services, in innovative, cost effective manners. As agencies spend their limited resources on these efforts, I want to make sure they get the return on their investment.

Jessica Kosmowski, the tech sector transformer

My take on transformation—common challenges in transformation: For almost twenty years, I worked closely with a wide range of technology, media and telecommunications companies to drive major changes in their businesses. In this journey, I have developed substantial experience (and achievements) in the intersection of technology and new business operations. This is a classic challenge in large-scale change and working with over 15 major companies gives me a perspective on making these programs work. For the past two years, I have led Deloitte’s federal strategy and operations work. I am struck with the powerful connection on commercial experiences to the contemporary challenges in the government arena.

Chris Whitlock, the practical architect

My take on transformation—bridging bold and practical for results: federal government executives are responsible for “leading change” and “driving business results.” The critical question is, “how do we maximize effective change with balanced disruption of the enterprise?” I have worked many years in the national security arena, as well as large change Chris, the practical architect efforts in federal civilian agencies and commercial companies. My career has also included a number of smaller, innovative start-up activities. Throughout this journey, I have found it critical to architect change programs that balance practical realities and bold thinking to drive results. Big concepts are the goal, but without a practical and executable path, bold concepts don’t “drive business results.” Similarly, a proliferation of minor efforts will not meaningfully move measures or help to “lead change.” I love to help executive teams find the balance of boldness and practicality, building programs that are real and create operational results.

Bruce Chew, the professor and author

My take on transformation—making transformation take root in an organization: Looking at proposals, plans, and project management trackers, one might be forgiven for thinking that the transformation of a government organization is nothing more than the installation of some combination of new structures, technology, and processes. But breakthrough transformation programs address much more than a list of implementation tasks. They are attempts to reshape complex, dynamic technical, and social ecosystems.

When pushed on, the established ecosystem tends to push back. It is this “resilience of the old ways” that makes it so difficult for new approaches to take root and have lasting impact. A number of years ago, I read about an organization’s establishment of operations in the Amazon rain forest. Each day, they had to work the perimeter to cut back the rain forest. As long as the old and new existed side-by-side, the jungle would attempt to encroach upon the cleared operations. This is essentially the same challenge government organizations face when undergoing transformation. Enduring transformation efforts should consider the daunting challenges of creating new technical and social dynamics while escaping the creeping tendrils of old cultural paradigms.

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