Reform efforts in government are opportunities to rethink and reshape the mission and effectiveness of an agency. But successful reform is not automatic and requires detailed planning and dedicated leadership, according to a new study. Produced and released jointly today by FedScoop and Booz Allen Hamilton, the “Government Reform Study: An Outlook on Government Reform,” revealed that while reform in government is needed, wanted and ongoing, effective implementation is often fraught with challenges. The findings were based on a detailed survey of more than 195 senior decision-makers in government and the private sector. For example, although 95 percent of those surveyed said they had experienced reform efforts, more than half didn’t know if those efforts had been successful, found reform laws and regulations hard to understand and expressed difficulty in planning for reform implementation. “Although managing reform can be complicated and often is difficult to implement, it‘s the new normal among many federal agencies,” said Angela Zutavern, vice president at Booz Allen. “As agency resources tighten, reform can bring positive opportunity to reimagine, retool and achieve better results.”
The results of the survey produced five key recommendations to help guide reform efforts, all of which focus on the need for leadership, managing change, leveraging the work done by others and recognizing the importance of technology and innovation. “Today’s reform expands beyond the purview of one agency and reform implementation isn’t getting any easier,” the report states. Reform efforts, whether a major overhaul of the health care system or an agency’s information technology infrastructure, require “time commitments, stakeholder buy-in, clear, top-down communication and realistic expectations, with a sharp eye toward the final results,” the survey report states. Key recommendations from the survey results include:
- Don’t reinvent the wheel: The key to dealing with the complexity and uncertainty of mandated change is to understand the journey that many have walked before.
- Innovate and accelerate: Partner with experienced organizations to jumpstart and accelerate your reform journey and achieve success by focusing on key ingredients, including strategy, resources, talent and engagement.
- Embrace constructive disruption: Invest and build a digital ecosystem that takes advantage of the potential of today’s technology. Use predictive modeling and other analytics to test ideas that can save time and money. Move beyond traditional communications approaches and change behavior by creating engagement through social and digital technologies.
- Tap into a broader network of resources: Establish a broad network, including other government agencies, industry leaders and academia, to advise and provide support (e.g., mentoring). Use your network to pursue alternate approaches, such as challenges and hack-a-thons to develop and procure talent and solutions.
- Create a chief reform officer: Identify a leader, or perhaps a network of leaders, to ensure the right knowledge is focused on the right challenge, coordinate reform planning and implementation from a big picture perspective and promote transparency across the public, business community, media, administration and Congress.
“Technology and other innovations are outpacing government rules and regulations in many areas,” Zutavern said. “For example, our world is rich in data, but we have yet to take full advantage of its potential while achieving privacy and security. This creates tremendous opportunity for government reform and a fundamental shift in how the government will perform services and operations in the future.” Infographic: Five Recommendations for a Successful Agency Reform Implementation