Federal government employees exist in an environment of constant change. Large-scale reform, leadership turnover, scathing GAO reports, and new system implementation occur under the added pressure of intense media scrutiny. Federal agencies are challenged by the pace of change. What can you do?
A simple response might be to “wait it out,” as the bureaucratic employee will likely last longer than the politically appointed leader driving the change. This type of implied resistance is exactly what people expect from government employees.
What if there is a more complicated story? What if resistance is not simply tied to the need to “outlast” current leadership, ignoring a new system or bad publicity, but rather it is rooted in a deep psychological desire to maintain connection to an aspect of the organization (history, culture, mission, etc.) that may be impacted by an impending change?
…More importantly, what if this attachment could be a powerful tool for encouraging change.
The basis for this research is to describe how the Federal Employees Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) data can be used to identify attachment symptoms within federal agencies. This information is then used to better understand the change readiness of the agency. This data driven information will become a valuable tool to leadership working to successfully move the agency through the next major change.
Link to FEVS Data
Please access the link below to review the change readiness score for your agency.
(Note- the app is hosted through shinyapps.)
Why is This Important?
Attachment theory provides a strong understanding of why your individuals resist change. They are not lazy, wrong, or bad people; they have a deep psychological connection to some aspect of the organization and change challenges that connection.
By understanding this attachment and understanding your organization, you can more effectively support your employees through change by either:
1) helping them find a new attachment for them in the future state or
2) providing them a transitional object that will support them through the change.
Based on the FEVS data, there are five key transitional objects for federal employees: Mission, Senior Leaders, Direct Supervisors, Information, and Skills. Leaders can use these five objects as a way to support employees through a change such as explaining how the change supports the mission, using well-respected senior leaders or direct supervisors to deliver messages, regular communication of information, and a dedicated effort to support skills development through the change.
Dr. David Clare is a data scientist at Booz Allen Hamilton where he brings data driven insight and practice to the United States Federal Government Agencies to include Department of Homeland Security clients including Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), and the Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS). David specializes in building tools that bring actionable analysis to decision makers.
Before coming to consulting, Dr. Clare completed his doctorate in communication at Michigan State University where he researched lie detection and social influence and taught courses in organizational communication and research methods. David also has a Bachelor of Arts from the College of Charleston.
Dr. Victoria M Grady is currently Director of MBA/MSM Graduate Programs and an Assistant Professor Management/Organizational Behavior in the School of Business at George Mason University. Her research is focused on the behavioral implications (eg. decreased performance, productivity and profitability) of organizations introducing and implementing organizational change—with specific focus on organizational culture, structure and overall effectiveness. She continues to build on her original research and actively integrates theoretical concepts with practical application in the field of organizational science and management.
Her consulting practice includes federal government institutions, non-profit organizations, higher education, and health related institutions. Current work will extend the scope of her consulting practice into the fields of secondary education, family businesses, and other private sector companies. She is co-author of The Pivot Point: Success in Organizational Change, Morgan-James Publishing, 2013. To learn more, please visit her website at www.pivotpnt.com or follow her on Twitter at @pivotpnt. Victoria is a founding member of the Association for Change Management Professionals (ACMP).
Dr. Patrick McCreesh is a Senior Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton leading project teams and business development for the Strategic Innovation Group’s Next Generation Analytics Team. He successfully leads strategic planning, performance management, change management, and analytics programs across the federal government and with Fortune 500 companies. His clients include the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Department of Transportation (DOT), and other agencies. His previous work with the government agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement has gained him the Innovation in Analytics award from the analytics professional organization, INFORMS.
Dr. McCreesh graduated from The University of Virginia with a Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Affairs and History, received his Master of Public Policy from Harvard University, completed his Doctorate in Public Policy at George Mason University.
Dr. McCreesh is also a leader in the global change management community. He is a founding member of the Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP). He founded the local chapter of ACMP and currently serves as the President of ACMP DC.