Monday, November 5, 2012

Leadership and the Government Sector

This recession has created a lot of interesting lessons.  There are many stories of leadership successes and leadership failures.  This is how we learn and teach others.  Just prior to the recession our firm began to receive a lot of governmental contract opportunities.  They were projects that were so interesting as the organizations typically wanted to move from an organization of entitlement to one that is a High Performing Organization.

I have been thinking a lot about this, given it's now the day before our Presidential election.

Yes, you heard right a government that has a goal of high performance particularly in the customer service arena.  Governments are now being faced with issues like:
  • decreasing revenues
  • customers having a choice (where to live and where to start a business)
  • doing more with less
  • customers having high expectations
What do those issues sound like?  The issues that have plagued the private sector for years but are just now becoming critical to the government sector due to the economic conditions in this country.

I have seen some governments with strong leadership teams that embrace this challenge and take it on head first and move the "big ship" in the right direction.  One of our local governments here in Atlanta has a very small but engaged leadership team that have done things like vision-based budgeting and strategic mapping to align the City's vision with EVERYTHING that is done in that city.  Simply brilliant, yet they are the exception in our experience.  Another example is a government entity near our nation's capital that embarked on becoming high performing BEFORE the recession because the leadership there saw the writing on the wall.  

It's a difficult transition moving to a culture of high performance.  Becoming high performing means having to make difficult decisions about staff, resources, budgets, etc.  High performing means that you have to make sure you keep the people that perform and you get rid of the people that don't perform.  This philosophy must come from the top down and HR must embrace and model this philosophy.  Gone are the days in private and in government where mediocrity or incompetence can be ignored or not dealt with.

I think we will look back in 20 years and say, "the recession of 2007 is what changed the way government operates."  I definitely see "change brewing" in this sector and as a consultant, a citizen and most importantly a tax-payer, I am very glad.

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