The Art & Science of Transformation® framework is designed to promote successful complex public transformation, while reducing the risks.
Governments in Canada and around the world are undergoing unprecedented transformations in the ways that they organize and deliver public services, with the drivers of change including pressures to achieve more with reduced budgets, changing demographic structures, and the impact of digital technologies and social media.
The Art and Science of Transformation® framework is designed to promote successful organizational transformation while reducing the risks, especially in complex public sector initiatives. This defines “science” as the use of change management tools and techniques, and “art” as the skills and attributes essential for managing the people and cultural aspects of change initiatives.
The framework is designed to overcome the main reasons why transformation projects typically fail: an inadequate focus on the “art” of transformation compared with the “science”, a failure to properly define the objectives of the transformation, and the lack of a sufficiently holistic approach to transformation. This approach is especially important in addressing four key issues that are instrumental in promoting successful government transformation in the current environment:
1. Setting up “new partnerships” to achieve the desired transformation objectives
2. Balancing competing interests between government stakeholders
3. Providing incentives to help achieve the intended transformation outcomes
4. Transforming government internally to ensure that the outcomes can be achieved
In each case, addressing the issue and overcoming the risks to promote successful transformation requires an approach that recognizes the inter-relationships between organizational culture, strategy and systems. For example, government organizations need the right skills and attributes to develop trust-based relationships with stakeholders as well as high levels of expertise in procurement and contracting.
Additionally, new recruitment and assessment systems and tools need to be developed that are effective in assessing “art” as well as “science” skills, and organizational leaders and employees at all levels must be involved in developing “information systems” that best meet the transformational requirements of government.
Developments and Challenges in Government Transformation
Governments in Canada and around the world are undergoing unprecedented transformations in the ways that they organize and deliver public services, with the drivers of change including pressures to achieve more with reduced budgets, changing demographic structures and the impact of digital technologies and social media.
Major themes in recent public sector developments include citizen-centric service delivery via online portals; open data and information sharing initiatives; collaborative inter-sectoral partnerships and a new emphasis on outcomes/evidence-based policy.
But large-scale organizational transformations are risky, with high rates of failure, and there are particular challenges involved in transforming public sector organizations. These include the rapidly changing leadership and policy directions; political sensitivities; the many different stakeholder groups with differing and often conflicting interests; the necessarily large and complex nature of many public sector transformations and the use of public funds. The Art and Science of Transformation® framework is designed to promote successful organizational transformation while reducing the risks, especially in complex public sector initiatives.
The Art and Science of Transformation®
This is designed to overcome the main reasons why transformation projects typically fail:
An Inadequate Focus on the “Art” of Transformation Compared with the “Science”: We define “science” as the use of change management tools and techniques, and “art” as the skills and attributes essential for managing the people and cultural aspects of change initiatives. What is important is identifying and achieving the “right” combination of art and science in any transformation initiative.
A Failure to Properly Define the Objectives of the Transformation: These should always be defined in terms of what an organization needs to do to pursue its fundamental purpose most effectively in the current environment, and are either:
Strategic – concerned with realigning an organization more effectively with the exact needs of its customers, such as introducing a new delivery system, or
Operational – concerned with maximizing internal efficiency or cost-effectiveness.
The Lack of a Sufficiently Holistic approach to Transformation: The framework acknowledges the complex inter-relationships that exist between organizational strategy, culture and operational systems.
An art and science based approach is needed to address four key issues that we believe are instrumental in promoting successful government transformation, as discussed below.
1. Setting Up “New Partnerships” to Achieve the Desired Transformation Objectives
The advantages of developing “authentic” business relationships with private sector partners derive largely from the replacement of contractual forms of governance with more informal, trust-based interactions that facilitate collaboration and information sharing. Other benefits include access to world-class expertise and technology, access to private finance, reduced costs, and improved innovation.
For many governments, achieving these benefits and overcoming the risks of partnerships requires a transformational approach that recognizes the inter-relationships between organizational culture, strategy and systems. There will be a need to ensure, for example, that:
• Organizational leaders as well as officials have the right skills and attributes to develop trust-based relationships with stakeholders.
• Relationship building is a central focus of business strategy and receives appropriate levels of commitment and resources.
• The organizational purpose and values are properly defined, and promote the right types of norms and behaviours.
• There is adequate technical expertise and data for use in planning, procurement and contract management, including the ability to conduct risk assessments and cost-benefit analyses.
2. Balancing Competing Interests between Government Stakeholders
There are many competing interests between government’s multiple stakeholders, including profit maximization versus serving the public good, reducing taxes versus improving service quality, and increasing efficiency versus reducing organizational disruption. Reconciling stakeholder interests involves engaging with these groups to fully understand their perspectives and to build trust in the transformation.
Again, the ability to build trust is fundamental to this process, and requires a holistic approach to ensuring that the organization has the right culture, skills and systems to support trust based relationships. Just as important is a systematic approach to stakeholder mapping and analysis, which examines the interests of different groups and their ability to influence the outcomes of the transformation, so that a stakeholder management plan can be developed.
Digital technologies are providing governments with innovative new ways of building stakeholder trust and addressing conflicting interests by involving stakeholders in the design of services.
3. Providing Incentives to Help Achieve the Intended Transformation Outcomes
The most effective approach in securing stakeholder cooperation and commitment to the transformation objectives is to combine relationship building and trust generation with the use of more formal incentive. Different types of contracts can be used to determine the extent to which risk is transferred to an external business partner, as well the ways in which they are incentivized to manage this risk and achieve the goals of the transformation.
Formal incentives are often included in contracts and consist of monetary rewards for good performance, and sanctions for unacceptable performance, such as missing deadlines or going over budget. Informal or indirect incentives can also be used, such as the expectation of further contracts, or conversely being excluded from future tender competitions.
Knowledge of different types of contracts and payment arrangements is crucial, but officials also need to be able to understand when non-contractual approaches are more likely to generate the desired transformation outcomes, and need the right “art” skills to apply these.
4. Transforming Government Internally to Ensure that the Outcomes Can be Achieved
The interconnectedness between organizational culture, systems and processes means that these must be properly aligned to promote successful transformation. Three key organizational factors that often need to be modified or strengthened to support transformation are:
Project and Program Sponsorship: The increasingly complex nature of public sector transformation projects and programs have elevated the role of the executive sponsor and there is a need for governments to ensure that this role is institutionalized within their project and program management systems. The roles of the executive sponsor include preparing the organization for an “art and science”-based transformation, supporting the transformation project manager by acting as the link between the project and the wider organization, establishing a strong governance structure, and monitoring project progress to ensure the project can meet its transformation objectives.
Human Resource Management: Government transformations require skills and expertise that have not been important in government in the past. Recruitment and assessment systems and tools must be developed that are effective in assessing “art” as well as “science” skills, and supported by performance management systems that help ensure that employees are encouraged to develop the right kind of skills and behaviours.
Data and Information Technology: Data systems can no longer be designed by IT specialists in isolation, it is important to involve policymakers, business process specialists and employees from all levels of the organization in developing “information systems” that best meet the transformational requirements of government. There is also a need to ensure that the information systems are underpinned by robust governance policies and structures to ensure that they meet high standards of reliability, accuracy and security, and that responsibilities for maintaining the systems are clearly defined.