Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Drive Change Using the Lurk and Listen Method

ARCHIVES
Image via BelleMedia/Shutterstock.com

Combine the crisis de jour (fiscal cliff, political scandal, merging agencies, etc.) with the uncertainty common to organization’s experiencing change and it’s clear leaders, managers, supervisors and employees in federal government organizations are definitely challenged. In light of the accelerated pace of change in federal institutions, it is no longer enough to understand the organization at the surface. We must go “beneath the surface” as well. What does that mean? Defining what is ‘beneath the surface” begins with understanding the organization’s culture.

Organizational culture is arguably one of the single most important factors overlooked by the change process. The culture of the organization defines vision, communication, relationships, structure, process, behavior, and strategy. Culture can be elusive, hard to describe and even harder to define.

How Do You Categorize Culture?

Organizational culture is a wild card in the mix of determining the response to change. What is the culture in your organization? Is it a trusting and accepting culture, or is it suspicious and resentful? Is it a culture of tolerance or intolerance? Is it a culture that is concerned for the welfare of its employees, or is it distant and/or aloof to its employees? Or is the culture somewhere in between those extremes? How do you know the answers to those questions?

Response—it’s complicated. The answers to those questions will determine the nature of the culture in your organization. But, determining the best way to answer those questions can be tricky.  The obvious place to begin is to ask questions and interview employees—employees from the mailroom to the boardroom. Then observe.

Lurk and Listen

I like to call it lurking. Lurk in the break room, go to lunch with employees, have a coffee with a colleague, and hang out near the copier—lurk and listen. Listen to what people say and how they say it. There are aspects to culture that are not written down anywhere. These are often the aspects of culture that are critical to successful change implementation. These are aspects of behavior that have become so ingrained in the completion of day-to-day work tasks that if ignored (or unintentionally unrecognized) will derail the best planned change initiative.

Understand culture and integrate the unique cultural nuances (especially those elusive characteristics that “lurk” beneath the organizational surface) of your organization into the comprehensive change process.  The culture within the organization will influence the intensity of your employees’ behavioral reaction to the change and how fast they recover. The result—we can’t necessarily minimize the uncertainty, but we can calm the storm. 

(Image via BelleMedia/Shutterstock.com)

Dr. Victoria M. Grady is an Assistant Professorial Lecturer at The George Washington University in Washington D.C., Principal Consultant at PivotPoint Business Solutions and co-author of The Pivot Point: Success in Organizational Change.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.