According to Booze and Co., change management, “because it is predicated on motivating human behavior,…is inherently iterative and ever-changing as it adapts to individual, team, and organizational feedback.”
As an optimist I believe in the mission at hand, that Blueprint 2020 can provide a true and honest opportunity to discuss the future of the public service and allow us to begin looking beyond the borders of our own departments. I believe that there will be tangible actions and broadened responsibilities that will come out of all this work that each department, agency, network and individual can take ownership of.
Regardless of ownership, even as an optimist, the biggest question on my mind is: how can we champion, communicate and sustain the culture of change that has been so eagerly lauded since the launch of Blueprint 2020?
If we consider Blueprint 2020 as a fundamental social movement shift within the government, a significant number of employees at all levels need to be willing to buy-in to that social movement theory. Everett Rogers, in Diffusion of Innovation, demonstrates that there is a clear trend in the consumer movement toward the adoption of emerging technology products. The consumer roles, the adopters of new ideas, products, movements, and elements of change that are identified in this theory include: innovators (2.5%), early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%), and laggards (16%). The key to Rogers’ trend curvature is in that early majority group, where their adoption of a new idea or product means successful market saturation or adequate circulation for that idea or product to sustain itself.
When talking about buying into the culture of transformational change in the government context, there are strong correlations with Rogers’ theory. There is a cultural tipping point (a change management threshold) within the government that we need to reach to ensure that the Blueprint 2020 initiative sustains itself. But for the public service that threshold is, arguably, even further on the curve (mid-way into the late majority consumer role), as most public servants need to see the change to buy into it.
Through the current engagement framework, the initiative has effectively engaged the innovators and early adopters (the GC 2.0 community and young professionals), but the biggest hurdle will be in winning over the early and late majority groups who are, by their very public servant-nature, risk adverse.
Worryingly, many of the experienced public servants who young professionals have the most to learn from during Blueprint 2020’s valuable conversations on change fall squarely within that early/late majority group. Summed up, the most common ideas I’ve heard supporting this are: “Why bother? I’ll be retired by the time the changes will occur,” and, “Things are changing too quickly for me to keep up.” Unfortunately for the younger generations, these early majority/late majority individuals typically have the largest networks, experience, and understanding to provide the perspective for shaping these new ideas.
The solution (or perhaps the challenge) for executives is to innovate to find additional ways to engage that early/late majority group, ways that can help tip the scales over the next decade as the Blueprint 2020 initiative evolves.
As executives you have the unrestricted opportunity to communicate and support key change dialogues and to re-engage our missing participants. You can rebuild hope and champion in areas the initiative needs support. You can support the underdog, that long-shot idea or action that holds such potential for success if you’re willing to look for it under a rock and face a little risk.
How do we foster change management in the face of Blueprint 2020? We support the small and manageable ideas, but we actively champion the big and challenging ones, because the biggest upset victories are what people remember and feel amazed and encouraged by in the long run.
Executives and leaders (anyone) will never have complete support when creating change, but by continuing to support and champion those big change ideas, we foster that mentality of change that will, eventually, be self-actualizing. Creating a culture of hope and a community of support for the change Blueprint 2020 seeks is a core responsibility for leaders as well as followers. And while supporting Blueprint 2020 may be that small idea, enabling and ensuring its success will be that big challenge. Support the change.