Transforming Governance for the 21st Century
Lynn S. Kahn (Author)
Publication date: 05/01/2009
for the 21st Century
Lynn Sandra Kahn, PhD
About the Author
L ynn Sandra Kahn, PhD, is a psychologist at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), where she provides organizational, executive, and management consultation in the Air Traffic Organization. She was recently detailed from the FAA to provide organizational and strategic planning consultation to the Washington, D.C., Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services in its multi-agency efforts to transform juvenile justice. Dr. Kahn served as the FAA representative to the National Partnership for Reinventing Government, where she led the team that launched the multi-level Skills Network, facilitated sub-Cabinet leadership meetings on workforce development, and co-produced satellite broadcasts and multi-city town hall meetings. Previously, Dr. Kahn was an organizational psychologist for the Internal Revenue Service, where she provided executive and management consultations, designed and implemented labor-management and conflict resolution strategies, demonstrated the impact of organizational interventions on work quality and employee morale, and supported efforts to move toward a customer-oriented culture.
Dr. Kahn is the author of Results at the Edge: The Ten Rules of Government Reform (2003) and Peacemaking: A Systems Approach to Conflict Management (1988). She received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from The American University in Washington, D.C.
The first task of new leadership is to communicate clearly the core transformation message. For example, the message may be that air transportation is moving from a ground-based to a satellite-based model, touching all aspects of air travel: new technologies in the cockpit, new procedures for pilots, new training for air traffic controllers, new operating and management policies, new standards for certifying airplanes to fly in American airspace, and new expectations for and from the public. The challenge is finding a crisp statement or bold visual that conveys the intended change.
Or, the transformation may be that juvenile services is reversing from a downward spiral of punishing the “badness” out of troubled youth to a strength-based approach that requires all the different case workers from the myriad agencies that talk to court-involved youth to begin treatment planning with a strengths assessment. For many youth in custody, this is the first time adults in authority have asked about and written down their strengths. Again, the challenge is how leadership clearly communicates the intended change to different government agencies, their workforces, and stakeholders.
Whatever the domain—from transportation to juvenile services, from education to health care, from new energy policies to new environmental actions, from fixing the nation’s physical infrastructure to fixing the nation’s financial infrastructure—leaders need to communicate the new direction to the workforce, political stakeholders, community organizations, and the general public. “Communicate to” actually represents just the beginning of the dialog. Genuine transformation cannot be successful without engaging the workforce that will enact the changes and the citizens most concerned about that particular domain. Still, even the most complex set of changes begins with a clear, crisp statement.
View 1: Leadership is a clear message about the new vision and the core change strategies. The leadership view is the transformation view. According to Ambassador John W. McDonald, cofounder and director of the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, transformation catalyzes changes at the deepest level of beliefs, assumptions, values, behaviors, and structures. 1 Although Ambassador McDonald’s focus is international conflict resolution and peace-building, his definition of transformation also applies to long-standing domestic challenges. Government reform is transformational when new roles, new structures, and a revitalized culture are required for better results. The full impact of transformation touches beliefs, assumptions, values, and behaviors. For that to happen, the transformational leader needs to convey a clear, clean message.
DEFINING THE TRANSFORMATION MESSAGE
View 1 defines the key transformation message through words or pictures, presenting a concise message of change. The words are contained in one sentence or the graphic is displayed on one page. The message is a bold statement of change that reflects the core strategies for new results. View 1 answers the question “I only have a minute, so what’s the big plan?”
For example, in January 2005, Vincent Schiraldi was appointed Director of the new Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) with the goal of transforming juvenile services in Washington, D.C. He had worked with court-involved youth and juvenile justice systems for more than 20 years, so he already had an outline of the strategies he wanted to put in place to make significant changes and deliver concrete results. His message about culture change was clear: “to view our youth and their families as assets to build upon rather than as deficits to merely control.” 2 Within six weeks, Schiraldi and his leadership team drafted and circulated a new mission statement:
The mission of DYRS is to improve public safety and give court-involved youth the opportunity to become more productive citizens by building on the strengths of youth and their families in the least restrictive, most homelike environment consistent with public safety.
A clear transformation message is needed very early in a new leader’s efforts. Here, the concise message points to the essence of the transformation: “building on strengths.”
The crisp message must make sense across the multiple agencies that will be involved in the new efforts. This means that while the transformation message is directed to a particular leader’s particular agency, the message applies across the mission and culture of all agencies belonging to the performance network.
View 1: Leadership is often a new mission statement. That transformation message is conveyed by the new leadership team in many different formats, settings, and situations. The leadership team must own the message and speak with one voice; the team will return to the precise words of the new mission over and over again as new partners become part of the performance network.
Or, the existing mission statement might not change at all. For example, the mission of the Department of Defense will always be provide for the common defense. What does change is the “Commander’s Intent,” the new interpretation of strategies by military leadership in the field. Whether View 1 represents a new mission or a new twist on an old mission, agency leadership will use the precise words of the change message over and over again.
Another example of a bold statement of change is the mission statement from the Redlands, California, Department of Police and Community Services: 3
Mission: Controlling Crime Before It Occurs by Supporting Strong Families, Resilient Youth, and Safe and Sustainable Neighborhoods
The message itself is crisp. In addition, the title of a police department combining law enforcement and community services reflects a new way of thinking. This new approach coincides with the career of Chief Jim Bueermann.
In 1997, after 20 years rising through the ranks from patrol officer to Captain of Community Policing and Support Services, Jim Bueermann began to formally put in place the model he now calls “risk-focused policing.” This would become America’s first police program structured to reduce and prevent crime, especially juvenile crime, by addressing both risk factors such as availability of drugs and firearms and protective factors such as mentors and coaches in community recreation centers. By working across traditional boundaries and through community workshops where citizens defined what they wanted policing to look like, Chief Bueermann gained community consensus to use data from crime maps to allocate resources. For example, housing resources went into neighborhoods with high “community disorganization” ratings and recreation resources went into communities with “low neighborhood attachment.” In this way, resources were directed to priority areas based on a concept of risk-focused policing and the use of real-time data from crime maps instead of “first come, first served.”
In 1997, Bueermann directed the integration of Housing, Recreation, and Senior Services into the Redlands Police Department. In May 1998, he was appointed Chief of the new department. More than 10 years later, the department’s mission statement stands as a clear message of transformation. The high-level message concisely presents the new direction, emphasizing prevention and community-building along with new, core strategies for change.
WORDS OR PICTURES
The high-level view of transformation can also be a one-page graphic that serves as a visual presentation of a new direction. A good example is the high-level graphic used to represent the overarching concept of the transition from the current airspace system to America’s Next Generation Air Transportation System, NextGen. Visual products are often used to support the multi-agency effort that requires the Departments of Commerce, Defense (DoD), Homeland Security, and Transportation, the FAA, and NASA to have coordinated architecture products. These graphics are regularly used by leadership to show the basics of the intended transformation and key change strategies.
Figure 1-1 is an adaptation of one of the graphics used to depict the NextGen vision. Without requiring an understanding of the new technologies of modern aviation, the graphic conveys the importance of satellite-based systems. More knowledgeable viewers will see new technologies in the cockpit, new weather forecasting products, unmanned airspace vehicles, new procedures, and new training.
FIGURE 1-1: The Big Picture
View 1: Leadership is the transformation view that can be spotlighted with an eye-catching graphic that clearly communicates the essence of the intended change.
A good View 1 focuses the attention of hundreds, even thousands, of employees. It helps the entire network of partnerships working together understand the big picture as well as immediate, mid-term, and long-term strategies for change.
A good View 1 also helps the public at large understand the intended changes. We need only think about the confusion that arose when the economic crisis, which began with the subprime mortgage meltdown and quickly led to bank failures and seizures, almost ground the global economy to a halt as banks became unable and unwilling to lend to each other, to businesses, and to consumers. Was the government response a “bailout” or a “rescue plan”? When the message was “bailout,” especially when it was cast as bailing out Wall Street, an angry citizenry contributed to Congressional failure to pass initial legislation. As circumstances worsened, the message changed to “rescue plan” and, despite grave concerns, the legislation passed. A clear View 1 message can encourage the widespread support needed for significant change; a murky message can quickly dissolve that support.
View 1 is a communication tool that in words or pictures describes the intended transformation and its core strategies. It presents a clear message that remains consistent in many different settings for many different organizations within and connected to the performance network. Whether it takes the form of a bold, new mission statement or an eye-catching graphic, a good View 1 will find its way into information sessions, town hall meetings, media briefings, community presentations, and Congressional testimony. View 1 conveys a clear and consistent message, helping anchor changes that encompass new skills, beliefs, assumptions, and behaviors.
View 1 reminds organizational leaders to take the time to find the big picture, to streamline the messages of change, and especially to focus employees on the most important activities. When leadership teams within one agency and across the performance network use the same View 1 mission statement or graphic, the redundancy reinforces the reality that network leaders are speaking with one voice, that there is a clear command structure and a clear purpose. A consistent message across the political leadership of different agencies within a particular performance network will align employees from many different organizations, each with a unique history and culture, to share a unified vision of change.
From logos on coffee mugs to laminated mission statements, in words or pictures and throughout different stages of transformation, View 1: Leadership provides the clear, consistent, immediate vision of the new direction. Although transforming government is a core set of strategies customized for each agency or enterprise that may be fine-tuned at different stages of implementation, View 1: Leadership remains the consistent and overarching message of change.
LESSONS ABOUT LEADERSHIP
Jim Bueermann, Chief of Police and Community Services, Recreation, and Animal Control, Redlands, California 4
I think communities want problem-solving policing, not disconnected practices. Citizens want law enforcement to engage with the community. It’s hard when young officers cannot afford to live in the cities where they work; they do not develop attachment to the areas they patrol and they can’t enhance the relationship with our community. Part of my leadership role is to teach young cops to look at the dynamic between community and policing. It is a relationship. This is how we do policing in Redlands. We co-produce safety. That is the meaning behind our mission statement.
Beginning in 1998, we used part of our COPS [U. S. Department of Justice, Community Oriented Policing Services] funding to put police officers trained in community development into our schools. This strategy changed the dynamic of how police officers view policing—they became problem solvers. They learned about the people they were policing. They began to have different conversations with our youth.
Another way we changed the culture was related to traffic stops. If the officer just suspects speeding, as opposed to other crimes, instead of pulling speeders over and first asking for license and registration, our officers now state their name, note why they stopped the car, and then ask if there is a reason for speeding. We want to know if there is an emergency. This is just one more way our officers try to understand behavior from the perspective of the community.
The Larger Network
It takes a long time to anchor the changes in the culture. Before COPS funding for prevention and community programs, in too many places, the criminal justice system had lost its ability to actively engage as partners within the community. Now that funding has been restricted and redirected toward homeland security, I can still guide how my department operates. But in this country there are more than 17,000 law enforcement jurisdictions. We need to cooperate across a larger network—more than just my small city.
Vincent Schiraldi, Director, Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, Washington, D.C. 5
Not being constrained by the past is important for new leaders. Most juvenile justice systems don’t deliver great results—often they are services for the poor done poorly. When you come into a new agency, it’s frenetic; there’s so much to be done. Everyone is on pins and needles. It’s tempting to use old models, to hide in the status quo. A list of new programs that do not capture the essence of reform will not bring lasting change.
For my leadership team, the biggest lesson has been to bring your head, not just your heart. They have to learn new strategies to deal with frontline employees that do not want to change, do not want to accept the new direction, and think they can wait you out. Sometimes the leadership team has to be hard-nosed with staff because the new mission and vision are not negotiable and everyone needs to know that.
New leaders transforming difficult systems have to be comfortable with chaos, with challenging the status quo. Change means going with what is not generally accepted. Leading change is not about taking the well-worn path but about learning to go where the data and experience take you.
2. “Statement on Union Vote,” February 8, 2006, press release, Government of the District of Columbia, Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, Washington, D.C.
4. Personal interviews, Jim Bueermann, Redlands, California, February 19, 2008, and by telephone, September 27, 2008.
5. Personal interview, Vincent Schiraldi, Washington, D.C., April 7, 2008.
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