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Successful Change Implementation in City Government

Implementing a large-scale change within a city government is a complex task that requires careful planning, collaboration, and adaptability. The challenge of change in city governments includes navigating complex bureaucratic structures, diverse stakeholder interests, and the natural resistance to change.

It is possible to overcome the challenges, foster better collaboration, and achieve meaningful and sustainable change. What should you know to address the challenges of change in city government effectively?

Strong Leadership is Needed to Align Agencies Around a Common Goal

Government agencies often have established policies, hierarchies, and interests that can create a siloed and independent culture. Strong leadership, effective communication, and clear vision is needed to break through bureaucracy and align agencies around a common goal. Ideally the new change should align with the city’s broader objectives and priorities, leading to better outcomes and efficiency. Leaders must be vocal and active in their support for the project and set clear expectations of others.

The Key to an Effective Change Agent Network is Selecting the Right People

Change agents are individuals who are selected to represent their agencies throughout the project. They serve as trusted liaisons between the project team and end-users. Government change agents are typically assigned by leadership and are offered little incentive for filling the role. Therefore, selecting the right people is critical. Change agents should possess enthusiasm for, and an authentic belief in, the change. Change agents should be people-oriented, intuitive, and genuinely care about employee and agency success.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

Clear and consistent communication with employees throughout the change implementation is crucial for success. Government agencies often have independent and siloed work cultures, so frequent and broad communication can feel uncomfortable. However, keeping employees informed about what is changing and why, timelines, and setting clear expectations, helps to alleviate uncertainty and ultimately, reduces resistance.

Change Managers Must be Adaptable in Their Approach

From police officers to custodians, crossing guards, and social workers, when planning for change in government, it’s important to keep in mind that city employees fill a wide variety of unique jobs and may not have daily access to a computer. Change managers must be flexible when they come across these unique challenges and adapt accordingly. For example, for employees who do not have access to a computer, alternative training and communication methods may be needed, such as in-person options or posting flyers in breakrooms. Change agents are particularly adept at identifying their agency’s unique challenges and can help to mitigate the challenges.

Where Can I Learn More About Effective Change Management in City Government?

There are many unique challenges that city governments face when implementing large-scale change. Understanding these challenges can help change managers and leaders be more successful in their role. To learn more about effective change management, explore Avaap’s Change Academy.

Robyn McCullough is an Organizational Change Management consultant and a certified Avaap Change Lead. Robyn is an experienced communications and engagement manager specializing in large-scale public sector implementations. Robyn has a Master of Public Administration from the University of San Francisco and is also a United States Air Force veteran.