The community often has specific expectations about the best use of public financial resources, how to invest for the future and how to improve service delivery. This places pressure on you as a senior executives to have a vision and a plan for agency reform, as well as access to the skills required to manage the change process.

To be successful at leading change, you must effectively:

  • assess the environment to develop a compelling vision for change
  • create a change plan that enables successful execution and encourages ongoing commitment
  • demonstrate leadership behaviours that create the right environment for change.

Developing a compelling vision for change

Considering a broad range of perspectives will allow you to define your vision for the future and deliver greater public value.

In driving a reform agenda, you should consider things through:

  • The customer imperative lens: What do the users of your services require, and how are their needs changing?
  • The public lens: What are the wider community expectations for your area and how are they changing?
  • The Cabinet, policy and legislation lens: What are Cabinet’s priorities? What policy and legislative requirements do you need to take into account? What is in the Government's plan?
  • The financial lens: What are the broader economic and market conditions? What are the cost management, revenue and funding expectations in your area? 
  • The technology lens: How can you use technology to drive greater public value and ensure efficiency?
  • The workforce lens: How is the workforce changing? What capabilities will be required in the future? Is the current workforce culture conducive to delivering your plans for the future?

Change management planning

Once you have created a change agenda and the relevant stakeholders have agreed to it, it is crucial that you effectively manage the change process. Although there are many models for creating change (see 'Further information' for some examples), any good change plan includes a few basic steps:

1. Prepare

Help others see the need for change and the importance of acting quickly. You will need to show them:

  • why the status quo is no longer acceptable
  • the downsides of not changing
  • the  benefits of changing
  • how change will affect individuals
  • who needs to be consulted to gain buy-in for the idea.

2. Plan

Plan for what will change and how you will get there. You will need to factor in:

  • content - business processes, culture, products, services, strategy, structure, systems and technology
  • people - emotional reactions, changes in mindset, behaviour and culture; how to engage people in the design and implementation processes; and how to ensure commitment and capacity to change.
  • process - a high-level road map to get you from where you are today to where you need to be.

3. Executive

Execute the plan and monitor progress. This phase is your opportunity to:

  • lead from the front by actively championing the change
  • define key performance indicators and set new behavioural expectations
  • get new teams and processes up and running
  • build capability
  • manage conflict and resistance
  • monitor change processes and achievements
  • communicate - comprehensively and frequently.

4. Adapt and sustain

Effective change management involves altering what's not working and working out how to sustain the change. You can do this by:

  • leading  from the front to reinforce commitment to the change
  • gathering  data to provide evidence for what's working and what's not working
  • engaging your change management team to rework your change strategy if necessary
  • setting new expectations to raise the bar following any initial successes.

The role of leadership in change management

As a senior executive, you have a critical role to play in driving change within your team and agency. The NSW Public Sector Capability Framework describes the leadership behaviours you will need to demonstrate to successfully drive change. Specifically, the 'Manage Reform and Change' section details how to support, promote and champion change, and help others engage with change. Broadly speaking, the following steps are essential to a successful, sustainable transition.

  • Establish a continuous improvement agenda that defines  high-level objectives and translates them into practical implementation strategies. In developing this agenda, you should:
    • regularly scan the environment for change imperatives and opportunities
    • create a 'future state' vision
    • involve your team and key stakeholders when creating measurable change objectives
    • create practical implementation plans with key milestones and target completion dates.
  • Build staff support for and commitment to the announced change, while planing  and preparing for long-term organisational change. Don't forget to focus on the wider political, social and environmental context. This should include:
    • consulting widely with staff members about the purpose and impact of your planned changes
    • building  commitment by enabling staff members to express their feelings about the change, and giving them time to process what the change means for them
    • openly discussing any changes in the wider political, social and environmental context, and the implications for your area.
  • Create an organisational culture that actively seeks opportunities to improve by:
    • asking staff members for constructive suggestions about how to make changes in the future
    • creating opportunities for staff members to self-assess the need for change
    • encouraging a team culture in which respect for each other enables individuals to share new ideas
    • creating a 'safe to fail' environment where new ideas are encouraged, implemented, assessed and adapted.
  • Anticipate, plan for and address cultural barriers to change at the organisational level. You can do this by:
    • assessing  your team’s 'change readiness' by analysing the cultural factors that may enable change and those that may hinder it
    • creating a plan that makes the most of the positive aspects of change, and minimises the negative factors
    • addressing  individual concerns
    • developing systems of accountability for change among your staff members, and seeking out early adopters or opinion leaders to help you build commitment to change.