Improving change capability within the public sector

With an unprecedented large-scale increase of change activity across the Public Sector, it is imperative that central government departments and public sector bodies equip themselves to be able to successfully deal with this.


Ensuring that their organisations have the required change capability to shape, mobilise, deliver, and control change is a key priority for public sector leaders. So, how do they approach this and what are the key areas to focus on to establish the necessary capability to support their change agenda?


In our experience, there are three things that public sector leaders need to do:



Review and re-design your change operating model


The way Public Sector organisations deliver change continues to evolve in line with best practice. Different change delivery models, including Agile, are driving innovation and effectiveness, and combined with on-going improvements to existing approaches, this is driving new approaches to delivering change across the Public Sector – often resulting in a ‘hybrid’ change operating model. 


It is important that Public Sector change leaders make conscious design decisions on the most appropriate change operating model for central government departments and Public Sector bodies. Four key steps are vital to achieve this: 


  • Establish a set of design principles which set out the criteria your change operating model needs to deliver against 
  •  Identify potential options for your change operating model and assess their respective strengths and weaknesses against your design principles 
  •  Develop your preferred change operating model option by considering all the aspects that will make it up, including processes, roles, organisation structure, technology and culture 
  • Focus on those critical capabilities that your organisation needs to support the delivery of the change operating model. 


A clearly articulated and consciously thought through change operating model is fundamental to building the change capability needed to deliver the increase in change demand on organisations within the Public Sector. 



Build and buy the necessary skills and experience 


Public Sector organisations must compete with their private sector counterparts for change delivery ‘talent’ in the market. This is challenging particularly with some of the real, and perceived, barriers around reward, career development and flexibility, autonomy, and freedom to act within change roles. 


Inevitably, a mixed economy of attracting and retaining people into the Public Sector and working with suitable external partners is the only viable option to ensure the right level of change skills and experience for delivering your change agenda. This will involve: 


  • Working with your People and Recruitment teams to identify and select candidates that will bring the right skills and experience to your team and continue to develop within the Public Sector for years to come. This will be challenging with often lengthy recruitment timescales and difficulty in recruiting senior and experienced people to make the right impact but ensures a long-term investment in building Public Sector change capability
  • Engaging with external consulting partners to insert multiple, highly capable experts in a short period of time to create maximum impact. This will mean a significant outlay in up-front costs but can create a galvanising effect to increase stakeholder confidence and drive forward the Public Sector change agenda at pace. 



Proactively manage your change portfolio 


With an increased volume of change for Public Sector organisations to deal with, it is critical to build the organisational-wide capability to oversee and assure this. As Public Sector leaders, you cannot assume that just because you have individual change initiatives under control then your overall change portfolio will manage itself. If you don’t get this portfolio-level control in place: 


  • Poor decisions will be made from incomplete or incorrect information, without a single version of the truth running across the portfolio 
  •  Dependencies will not be understood and tracked, resulting in unexpected delays and frustrations from your delivery teams when expected inputs don’t arrive 
  •  You will execute your programmes in the wrong order, and not maximise the speed of value delivery to the business 
  •  Value will erode, as overall cost increases, confidence decreases, and change becomes irrelevant within the wider business. 


A small, but highly effective, central portfolio management team will often be required to facilitate this. 



Do you need change expertise? 


At Project One, we help and support our public sector customers to assess their change demand, prioritise their portfolio and deliver their most critical change programmes. Our team of change experts have years of experience and work with senior leaders to provide independent change support through every step of their change journey. If you would like to discuss your specific challenges and our public sector experience to see how we can help, please get in touch.

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