SES Reform Implementation Tips
You may recall a blog piece from a few weeks ago describing President Obama’s recent Executive Order directing the Federal government to improve the performance and return on investment of the Senior Executive Service (SES). The order highlights succession planning, streamline hiring, onboarding, and development and rotations as focus areas as areas for improvement. Federal departments are deploying phased changes over the next few years, and the early adopters are now busy creating and refining processes for implementation.
I’ve had experience leading and supporting large scale organizational change initiatives. Recent experience with this SES Reform initiative allows us to share some best practices for implementing changes sustainably in your organization:
- Establish a clear vision for how your organization will implement and resource this initiative. Creating a clear vision at the top of the organization for addressing the requirements of the Executive Order is essential. SES members are tuned into the many ways an organization can show them they are valued. Being realistic about the amount of effort and support a change of this magnitude will require, and resourcing it appropriately, sends a strong message to the executive corps about how much they are valued. It also conveys how important this initiative is to the enterprise.
- Identify initiative leads to drive implementation of the changes. Designate skilled individuals to pull the team together that will plan for implementing the initiatives outlined in the EO. They can hold people accountable for creating the necessary policy, guidance, standards, and tools that will form the backbone of the process changes.
- Allow flexibility in crafting solutions for diverse sub-organizations within your department. If your department has a consistent culture throughout, a one-size-fits-all approach to complying with this Executive Order makes sense. But what if your organization is made up of sub-organizations with very unique subcultures? In that case, consider creating a department-wide solution that sets basic compliance standards, while providing room for agencies to tailor their solution to the requirements of the EO to meet the needs of the highly specialized subcultures.
- Emphasize Organizational Change Management activities in enacting the desired changes. People don’t typically embrace change easily. That may be true especially about senior executives who have grown up and become successful through the status quo. Soliciting input early and often from those who may be affected by the changes, and communicating frequently, positively, and honestly about the concerns they share will go a long way toward setting the tone for and selling the need for change to those who are most affected. This will foster adoption of new processes to help positively impact the culture of the organization in the spirit of the executive order.
- Ensure the implementation teams collaborate across work streams during the solution phase. The four topic areas offer high potential for overlap; for example, hiring and onboarding are great mechanisms to identify development needs and rotational opportunities, which feed succession planning. Aligning processes and activities strategically across work streams helps ensure that each SES member experiences an environment of continuity in which he or she is welcomed, supported, and empowered to model the mission of the SES Program within the Department in which he or she works.
- Publicize early “wins.” Communicate with individuals going through the hiring, onboarding, and development and rotations processes, and learn what has and hasn’t worked from their experiences and perspectives. Adjust processes as needed, and when you receive positive feedback, use that to create a success story and share that with the rest of the SES cadre to help build momentum in implementation.
How have you approached responding to the Strengthening the Senior Executive Service Executive Order? If you work outside the Federal government, what implementation tips do you have to share regarding succession planning, streamlining the hiring process, onboarding, and development and rotations practices?
We’d like to hear from you in the comments section below.