As agencies wait to see how the Trump administration is incorporating reform plans into the fiscal 2019 budget, the battle between slashing costs and improving performance intensifies. Will agencies take a “quick-fix” approach to meeting budget requirements and achieving reform goals or will they make intelligent, data-driven progress towards sustainable change? From what we are seeing in the news and hearing on the hill, the jury is definitely out.


This month's takeaways on agency reform:

  1. Government leaders lack confidence in their organization's ability to transform, citing skill gaps and poor manager development as primary issues. Read more
  2. Meanwhile many agencies continue to decrease the size of their workforce through buyouts and early retirement, which only exacerbates the problem. Read more
  3. For agencies to evolve, successful change management is paramount. Leadership must focus on clear communication, workforce alignment, and a dynamic approach to expectations and development. Read more
  4. Agency reform isn't just about what to change. It can also be about what not to do. Achieving true change means being aware of the orientations, actions (or the lack thereof), decisions, and approaches that can kill or diminish the effectiveness of reform. Read more
  5. It is a mistake to think about shared services as infrastructure cost avoidance. They can be a lynchpin for successful reform initiatives, hitting the "sweet-spot" between fiscal tightening and mission accomplishment. Read more
  6. True change will not be accomplished with big picture ideas. Reform really begins with a comprehensive, detailed program inventory that examines fit, effectiveness, and efficiency of every agency program. Read more

Hopefully this compendium of the most recent thought leadership and insight into agency reform will provide some actionable ideas for execution at all levels. What are we missing? What else should we be talking about when it comes to government reform? Share your feedback and ideas for future e-newsletters with us at

The silence from the White House on the reform plans submitted by agencies makes it hard to tell if this Administration’s transformation effort will go the distance. Stick with us as we continue to capture progress and news and help drive the true change needed for a more efficient and effective government.

Best regards,


The orientations, actions (or non-actions), decisions, and approaches that can kill or diminish the effectiveness of reform. (excerpted from COE president’s recent book, Transforming Government: From Congress to the Cubicle)

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COE president, Steve Goodrich, lays out what true government transformation looks like, “I am not expecting perfection, but what I would like to see is true commitment, an effective approach, and systemic change that sticks.”

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The good news in the performance movement is that increasingly, the collection of data is less of a problem. But the next step is huge—getting people to use the data.

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The go-to place to keep up with agency announcements about how they are meeting reform requirements for downsizing and reshaping their workforces.

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Making Government More Efficient

Real Clear Policy | October 26, 2017

Shared services is not simply a way to save money, but a way to get government to work better for its citizens.

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A Blueprint for Improving Government's HR Function

Government Executive | October 24, 2017

Reforming government will involve significant change and HR can be a strategic resource helping to drive transformation through innovative HR leadership and practices. Learn more about how Tennessee’s Department of Human Resources is stepping up to excellence.

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Government Has a Career Leadership Problem

Federal Times | October 5, 2017

A survey of SES government leaders reveals a negative outlook on agency ability to carry out reform goals and improve performance.

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Contributed by COE Consultant Anna Weldon

This article is part two of a two-part series. In part one (featured in the October newsletter), we discussed human capital strategies to ensure a high-performing workforce with the capacity to operationalize the reform initiatives within and across agencies.

The dust has settled. You have the right workforce. Now what?

Once all human capital changes are in place, agencies will need to be mindful of attending to employees. As significant changes occur, agencies must be alert for changes in their workforce and have a plan for  those who are leaving, as well as those who stay. While the steps for taking care of those employees who leave an organization are fairly obvious, many agencies have a less structured approach for the remaining workforce. The workforce in place after reform initiatives are executed will need clear expectations for new roles that should be defined for each employee. It can be easy to leave old position descriptions in place, redistribute the work done by departing employees and call it a win. Systemic reform, however, can only take place when every player is fulfilling the role they have been chosen for, or the outcome may never reach full effectiveness. Employees should be equipped with the skills to carry out their role in the newly evolved organization and should understand how their work contributes to the improved efficiency and effectiveness of mission delivery. These are core requirements for employee engagement and driving factors of long lasting reform.

Throughout the entire reform, workforce planning and change management process, there needs to be buy-in. This might not be immediate, as employees will tend to feel cautious, but strong leadership, demonstrating through their actions the culture shift needed to achieve lasting outcomes will be essential to creating that engagement.

While much of the government workforce is successful, changes will inevitably occur that require making tough employment decisions. It’s best to keep communication clear during this process, stay centered on the goal of building the right workforce for the agency, and provide each employee with the development they need to meet their goals and ensure successful implementation of lasting reform.

Check out more INSIGHTS on Agency Reform!