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Transforming Public Services

by Tom O'Connor on November 24th, 2009
Our Iceberg Is Melting: Kotter's Parable For Change Management

Public Sector Changes: The Kotter 8-Step Model

The current reports from the OECD and its follow-on Task Force on The Public Service recommend a transformation of the public sector, principally by ramping up:

– the use of shared service centres
– e-government processes
– avenues for staff mobility and redeployment
– performance management based on outcomes and innovations.

Specific timelines for action have been set for each of these four dimensions. Some illustrative examples identified for early completion are as follows:

1. Shared Services
– Prepare roadmap to transition new customers to existing shared services
– Create model for new shared services in unexploited areas
– Determine feasibility & value for a shared corporate services centre

2. E-Government
– Agree & prioritise e-government targets
– Develop a single repository of key information on persons to be used by all
public bodies
– Extend existing facility for receiving payments electronically

3. Staff Mobility
– Design a new Senior Public Service category of leaders, who can move
seamlessly across the whole of government
– Design a competency framework & a leadership development programme for
– Agree arrangements to facilitate redeployment of staff & adjustment of employee

4. Performance Management
– Produce a performance management handbook establishing guidelines on
defining outcomes, targets & outputs
– Recommend changes to centrally imposed reporting requirements to focus on
outputs & outcomes
– Perform pilot study in one sector or sub-sectoral group to model an integrated
performance management system incorporating a number of cross-cutting
– Quantify & assess distribution of ratings under existing PMDS models to
strengthen & standardise across government

The Kotter 8-Step Model
Implementation of this Transforming Public Services (TPS) initiative is being managed & coordinated through the newly established OneGov programme office in the Department of the Taoiseach.

Early reports point to a well thought-out change management strategy, closely aligned to the early steps promulgated in the well-established Kotter model:

1. Establish a Sense of Urgency
– The current fiscal crisis leaves no option but to deliver more for less: reinforced,
as it is, with painful pension levies, pay cuts & tax increases, etc.

2. Form a Powerful Guiding Coalition
– A high-level TPS Cabinet Committee, chaired by an Taoiseach meets monthly to
lead the effort, giving it positional profile, credibility & clout.

3. Create a Vision
– A unifying vision (in an Taoiseach’s words: ‘guiding principles, headline actions
& ambitious timelines’) has been developed in the Task Force report, titled
Transforming Public Services: Citizen Centred – Performance Focused.

4. Communicate the Vision
– A kick-off conference in Dublin Castle, on 20th July 2009, was organised to
engage the wider public sector leadership, a dedicated website
( has been established and a quartely newsletter published.

5. Empower Others to Act on The Vision
– Dedicated Sectoral Centres have been established for each of: the Local
Government, Health, Education & Justice sectors.

Future Steps & The Role of Partnership
Navigating the final 3 steps in the Kotter model may prove more daunting:

6. Plan for and Create Short-Term Wins

7. Consolidate Improvements & Produce Still more Change

8. Institutionalize New Approaches.

The role of Partnership will probably be more pivotal than ever in bringing all these changes to fruition early.

And, certainly, the reality of the current fiscal crisis is not lost on the public sector unions, as they currently engage with government to identify savings that bring the least painful repercussions for their members.

This will be a tough balancing act: as the anticipated savings expected to flow from the TPS and the an Bord-Snip Nua initiatives are as an Taoiseach pointed out in his November 8th interview with RTE:

“medium to long-term … the immediate process is obtaining the monies”.

Accordingly, the recent reports suggesting that these current partnership negotiations are mostly concerned with balancing the necessary ‘bridging mechanisms’ (ie. savings in leaves of absence, overtime, increments and allowances) with the “TPS dividends” (ie. reductions in public sector numbers) are very understandable – and, hopefully, will yield the necessary win-win outcomes for the country.

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