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Dispelling the myths preventing government transformation

Find out how leaders are addressing these myths head-on to achieve government transformation.

Overview

With increasing budget pressures, public service organizations can no longer delay fundamental reforms that are required to meet the demand for delivering public service for the future. Accenture recognizes that government transformation is challenging, even more so due to the complex stakeholder environment in the public sector and the need to achieve varied outcomes. As a result of these unique pressures and despite the overwhelming need for public sector reform, it remains limited today.

Several myths that are deeply rooted in public sector culture contribute to the challenge. To be successful, public service leaders must address these myths as they contemplate how to improve performance in their organizations and ensure a lasting legacy.

Background

For governments worldwide, sweeping government transformation is necessary to effectively manage increased unemployment, an aging population, and other factors currently compounding the demand for services. There is a radical need for governments to transform their models of delivery to improve service levels for citizens and to face today’s fiscal challenges.

Accenture’s Delivering Public Service for the Future research reveals significant structural shifts and opportunities where government transformation can help public service organizations provide improved delivery, as well as a balance between services and the cost to provide them. Radical government transformation, although not always the popular option, is necessary to resolve this crisis. Successful government transformation can help leaders fulfill their promise to constituents efficiently and cost-effectively. Today’s public service leaders must take bold steps toward a new vision of public service for the future.

Analysis

In our work with government departments and agencies all over the world, Accenture has encountered universal myths regarding government transformation which stand in the way of evolution and provide a convenient set of reasons for avoiding action. Following are common myths and ways public service organizations can achieve government transformation if leaders are committed to change and address these barriers head-on.

  • Myth: “My organization cannot afford transformation.”
    Cash-strapped governments do not have great freedom to invest in every opportunity, but innovative supplier contract arrangements are making it easier to fund transformational projects. “Value-based’ contracts, where the supplier and the public organization share the upfront investment, are one example.

  • Myth: “My organization does not have time for transformation. We have too much else to do, and we need results now.”
    A predominant perception is that government officials have too many urgent priorities to also deliver on a long-term strategy for government officials have too many urgent

priorities to also deliver on a long-term strategy for government transformation. However, depending on specific circumstances, there are more appropriate and more effective solutions to this challenge. For instance, where there are opportunities to realize considerable savings through economies of scale and economies of skill, a shared service program can deliver a more flexible government transformation solution while allowing the organization to retain control.

  • Myth: “Our organizational culture is incapable of change.”
    There is a persistent perception that government organizations cannot change internal behaviors, or that significant change would cost too much – or take too much time – to truly deliver value. The reality is that change can and must happen. There are many levers that organizations can pull—both cultural and structural— to help navigate this journey and add significant value now and in the future. These include performance management frameworks, leadership development programs and departmental mergers.

Recommendations

Lingering deficits and high liabilities will continue to create a cash squeeze for governments. A strategic approach for government transformation is essential for public service organizations to leverage their ability to deliver more efficient, flexible and high-quality services. Facing reduced budgets, demographic changes and rising citizen expectations, governments can no longer afford to wait to transform, and should not allow these myths to stand in the way of real action.

Several critical success factors must be considered as governments begin the journey to high performance:

  1. Accountability and strong management, in the form of a center of excellence or delivery unit, to drive results and maintain pace.

  2. The right collaboration—including value-based commercial arrangements to address funding constraints—to kick-start the journey and ensure its long-term benefits.

  3. Clear direction and leadership support from the top to ensure the government transformation approach is communicated and reinforced throughout the entire organization, underpinned by a transformational roadmap.

Government transformation is challenging but its results are revolutionary, creating a real opportunity to drive deep, meaningful change – sustainable, long-term value for governments and the citizens they serve.