Wednesday, July 24, 2024

The Importance of Organizational Change Management for Federal Health Agencies

This interview with Chetan Paul, Health Group Vice President – Technology & Innovation at Leidos and Patty Peterson, Leidos’ Chief Nursing Officer and DHMSM Transformation/OCM Lead discusses the importance of user engagement and experience to digital transformation, the complexity and scope of moving to a user-centric culture, and why that change must be both organizational and operational.

Addressing the Dreaded “Change”

The word “change” brings uncertainty – a fear of the unknown. For agencies that are also under pressure to deliver on their mission objectives, to stay within their budgets, and to serve user demands more efficiently, there is more added pressure.

Any kind of change must first identify the business/mission value for the agency as well as what the change intends to deliver. Effective change occurs when stakeholders understand the identified value, how creating the value stream points toward the change, and the necessary steps to accomplish the effort. This understanding helps users visualize the path forward, creating confidence.

Users also benefit from change champions within their ranks – peer mentors who will help them understand how they will be supported through the process and the resulting improvements.

The change champions can clearly and continually reinforce why the change is occurring to enhance the overall environment and reduce resistance. In considering change, thoughts should include how it will impact people, what it will mean to them, and why the change will be beneficial. All this messaging should start at the organizational level and then be embraced by management levels to communicate directly with the teams.

Best Buy-In

Any change within an organization needs a balanced approach. Even if there are long-standing working relationships with a thorough understanding of the environment and even future needs, driving new efforts based on existing assumptions could conflict with a very different end user reality.

The most effective change comes when there is internal buy-in that starts with end users. Engage with the stakeholders that will be impacted to brainstorm those ideas. You may be surprised by what you hear, may find the situation is not exactly as you had imagined, or you may not be aligned in your perception of the user’s needs. That stakeholder engagement may provide a completely different point of view from what you had considered.

A solid stakeholder analysis can help identify who will be impacted by any proposed change, and it should include internal and external components at all levels, including leadership. Once you have defined everyone involved, you are better prepared to populate the elements of change, the value of the change, and the potential communication paths.

It is also important to meet stakeholders where they are to understand the best method, the best forum, and who is best to communicate the messaging.

As you are working through a change journey, a feedback mechanism that captures a user’s experience can help support an agile process that filters activity and value streams as things change. It is important to look at goals constantly and how they may be impacted by feedback in real world implementation.

Agile as Part of Change

While the idea of try early, fail, and move on may be common, it may not be the right strategy when considering organizational change. Instead, it may require that you pause, consider feedback, and adjust the process. It may even require looking holistically at goals and whether forward movement should be continued.

Even when you may not have a choice about whether the change is implemented, you can still pause to consider the approach, to re-evaluate communication patterns and engagement. Are you working with the right people, the right tools? You cannot ignore unhappy or disengaged stakeholders, and it may require strategy changes to achieve the desired results.

Training or knowledge sharing sessions can also help stakeholders see the bigger picture, change their perspective, and clarify concerns.

Culture and Mindset 

The culture and mindset of the workforce or the agency are the two most critical factors that will dictate the success of change. Start with a transparent, introspective look at the current way of working and identify what works well, the challenges, and the ideal future state. Find the differences between the current state and possible future and translate the necessary change into a value stream to identify the training and skills needed to enable users to achieve the future state.

It is also important to evaluate past changes within the organization and consider what worked well and what did not and why in each case. If a team does not trust a leader because something previously did not go well, that can stop any further change before it even has a chance to begin.

To be successful in managing expectations, we must always remember it is not about telling people what they want to hear but explaining limitations and focusing on the positives and what can be achieved.

Eliminating Silos through Industry Partnerships

Processes within agencies can impact their ability to make good use of data. Often this comes down to organizational units or subcenters. Taking a federated approach to the challenge of multiple units or subcenters within an agency can be a good starting point for the agency.

Industry comes into play with these efforts as well. We are seeing more industry partnership through concepts such as a marketplace offering for common solutions. Think of grants management processes where players with different niche specialties come together with an integrated or shared services solution for Government or commercial customers. When we can bring together those siloed approaches from industry, collaboration will continue to grow and Government—and the public— will benefit.

Advice for Government

Before Government initiates any kind of organizational change, it is important to look at mission objectives, business capabilities, and end goals. That business capability model should be your North Star for moving ahead.

Focus on connecting people and technology to the mission by taking a human-centric view to help the change organization to understand the importance of the mission. You must always put the user first by being accessible, inclusive, and enabling. Designate a change champion from within the stakeholder group to help drive the message and communicate feedback. Ensure the messaging is reinforced throughout the journey through updates on progress.

Think about interoperability first. Often, we are focused so narrowly on a specific value stream that we forget to look at interoperability as part of the change journey. How does this change improve or restrict our ability to share or access data from others?

Remember that no one knows better than the staff doing the work what can be done differently. They know where the data goes, what the workflow us, what is broken. Incorporating their input from the start is critical.

Advice for Industry

A lot of companies will focus on their capabilities, emerging technologies, and solutions as if they are digital transformation steppingstones. They often miss connecting the dots with an agency in the context of their environment, their users, and their mission.

How will those components enable the mission? What is the business value you can drive? Industry must remember to focus more on the internal agency interest in relation to their technical offerings as they are presenting their capabilities.

It is also important that industry understand their own technology or product challenges. Know up front not to overpromise and underdeliver and know that you may need to partner with someone to achieve the desired goal. Consider how can you use other industry partners to strengthen your own capabilities and then understand what you can achieve.

About Chetan Paul, Health Group Vice President – Technology & Innovation, Leidos

Chetan Paul is an innovative, hands-on IT executive with 22 years of experience. He is responsible for technology implementation, execution, independent research and development oversight, and incremental innovation through phased organizational change management for health and life sciences programs at Leidos.

About Patty Peterson, Chief Nursing Officer and DHMSM Transformation/OCM Lead, Leidos

Ms. Peterson brings more than 25 years of experience in commercial and Federal healthcare operations and consulting. As a trusted leader, she provides executive-level clinical support and guidance to critical program initiatives with a focus on organizational performance and clinical quality improvement.  Patty earned a master’s degree in nursing and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Illinois Medical Center.

About Leidos

Leidos is a Fortune 500® technology, engineering, and science solutions and services leader working to solve the world’s toughest challenges in the defense, intelligence, civil, and health markets. The company’s 43,000 employees support vital missions for government and commercial customers. Headquartered in Reston, Virginia, Leidos reported annual revenues of approximately $13.7 billion for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021. For more information, visit


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