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During a November address to top executives attending The Conference Board's 2004 Change Management Conference, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James discussed the importance of change in keeping an organization vital in today's world.
"In the more than three years I have been Director of OPM, we have experienced more significant changes in the way we operate, than we did in the previous 25 years," said James. "We have evolved from a small out-of-the-way agency, to one that is responsible for managing a number of new initiatives and programs that ensure that we have a workforce that is prepared for any challenge it is given."
James, who is President George W. Bush's principal advisor on matters of personnel administration and security for the 1.8 million members of the federal civil service, also discussed one of the major challenges faced by the federal government since September 11, 2001.
"Since the horrible events of September 11th, I have been given one of the biggest challenges this government has ever faced...engineering one of the largest personnel mergers in history...bringing 180,000 employees and 22 different agencies into the new Department of Homeland Security," said James. "This was a merger that combined different cultures and different human resource services - included negotiations with a number of different unions, and of course, required consultation with, and approval by, our Congressional oversight committees."
An important change OPM made to take on the challenge of "starting up" a new agency included "getting rid of the stovepipes" - streamlining its own operations to make the agency more efficient.
While James stressed the need for change, she also reminded her audience there isn't any "one way" to achieve it.
"There is one lesson we learned in that (DHS) overhaul which provides a good example of how change can be achieved by not always following the old rules," said James. "You must be willing to bring in new ideas from wherever you find them. I spoke with a lot of people with a lot of different approaches. I read a lot of books, always looking for new ideas. What are some of the basics for change? Considering all the options, investigating new ways to do old things and trying out different ideas."
In closing, James said: "I believe in results and in change. But let me tell you what has not changed. The sturdy and reliable United States Civil Service has stayed intact, and is protected, and provides the service to the American people they have come to expect. We are here. Running the government. Providing the services our citizens need and deserve. From one political administration to the next, through wars and dramatic economic cycles, even assassinations and resignations, the federal workers who are the underpinning of American continuity have not changed their dedication to a life of sacrifice in the government service. And I am honored to be one of them."
Our mission is to Recruit, Retain and Honor a World-Class Workforce to Serve the American People. OPM supports U.S. agencies with personnel services and policy leadership including staffing tools, guidance on labor-management relations and programs to improve work force performance.