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Change the Language To Change the Culture

Change the Language To Change the Culture

"The biggest human resources challenge we face in Government is changing its culture," stated Morley Winograd, Senior Policy Advisor to the Vice President and Director of the National Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR) in his March 2000 speech to Office of Personnel Management (OPM) managers and supervisors. "The current culture is hierarchical, process-driven, internally focused, ‘stovepiped.' We need to create a culture that is more empowering, results-oriented, integrated across boundaries, and, above all else, externally focused.... At NPR, we're interested in changing the culture of Government by changing its conversation — when you change what people talk about, you change the culture."

Balanced Measures

How can agencies change what people talk about? Winograd suggests that agencies change what they measure. In addition to focusing on the results of their operations, agencies also should include measures of customer and employee satisfaction. He calls these three aspects the "balanced measures." By focusing on these measures, the agency will change the conversation from things like budgets, activities, headcount, and process, to topics such as customers, commitment, accountability, and outcomes.

Winograd called upon the audience to commit to using balanced measures. He especially encouraged them to focus on customers and employees. "In fact, the two go hand-in-hand, because you can't treat your customers any better than you treat your people." He stressed that OPM can set the tone for these changes and encouraged those present to "Do it now and watch the culture shift."

The challenge for agencies is to develop effective performance measures that support mission goals, provide resources to their managers, and encourage early intervention to resolve employee performance problems. These principles will result in a Government that is "a compelling place to work."

Progress in Change

Winograd noted that others are joining in this new conversation to transform the workplace. The Administration has reaffirmed commitment to support labor-management partnerships. The General Accounting Office views employees as assets and will include human resources functions in its agency reviews. At the same time, the President's Management Council has supported effective performance management. Its members have pledged to clearly communicate expectations, establish accountability, and take timely action. "It is time to build on this momentum," stated Winograd.

Winograd ended with a plea to the managers and supervisors to help create the model 21st century workforce so that "reinvention becomes a permanent part of the culture of Government—so it's embedded in everything we say and do." He encouraged the audience to "change everyone's conversation by changing your own."

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