Charles O. Rossotti was the Internal Revenue Commissioner from 1997 to 2002. In his book, Many Unhappy Returns, he tells the story of “one man’s quest to turn around the most unpopular organization in America.”
I’m always interested in reports of “lessons learned” and this is one of the best, especially as I reflect on our own transformation—how far we have come and how much farther we have to go. Every one of Mr. Rossotti’s basic beliefs applies to our own situation. Successful change:
- Means improving the way an organization performs its mission on behalf of all of its stakeholders and rejecting an either/or model of performance.
- Means getting the right people in the right jobs.
- Requires the right measurements and incentives.
- Depends on moving to an organizational structure, business practices, and technology that are up-to-date and aligned with the needs of customers.
- Requires knowing what is really going on where it counts—on the front line.
- Requires open and honest communication inside and outside the organization.
- Requires change, not just communication about change.
- Depends more on having the right governance, leadership, direction, and authority than on rules and mandates.
- Has its limits—set by the broader constraints of the context within which it operates.
Customer focus, the right people, listening to the front line, excellent internal and external communication, and more action. Sound familiar? If you’ve been keeping up with the Transformation, this should ring some bells! We may not be the most unpopular organization in America, but we are tied for worst place to work in the Government. Let’s all work to turn that around.