public sector I recently heard a speaker ask, “What do you believe that you wish you didn’t?”

It is a question we’re all being forced to consider these days as we go about the important work of redefining public sector employment. The expectations of a guaranteed pension, rich benefits, and a secure job are being replaced with fears about pension reform, rising health care costs, and government layoffs.

The traditional structures of government are no longer sustainable. Our personnel systems, our delivery systems, and our policies and processes will not be effective in the future. If we don’t start re-creating, public agencies will perish.

When I heard the speaker ask his thought-provoking question about what I believe that I wish I didn’t, he was really challenging the preconceived ideas we have about the status quo.

Our new reality in government is one we’ve never experienced before. Yet, it presents us with a window of opportunity to redefine the way we’ve been doing our work.

In the public sector, some agencies have fallen into the belief that the status quo is good (or at least good enough).  Yet, Kevin Eikenberry framed it well when he said, “Status quo requires no leadership.”  We are facing challenges like we’ve never seen before in the public sector, and the need for a leadership stronger than ever. The public sector workforce is what will get us to a new and improved state.  However, they can’t help you take your organization “there” until you have conveyed your vision in the most tangible way.

The reinvention of the public sector workplace begins with questions that force us to acknowledge the beliefs that are getting in our way. Questions like:

  • What have we always done that we won’t be doing anymore?
  • What policies or practices are no longer serving us?
  • Can we meet citizen needs in a new way?
  • How can we help employees “let go” of the beliefs that prevent them from moving forward?

These questions require us to think big and to question the tried and true methods that have brought us to this point. The way we’ve always done it is not going to work in a future driven by technology and transparency.

What would happen if you asked your team the four questions above? What if we honestly explored a new future for the public sector? If you’re not challenging the status quo in your agency you’re not leading. Which leads me to another question for you: “What do you believe now that will help you shape the future?”

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