CFO Sykes helps NASA manage change

For Gwendolyn Sykes, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s chief financial officer, e-government is personal—as personal as a paycheck.

Sykes says she “really, really likes the [e-government] initiatives because they make my tax dollar go further.” And as a single woman with no children, Sykes sees a lot of her dollars go toward taxes every month.

Take E-Payroll, one of the 25 e-government initiatives. Sykes likes seeing E-Payroll’s highly tangible benefits. Instead of the federal government using 26 pay systems, E-Payroll has consolidated them into four service providers. “It’s kind of like Costco,” Sykes said. “You’re buying in bulk.”

Most people are wary of change. To assuage NASA employees’ nervousness about the transition to E-Payroll, Sykes and her team focused their efforts on communication and hands-on demonstrations.

“Not only do you have to communicate, but it’s how you do it,” Sykes said. “You have to make sure they know about the impending change.”

Managers also have to show people what the specific impact of a change will be on them. “When you’re trying to move the cheese, the biggest fear is, ‘What’s it going to do to me? How is my world going to change?’ ” Sykes said. “Give them an opportunity to do the change.”

For example, back when PCs first moved into the office, Sykes’ first thought was, “ ‘What am I going to break?’ It wasn’t until I could get my hands on [the PCs] in a test environment that I could say, ‘Yes, it’s a change, but it’s something I can manage.’ ”

This hands-on testing is the piece that is often missed in change management, Sykes said. With E-Payroll, Sykes and her team ran a test and showed each payroll manager what the new time cards and paychecks would look like.

“All in all, I believe the e-gov initiatives are the key elements for moving ahead,” she said.

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