By Steve Kelman

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The Lectern: At the risk of shameless self-promotion ...

May I call the attention of readers of this blog, particularly those outside of Washington, D.C., to an article on the Federal Page of today's Washington Post. It concerns some research I conducted, with the sponsorship and collaboration of Booz Allen, on success factors for agency executives executing major strategic change.

Unlike much research on what allows people to succeed in government — which looks only at successful cases, and therefore can't really draw conclusions — we compared successful executives with a control group of less-successful ones and ones who were otherwise similar, but didn't attempt major strategic change.

(Looking at successes only is limiting because if you find that successful change agents did certain things, but don't consider whether less-successful ones did the same things or different ones, you can't conclusively show that the strategies used in the success stories were necessarily the cause of the successes.)

The headline conclusions are that those successful at executing major change were different from others not so much in their use of change management techniques, but in their use of traditional, standard good management techniques, such as using performance measures, doing strategic planning and focusing on a small number of goals. Agencies with successful leaders were also likely to be way below the governmentwide average in political appointees as a percentage of all agency managers.

Check it out — either the Post article or the draft of my academic paper on the subject, available on my Web homepage at www.ksg.harvard.edu/fs/skelman.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Jul 08, 2009 at 12:08 PM


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