Step 1: Create A Vision

You may have a clear vision of what you want to make happen, or perhaps your supervisor or a leader within your agency assigned you the task of creating an agile workforce initiative within your agency. In either case, the first step is to create a shared vision of what you are working on and its intended outcome. This will take some time and involve a lot of people, but the steps are simple and there are others who have done this before who are here to help and support you.

A) [Recruit a mentor] from another agency B) [Write your own problem statement] C) [Define your goal]

Remember, in creating this vision, reflect on the parts of your agency’s culture that are positive, that make it unique, and fold those things into your message. Make it part of your program planning.

Recruit a mentor

GovConnect team can introduce you to potential mentors. Recruit a mentor from another agency that has successfully implemented an agile workforce program to help guide your agile team through the planning, designing, and launching of the new program. Visit their agency, talk to people who were involved (both supervisor and employees) to get a feel for how this works. Along the way, mentors will offer their own insights to help define the problem statement, goals and program, and you can integrate those ideas in whatever way makes sense for your program. Make sure to communicate to your mentor what you are learning. If you run into specific challenges, it is likely that someone in the GovConnect network has run into a similar challenge and it will be helpful to hear their story.

Write your own problem statement

We’re all solving the same pattern of problems. Your problem statement will help focus your team in developing the specific program that will work best for your agency.

Outlining the problem that needs solving is a team effort and is also a great way to start building a community and aligning key stakeholders.

Create key steps:

  1. Learn about the problem
  2. Find people who care about the problem (“key stakeholders”) and more people affected by the problem
  3. Meet in groups of three to five people for short workshops
  4. Synthesize your findings into a single problem statement
  5. Gather feedback and iterate (as needed)

Real problems, those that are hard to solve such as how the federal government works, never really change. They’re persistent throughout time, but new solutions can be created, sometimes enabled by new technologies and other opportunities. At first, it may seem like everyone has a different problem, but after a little while you will see patterns emerging.

Ideally, problem statement development involves senior leadership, supervisors, fellow employees, and union representatives. The more different kinds of stakeholders involved in defining and planning a new program, the greater its chances are for success. Involving diverse folks from your agency ensures the final problem statement lines up with your agency’s overall mission and culture.

Define the problem statements

Leaders of successful pilot programs within the federal government reported that creating their own problem statements was very helpful as they developed their programs. GovConnect Phase 1 research identified the following problems:

  • Current workforce is disengaged and their skills are underutilized.
  • Inability to recruit a modern workforce to tackle the current needs of the government
  • Employees unable to properly practice or use skills, which then degrade over time, or the employees end up leaving public service
  • Employment Viewpoint Survey (EVS) Scores show employees feel their ideas are not valued Your new program team can use problem statements to justify your efforts as you work to create a new program that is a good fit for your team’s culture and organization’s mission.

Identify stakeholders and research the problem

Before a team begins to research the problem that is preventing a team, department, or agency from being more agile in getting projects done, the team needs to identify the stakeholders to include in the overall design of a program. Once these stakeholders are identified, it’s important to work with them in a collaborative environment to get past the obvious issues and discover the real problem that’s preventing employees from better utilizing their time at work.

Below are suggested activities from Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers that the team can run to define the problem statement in an inclusive manner. All of these activities attempt to do the same thing, so it’s up to the team to determine which activity best matches their personal interest and agency culture:

5 Whys

“The 5 Whys activity mirrors that motive to move beyond the surface of a problem and discover the root cause, because problems are tackled more sustainably when they’re addressed at the source,” according to the Gamestorming website, which features tools for designers, inventors, and other creative people.

Speed Boat

“Speedboat is a short and sweet way to identify what your employees or clients don’t like about your product/service or what’s standing in the way of a desired goal. As individuals trying to build forward momentum on products or projects, we sometimes have blind spots regarding what’s stopping us,” according to Gamestorming. This activity “lets you get insight from stakeholders about what they think may be an obstacle to progress.”

SWOT Analysis

“In business, it can be easier to have certainty around what we want, but more difficult to understand what’s impeding us in getting it. The SWOT Analysis is a long-standing technique of looking at what we have going for us with respect to a desired end state, as well as what we could improve on. It gives us an opportunity to gauge approaching opportunities and dangers, and assess the seriousness of the conditions that affect our future. When we understand those conditions, we can influence what comes next. So, if you need to evaluate your organization or team’s current likelihood of success relative to an objective,” according to Gamestorming’s website on the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis.

Cover Story

Cover Story is an activity about pure imagination. “The purpose is to think expansively around an ideal future state for the organization; it’s an exercise in visioning. The object of the activity is to suspend all disbelief and envision a future state that is so stellar that it landed your organization on the cover of a well-known magazine. The participants must pretend as though this future has already taken place and has been reported by the mainstream media,” according to Gamestorming about this activity. This activity is worth playing “because it not only encourages people to ‘think big,’ but also actually plants the seeds for a future that perhaps wasn’t possible” before the activity was performed.

Based on this future view of the “world”, the problem that needed to be solved can be pulled out of the imagined success the team has had.

History Map

“Organizations naturally look ahead to anticipate progress. But the past can be as informative as the future. When an organization undergoes systemic or cultural change, documenting its history becomes an important process. By collecting and visualizing the components of history, we necessarily discover, recognize, and appreciate what got us where we are today. We can see the past as a guiding light or a course correction for our future,” according to Gamestorming about this activity, which also shows participants “how to map moments and metrics that shaped your organization. It’s also a great way to familiarize new people with an organization’s history and culture during periods of rapid growth.”

Define your goal

A natural companion to a well-defined problem statement are key reasons why an agile workforce program will benefit an agency and contribute to its long-term success. Think about the outcomes you want to see and create a statement of your goal. The information used to help define the problem statement can also be used to define the success criteria and overall benefit of the new program. Writing down your goal will help inspire your team and keep you focused as you create your program.

Here are some ideas:

  • The ability to grow and maintain an engaged workforce
  • An environment that encourages and supports creative ideas and solutions
  • Employees have the ability to create their own solutions to problems that plague the agency or department
  • Increased EVS scores, achieved by allowing employees to better utilize their skills and maintain better control over their professional development
  • Employees have the chance to learn key leadership skills and experience by leading small, low-risk projects
  • Increased employee productivity due to the introduction of new efficiencies

Before you finalize your goal, review Step 6: Measuring Success and brainstorm ways that you might measure the outcome. Feel free to use words that inspire you and your team, even if you aren’t exactly sure how you will measure them.