It has been said that the slowest systems to change are often organizations in the public sector.  However, it was interesting to hear how Accenture drives change in the public sector and the perspectives from Kristin McElderry, Accenture Management Consulting Executive based in Boston who works with Public Sector and Higher Education clients.  In this Thought Leader Series talk, entitled Managing Change in Public Sector Transformation, McElderry touches upon why change management is critical, how the public sector is unique, and highlights a framework to leverage the next generation of communication methods.

As McElderry voiced, “public sector work isn’t always the sexiest work,” … “but it is work that really matters.


Why change management is critical


What would be considered public sector work that matters? McElderry offered several examples of how change has transformed the way business is done. She described the importance of developing a communication and alert system for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, MBTA, improving the RIDE paratransit service for people who can’t take standard transportation services. Accenture also supported the formulation of COVID contact tracing in Massachusetts and across much of the US.

Through the creation of a virtual reality simulator, McElderry helped to train caseworkers in child support services to practice interviewing the members of a household where a child was at risk. Another example can be found in generating a NYC 311 as an official call center to help New Yorkers be in the know for their city. Last but not least, it might seem simple, yet moving a government agency off of paper for licensing and into digital processing is a major change. This meant no more touching of those faxes, now trades people can complete the necessary paperwork online increasing efficiency to get people working.

(video length 3:11)

McElderry shared that Accenture recently announced their new brand, Let There Be Change.  She emphasized the importance of change being managed. In the following brief video, McElderry advocates why change needs a driver, it just doesn’t happen.

(video length 1:32)

Is change management unique within the public sector? YES, it is!


Why the public sector is unique


McElderry distinguishes why through her discussion of three specific areas: behavioral and cultural, political, and structural.   For many of us, there is comfort in stability; others thrive on innovation and change. Change agents need to be aware of their audience in order to address their behavioral and cultural mindsets.

Many public sector organizations are hierarchical with a clear line of power and decisions flowing from top down.  As change agents, it is vital to analyze the political and structural dynamics within an organization. Knowing where you stand can help with mapping out the most effective path to change. Review the following video to hear Kristen McElderry sharing her views on the public sector resistance.

Unique Public Sector – Managing Change

(video length 5:32)


A human-centered change approach


What is an effective approach in managing change in the public sector? McElderry offers insight into the difference between a more traditional approach of change management and the evolution of the human centered approach.  This new human centered approach is grounded in the ability to be agile and pivot based on user or customer experience. In the following recording, McElderry summarizes seven key points with their objectives and outcomes in implementing a human centered approach.


Additionally, McElderry designed thinking activities that can support the team working on the change management. She emphasized the visioning of the team should start with common goals and purpose. In the following segment of the , McElderry maps out a couple of resources to promote an effective path for team success.

One technique illustrated is the development of a user profile in the change management process. This profile, along with additional ones within the target audience, can help to predict the needs and considerations for the members going through the change. Another helpful tool is creating a department change journey timeline (see the same in the video below).

The next step in the change management process is establishing a change network with stakeholders throughout the public sector. Key elements in the change network process include leveraging relationships, increasing engagement, providing visibility, promoting communication, and encouraging learning.

In the learning aspects of the change management process, McElderry highlighted the value of adopting the modern adult learning practices, such as interactive engagement, byte sized information, visuals, and collaborative opportunities.  Lastly, the change management campaign and communication strategy are vital in bringing it all to life.

(video length 25:08) 

In closing, the talk with Kristin McElderry has offered a great deal of food for thought related to considerations about the public sector and change management processes.  Moreover, the communication strategy is a critical component throughout the change management process. The table below highlights the best practices for communication professionals to apply.

Managing Change in Public Sector Transformation

It is clear that innovation is not a one-time process, but iterative, especially in the public sector often having a shift in stakeholders. Thanks to Kristin McElderry and Accenture Management Consulting for sharing their expertise.

Author: Patty Goodman, Faculty


#changemanagement #publicsector #humancentered #communicationstrategy #organizationalcommunications #thoughtleader


Posted by Patty Goodman, Faculty