The Clearing thrives on helping leaders solve the most challenging issues facing our world today. With shifting workforce desires, changing technology demands, and a need to balance both, Clearing CEO Tara Carcillo offers her thoughts on what 2023 holds for federal leaders – and what they can do to increase their odds of success.
Looking Back at The Clearing’s 2022 Federal Engagements, What Surprised You?
Two big surprises come to mind. First, when I think back on our federal engagements in 2022, one surprise was the amount of relearning and innovation we’re requiring of federal leaders as we emerge from the worst of the pandemic. What I mean by that is leaders were tasked with holding a lot in 2022 – without the space or time to really think through the challenges facing the government in our new normal.
Specifically, that lack of space (clearings, as we call them) results in leaders not being able to stop and name all the things they’re being required to rethink and relearn – for themselves, and then to redesign their organizations so they can operate effectively in today’s environment.
And while not a surprise, this is complicated by the federal government’s competing priorities in its approaches to sharing information across agencies and leaders in a fashion that even comes close to the speed of information sharing in the private sector. For example, a private sector leader would find the pace at which one agency can share information with another positively glacial. This means leaders often can’t expediently share best practices that would help their peers navigate the sea of changes occurring. We see this acutely in agencies charged with ensuring safety and regulatory compliance amidst the rapidly expanding number of entrants into our air space.
For example, we sat with federal clients in 2022 who don’t have the mechanism or ability to share essential information across their agencies to tackle issues like the redesign or repurpose of real property to meet many agencies simultaneously, this requires intra and inter-agency collaboration to create an effective solution. So, leaders are not only challenged in their ability to share information rapidly across their organizations, but also to innovate, collaborate, and execute on their original mission in that same environment. As we said, it’s a lot for any leader to hold.
Now for reality number two. At The Clearing, we focus on people-first solutions to problems. Along with that, we stress the importance of human-to-human connection in establishing the trust required to solve complex issues. So, a pleasant surprise was that despite years of Zoom meetings and ever-improving digital communication tools, many of the leaders we work with still see the value in human connection.
In speaking with clients, I’m finding many leaders believe simply stopping and talking to each other or employees is irreplaceable.
Anecdotally, we are observing that even with the best technology platforms people don’t always feel like they are developing the trust they need with one another to successfully meet mission objectives and manage risk in the fast pace operating environments they face every day. As we continue to help organizations navigate the new normal in their workplaces, our consultants will assist leaders in finding this socio-technical balance. While this balance will differ between organizations, the output is similar: maximizing tools and technologies while determining the right level of human interaction to drive genuine dialogue and connection.
How is The Clearing Leveraging These Learnings in Client Support in 2023?
With the emerging duality between technology and human connection, leaders will require a more equitable balance between connection and efficiency in executing within their agencies and organizations. The way through that is the right access and use of both quantitative and qualitative data. Data provides groups the opportunity to react to information and make sense of it, and then make decisions or conclusions as a result – including workplace decisions.
For The Clearing, that means our data team and organizational consultants will continue to work in close partnership in service of our clients. There are new opportunities in what data and human centricity offer those responding to or driving change in the public sector, and as noted above, there are tools like social network mapping and the organizational dynamics it can reveal, as key component change strategies. We know how to both reveal and drive innovation across diverse stakeholders – this is a condition all senior public sector leaders face.
In such an instance, we don’t just look at the efficiency of the government process as the most relevant metric. We would also look at the data associated with a program’s risk landscape, employee experience, and customer experience to derive a holistic view of where the balance between technology-driven efficiency and human-to-human interaction sits for a particular organization.
What Do You Anticipate Being the Most In-Demand Service for Federal Leaders in 2023?
Defining the workplace of the future that is right for a given organization. People come to The Clearing because we tailor our proven methods to the circumstances our clients face. Following on from above, I see one of the greatest needs as the ability to apply insights gained from customer or employee experience data and translating it into habits and practices that are scaleable across lines of business. The Clearing’s Solution Areas are set up to provide the cross-functional support required to meet these types of challenges, and when combined with our data team, uniquely positions us to offer clients a level of service and insight others can’t.
What are the Biggest Challenges Facing Federal Leaders in 2023?
First, the nexus of information sharing and workplace tenure. For a long time, the federal government has gotten around the difficulties of agency-to-agency information sharing (noted above) thanks to relationships between long-serving employees. However, that lack of technical underpinning will become an even bigger problem in the coming years. Here’s why.
We’re now facing a transition of the workforce. People are retiring, which means you now can’t share information across your digital platforms and you don’t have that individual to call whom you’ve worked across agencies with over years of service. That’s why I keep focusing on this duality between technology and human interaction. I don’t know how much longer the federal government can do what it needs to do and solve the problems it needs to solve without a better solution.
Another challenge I foresee is resetting norms around the movement of human capital. Historically, folks joined the government and stayed in government. The value proposition was steadiness, dependability, and reliability. However, the longer we hold on to that norm, the more we get disconnected from the expectations of emerging workforce cohorts, including younger workers who don’t see the same value in staying somewhere forever.
If our government’s systems are set up to reinforce the “staying,” I think it will just keep battling itself. But if instead, we changed the mindset about what is the right duration (for staying at a particular agency) or how quickly we might want someone to move from position to position, I wonder what possibility that affords the government? There is a lot there if looked at as an opportunity – seeing the value in broad experiences, making it easier to shift in and out of government work, or bringing private sector knowledge to public service.
If You Could Offer One Piece of Advice to Leaders in 2023, What Would it Be?
You are not alone. The dynamics today’s leaders are experiencing within their teams and organizations are much bigger than just their teams and organizations – it is pervasive across industries and sectors. I think that taking the time to implement consistent new behaviors that allow people to rebuild trust with one another will be critical as we emerge into new ways of working while still executing our missions.
If you have found your organization struggling to make sense of a confusing landscape, The Clearing can help. I would love to hear what is happening and help you formulate a plan to thrive in the future. I can be reached anytime at email@example.com – I look forward to hearing from you.