Transforming Change into an Invitation to Innovate

Part of the nextERA Voice Series

ARTICLE | Aug 16, 2018
by Pam Davis

Over the past six months, our City Council approved a new strategic plan, I got a new boss, adopted a dog, got married, moved to a new apartment, hired an intern, changed my last name, and started several new projects. As you can imagine, I have been thinking quite a bit about change.

We all know that innovation demands change to be successful. An improved process to deliver services requires new behavior from the employees who support it. Technological advances call for existing systems to adjust to maximize benefit. A groundbreaking policy necessitates a new administrative structure that can execute to create tangible impact. How we manage change for ourselves and our organizations can significantly impact the rate and sustainment of innovation adoption. However, the relationship between innovation and change also flows in the opposite direction. Change often demands innovation so that people and organizations can adapt to a fresh paradigm.

You may be familiar with The Next Big Things, an Alliance for Innovation study of the four forces (resource availability, technology, demographics, and governance) and 44 trends that could impact local government in the next generation. These represent widespread change that we will all be faced with at some point. How we choose to prepare for and react to these changes will certainly determine our community’s long-term viability. My hope is that we do not simply aim to keep our ships afloat in the face of these forces, but view change—big or small—as an opportunity to transform how we work and rethink the ways we can support our communities.

In the city of Goodyear, Arizona, we are embracing a variety of changes as invitations to innovate.

Leadership Change

Earlier this year, Goodyear City Council hired a new city manager following our previous manager’s retirement. Like most change, leadership change is met with a mix of emotions and expectations. Having a new leader onboard is a great opportunity to assess the health and structure of the organization and identify potential improvements. After the first few months in her role, our manager and the organization as a whole is well poised to innovate in several areas: we are creating a standalone Communications Department and exploring enhanced resident engagement, we have made improvements to the way our leadership team interacts, and we are excited to find new ways to align our performance management activities. Taking advantage of a new perspective leading the organization has encouraged us all to reexamine the status quo and question how we can do better.

Economic Change

Goodyear is synonymous with growth in our current economic climate. We are less than 15% built out with over 190 square miles in our jurisdiction, which means we have a frenzy of development activity. For example, the number of single family housing permits in April 2018 were nearly double the 2017 monthly average. Keeping up with this demand is a challenge when we are not adding staff members at the same rate. So how do we build capacity? Innovate! Our team in the Development Continuum (Economic Development, Community Development, and Engineering Departments) are embracing Lean Management tools and principles to find ways to not only manage their workload, but improve the customer experience in the process.

Workforce Change

It’s no secret that changing workforce demographics are posing challenges to service delivery across the public sector. Relying on traditional approaches to recruitment, learning and development, workforce planning, and employee policies will not guarantee sustainable success. Goodyear recognized the need to do human resources work differently, and has been working to create and implement the People Master Plan. Since 2015, this living plan has provided the framework for innovative approaches to improving our organizational culture and supporting our greatest resource and asset, our employees.

Whether you are moving to a new work space, or grappling with growing social divides in your community, I encourage you to embrace the forces before you as opportunities. You never know when change is an invitation to innovate in disguise.

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