When a professional company employs someone it provides the appropriate training to equip that person to do the job. It’s an investment that strengthens both the organisation and the individual.
When someone is elected into public office we automatically expect them to have the necessary skills.
The recently introduced Household Charge is a classic example of how things go wrong when change management is lacking. 1.6 million Irish home owners were expected to pay €100 by 31st March 2012, however 50% chose not to do so for various reasons. The government stated it was forced into an aggressive timeline due to a commitment given to the IMF by the previous government.
In the private sector this would be viewed as a project in a critical condition, and if it was a supplier-client relationship the uncomfortable subject of penalties would be on the table. As it is we’re looking at additional public expenditure and ongoing issues as the problem gets handed over to local authorities.
One of the core roles of a minister is to introduce change. The minister is the primary sponsor and holds overall responsibility for seeing those changes through to conclusion. Change management encapsulates a set of disciplines necessary to deliver change in a successful manner, and is designed to prevent the type of difficulties experienced with the household charge.
If the principles of change management were fully employed Ireland would not have agreed to a timeline until the full scope and parameters had been defined, and a detailed implementation plan produced and approved. The IMF might not have liked it, but they would have understood the language and hopefully respected the professionalism.
Ireland has to make a number of major changes over the coming years, and attention to detail will go a long way in achieving objectives. Government ministers don’t need to be project managers, but it would be beneficial if they knew exactly what to expect from those who manage change on their behalf.