The Department of Labor’s Change Management

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Control over job allocation, labor market analysis, and other crucial aspects of employment at the national level are urgent tasks that the US Department of Labor (DOL) performs. Over more than a century of existence, the DOL has managed to develop its structural base significantly and organize individual systems and desks regulating different areas of the labor market. However, in the context of such structuring, the department faced the issue of dissociation among its structural elements. Cooperating with Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm, helped transform the stagnant operational algorithms of the DOL and was an important step towards positive changes. Despite the barriers and numerous challenges in different vectors of work, the transformation course proposed by the Booz Allen team turned out to be valuable and objective. The emphasis on the implementation of relevant IT solutions allowed the DOL to move away from a stagnant functioning model.

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The DOL’s Background

The department in question is a board with clearly defined principles and strategies of work. According to the considered case study, the official mission of the DOL consists of several components (“U.S. Department of Labor,” 2020). In particular, the department seeks to promote, foster, and develop the well-being of citizens of different categories from the perspectives of providing adequate working conditions and ensuring mandatory benefits and bonuses. Compensation policies, workers’ safety and health, and some other relevant activities make the department an important federal board (“Summary of the major laws,” n.d.). As customers, job seekers, wage earners, and retirees are the target audience. Due to its work, the DOL controls the employment and financial issues of all designated classes and serves as a regulatory board.

At the same time, despite the responsibility of these forms of control, specific challenges and constraints in the department became the reason for introducing a course for change. In 2011, the Booz Allen team was invited as the group of consultants identified dissociation among the DOL’s 26 units, which, in turn, caused poor collaboration and inefficiency (“U.S. Department of Labor,” 2020). In addition, the IT infrastructure was underdeveloped, and the inability to unify the digital work industry had a negative impact on productivity. These challenges pushed the consulting firm to reorganize the DOL’s IT operations and implement the transformation strategy. All 26 agencies were involved in the IT infrastructure modernization plan, and the leaders of these units were the key stakeholders.

Problem Context

Specific political and organizational factors had to be taken into account when developing the transformation strategy. According to the case study, political aspects played a more decisive role (“U.S. Department of Labor,” 2020). The DOL’s agency leaders were prepared to act as the key stakeholders; nevertheless, at the federal level, there were restraints. Initially, Booz Allen Hamilton could not count on the unification of the IT infrastructure, but a new governmental guidance concerned the possibility of centralizing the IT area, thereby making it possible to implement the plan. As the other stakeholders, one should also recall the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management, the Deputy Secretary, and the Secretary (“U.S. Department of Labor,” 2020). The first two supported the plan proposed by Booz Allen Hamilton, but the Secretary doubted the high costs were justified in the absence of real guarantees of success. However, after updating the legislative framework, his view changed in the general direction.

As a crucial constraint, one should mention the “people problem,” the issue that consisted in individual agencies’ reluctance to move to an updated operating strategy for fear of disrupting a traditional operating mode and security. The unwillingness to transform the way of working made it difficult for the team to rally and created additional challenges to integrating centralization strategies into the IT infrastructure. Thus, in addition to political issues, organizational aspects were also critical.

Challenges and Solutions

While taking into account the aforementioned issues, one should pay attention to some other barriers that hindered the successful implementation of the transformation plan. One of them was insufficient financing caused by the unwillingness to allocate funds for a dubious development strategy (“U.S. Department of Labor,” 2020). This approach testified to the lack of stakeholders’ understanding of the importance of the transition to more advanced IT infrastructure. However, the most significant barrier was the intention of the DOL management to implement a development strategy for each individual unit, which, in turn, contradicted the ultimate goal of centralizing the work of the agencies (“U.S. Department of Labor,” 2020). Poor engagement slowed down the optimization process, and individual HR departments across four agencies made it difficult to establish open and consistent recruitment and retention policies. As a result, the Booz Allen team was able to fine-tune the transition to an updated strategy only after the budgeting and accounting changes in 2017.

One of the main lessons to be learned when analyzing the start of the work transformation in 2011 is the relevance of bringing teams together to achieve a common goal. Disunity and individual motives hinder the implementation of the final plan and make it impossible to centralize any of the operating modes, including the IT infrastructure. As change management activities to invest in, the best solution would be to sponsor the training and education of the staff to create a single implementation course instead of promoting it in separate teams. According to Peters (2018), productive labor-management relationships contribute to retaining and engaging employees, which, in turn, were urgent tasks to realize at the beginning of the transformation phase in the DOL. Such an approach could provide an opportunity to create a favorable organizational environment in which each participant would understand the importance of completing the assigned tasks and had a chance to make a personal contribution.

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Conclusion

A stagnant operating model that existed in the DOL before the cooperation with the Booz Allen team was reorganized to centralize the IT infrastructure and boost the digital industry. The reason for the transformation was the disunity among the agencies and the impossibility of establishing a single interaction mechanism. Despite the barriers and constraints, in particular, the unwillingness of individual leaders and employees to optimization and the disunity of the team, due to changes in federal legislation, relevant proposals were implemented. In particular, the legislation aimed to centralize the IT area allowed for the implementation of the necessary changes without fear of disrupting budgeting and accountability mechanisms. Training and educating the staff were important steps to unite the team and help achieve the set goals together.

References

Peters, J. (2018). Inside the Department of Labor. Enslow Publishing, LLC.

U.S. Department of Labor. (2020). Georgetown University.

Summary of the major laws of the Department of Labor. (n.d.). U.S. Department of Labor. Web.

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