Government Transformation: Leaning Forward Leads to Change


Building a resilient, engaged, energized and motivated workforce is the first step toward government transformation.  One way to build resiliency is to encourage employees to Lean Forward.

Lean Forward Poster

Federal employees (and their managers) must be willing to participate in the dialogue that leads to lasting solutions.  Employees should seek out opportunities to learn something new and push themselves to find the most efficient and effective way to solve our government’s problems. It takes courage to try a new approach and challenge the way things have always been done. But it’s that questioning and challenging of the status quo that leads to real improvement.

Both internally at our company and externally with our clients, COE encourages its employees to Lean Forward. And this just isn’t a metaphor. Every day, staff members are asked to treat this phrase as a verb. COE consultants are challenged to sit forward at the table, engage in the conversation, listen actively, participate in the solution, speak up when there’s an idea. Even if their suggestions aren’t adopted wholesale, engaging in the conversation is the first step to creating a solution.

COE had the chance to inspire this mentality through our work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). One of the strategic objectives of FSIS is to enhance food safety by taking steps to reduce the prevalence of food borne hazards from farm to table. For many years, this goal was accomplished by imposing food safety regulations through inspections and policing packing plants for compliance. This led to a culture in the meat packing industry of avoiding punitive enforcement versus looking for ways to efficiently improve food safety. COE helped both the agency and its constituents change their approach by co-locating inspectors at plants and partnering to educate, inform, and proactively prevent safety violations before they happen instead of punishing after the fact. By leaning forward and changing their approach, the FSIS reduced costs, increased compliance and ultimately produced better quality food products for the American people.

The FSIS project is a perfect example how resilient employees with the capacity to lean forward can inspire true government transformation that leads to real problem solving.

So I ask you, “How will you lean forward today?”


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Steve Goodrich is the president and CEO of The Center for Organizational Excellence, Inc. (COE). He has over 35 years of leading organizations and advising top government and private sector leaders in organizational effectiveness strategies to improve performance and effectiveness. Steve’s passion for excellence is the foundation for creating and guiding COE to serve the American people and care about its clients, employees and partners. As a well-known thought leader, Steve is routinely sought out by organizations and federal thought leaders, including FedNewsRadio, to speak on effective ways to transform organizations. As part of his commitment to fundamentally changing government, Steve serves as a co-founder and vice chair of the Government Transformation Initiative (GTI). GTI’s primary focus is to support passage of legislation that establishes a non-partisan Federal Board to oversee and direct the transformation of federal government programs, functions and activities so they are more efficient, effective and economical. He has served on the White House Committee for Educational Reform, is currently the Vice Chair of the Association of Management Consulting Firms, and is often found on the speaking circuit.