The execution issues that plague governments are highly visible: IT programs that cost too much and take too long, infrastructure projects that are poorly managed, inefficient processes that lead to unsatisfactory levels of service. At the same time, governments everywhere are under pressure to perform increasingly complex functions with fewer resources.
Investment in employee training can be part of the answer–but training programs often fail to produce the desired effects: McKinsey’s analysis of more than 900 major change initiatives in the public sector indicated that 61 percent did not yield the hoped-for impact. This research shows that a major factor in such cases is a lack of the skills, mind-sets, and behaviors critical to sustaining change. Furthermore, agencies’ heavy reliance on contractors atrophies the skills government organizations need to improve execution. One focus of MCG’s research, therefore, will be how agencies can use contractors effectively without becoming wholly dependent on them.
Drawing on research that includes more than 300 executive interviews and a review of 2,400 capability-building projects, as well as McKinsey’s extensive experience supporting capability-building programs worldwide, MCG has developed perspectives on the capabilities that government organizations need to excel in four critical areas: project management, purchasing, processes and customer service, and strategic planning. By building capabilities in these areas, government agencies can manage more effectively and avoid the most common pitfalls related to IT, operations, and strategy.
We have defined five guiding principles for capability building that government leaders should keep in mind:
Strongly linked to value generation and impact
Training programs should build capabilities that have immediate on-the-job applications, so that participants get a clear sense of how their new skills will help bring about quantifiable results.
Implemented at both the individual level and the institutional level
Effective capability building requires the development of specific skills in individual employees, as well as the institutionalization of tools, processes, and management infrastructure to sustain change.
Tailored to the specific requirements and starting point of the organization
A capability-building program must be built around a profound understanding of the organization’s gaps and challenges, thus ensuring that the right capabilities are built at the right levels.
Grounded in adult-learning principles
Adults learn best through action, experience, and reflection. Interactive learning formats, repetition, and consistent coaching are crucial.
Scaled up and institutionalized through processes, tools, and people
From the start, a skill-building program must involve the people who will “own” the capability-building process for the long term.
Research and collaboration
Our practitioners are continually generating new insights into core functional capabilities such as technical excellence in IT and operations, as well as cross-cutting capabilities such as leadership effectiveness, performance management, and talent management. In collaboration with 20 advanced-learning companies and experts in the fields of memory research and behavioral psychology, McKinsey has developed a series of training modules (including e-learning sessions and videos) on capability building. At McKinsey’s experiential learning environments, including “model offices” and more than 10 capability centers around the world, leaders can deepen or refresh their understanding of how to drive lasting change.
MCG invites senior government leaders to visit our model offices; experience our e-learning modules; and engage with us in our regular forums and workshops on centered leadership, agile leadership, and change leadership. For more information or to discuss potential collaboration, please contact us.