Founded in 1995, Catalyst Miami had a multi-pronged strategy to build capacity and resilience and advance social and economic mobility in low-wealth communities in Miami-Dade County. In 2017, in the midst of their strategic planning process, the organization faced a changing landscape and an important pivot point. In October of that year, Hurricane Irma avoided making a direct hit in Miami but triggered extensive evacuations and caused widespread flooding, power outages, and transportation issues that resulted in many people missing work for weeks. Tens of thousands of people living in Miami lined up outside local parks in sweltering heat, hoping to access post-disaster food stamps. This crisis highlighted the threat that climate change posed to Miami-Dade County’s low-wealth communities, the number of people combatting financial insecurity, and the need for an organization like Catalyst Miami.
As the organization was increasing in size and stature, the leadership team was reminded of the depth of the problems that Catalyst Miami was confronting, and the critical importance of seizing the moment to answer a set of challenging questions about their future. Among them: How should the organization structure partnerships and reinforce networks with other stakeholders to advance its goals? What changes needed to be made to the organizational culture and evaluation efforts? What should Catalyst Miami do to promote racial equity? How should the organization reinforce its existing efforts to help the community build resilience given the threat of climate change, reflected in part by increasingly severe storms like Hurricane Irma? Most fundamentally, how could the organization help low-wealth Miamians prepare for future storms, literally and figuratively?
Late one evening in January 2015, LIFT Founder and CEO Kirsten Lodal had just delivered a speech arguing that the organization was falling short of its mission of lifting people out of poverty permanently. From Lodal’s perspective, LIFT was largely serving as a safety net for people in crisis, helping to make poverty more bearable for the majority of those who walked through its doors. What LIFT needed to be instead was a sustainable springboard out of poverty. Lodal, and LIFT’s new CEO Michelle Rhone-Collins, believed LIFT needed to employ a two-generation approach and narrow its target population specifically to parents with young children to help people exit poverty for good. This would position them to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty at the transmission point.
This critical pivot marked the beginning of a multiyear transformation during which LIFT dramatically revamped its focus on racial equity, two-generation solutions, and building an ecosystem to achieve their vision. Along the way, Lodal, Rhone-Collins, and the leadership team grappled with challenging questions related to redesigning the organizational structures and culture, refining their outcome measures, and realizing a major transformation in value.
In 2008, when Scott Thomson became the Chief of the Camden Police Department, he faced an extraordinarily challenging situation. To begin with, he was taking over a police department that was tasked with ensuring safety in a municipality that was consistently rated one of the most dangerous cities in the country. Complicating matters further, he was leading an organization beleaguered by corruption, a lethargic culture, and extremely tense relations with the community (especially people of color). And as if that was not enough, Thomson, the youngest chief in the department’s history, was the department’s sixth leader in the past five years.
“We Want Guardians, Not Warriors: The Transformation of the Camden Police Department” tells the story of how Thomson completely reshaped policing in Camden, New Jersey. After initially providing the backstory of how New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram turned to Thomson to lead the organization, the case traces how Thomson stood up to recalcitrant union leadership, strengthened ties and built trust with the community, and effected a culture change within the rank-and-file. It then explores another transcendent moment: how in 2011, after the department lost 46 percent of its personnel in a single day amid budget cuts, Thomson stood up an entirely new organization, the Camden County Police Department. Within this new setup, the chief made a point to recruit a more inclusive force, continued to implement cultural change and prize community engagement, and leveraged innovative technology to become more efficient.
The end result was that, in 2019, when Thomson retired as chief, the Camden County Police Department was seen as one of the most innovative and community-oriented policing organizations in the country. Under Thomson’s leadership, crime had dropped significantly, the police department’s relationship with the community had dramatically improved, and the organization had even received a visit from President Barack Obama in 2015 to highlight its successes.
In June 2014, when Kathleen O’Toole became the Chief of the Seattle Police Department, she faced challenges on multiple levels. To begin with, she was taking the reins of an organization that was desperately in need of change. SPD had recently reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that had resulted in a court-ordered consent decree. In addition, even though O’Toole was a highly accomplished police leader who had led organizational transformations on multiple continents, she was an outsider in Seattle. She would therefore have to build up trust within SPD and the community. Finally, the organization itself was languishing from lethargy. The new chief discovered this at an early meeting when she asked precinct captains how SPD was doing with crime, and they responded, “Pretty good – we think.”
“Rebuilding Trust and Value: The Transformation of The Seattle Police Department” tells the story of how O’Toole navigated these multifaceted challenges and led the successful remaking of SPD. Initially, she focused on building relationships with the community, creating a leadership team that blended internal and external perspectives, and taking a variety of steps to effect a cultural shift. Having laid that foundation, O’Toole then found ways to generate new value by introducing revamped systems, processes, and technologies, especially as it related to data analytics. Finally, she concluded her tenure by ensuring that the reforms she had implemented would be sustained, most notably by working closely with DOJ and other leaders in an attempt to move the consent decree toward resolution.
By December 2017, when O’Toole announced that she would step down at the end of the calendar year, she had made an enormous impact on SPD and the community. Under her leadership, the city had consistently received high marks for its progress in meeting the requirements of the consent decree. SPD had also made significant progress on a variety of performance indicators, including decreasing the average response time to life-threatening incidents, enhancing the organization’s capacity to identify and respond to people in crisis and hate crimes, and curtailing officer’s use-of-force.
Early in his tenure, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts established process improvement as a key strategy to “create a more effective, more efficient, and more customer-focused state government.” To achieve this, state leaders first evaluated state models from around the country to help introduce more sustainable change that would help grow Nebraska. This led to the launch of a Center of Operational Excellence (COE) within the Department of Administrative Services, which has already trained over 12,000 employees, completed over 245 projects, saved over 290,000 verifiable hours, and had a significant impact on services to Nebraska’s citizens. This case study examines these efforts, and steps COE took to establish a new operating model, hire and train new staff, generate buy-in, and navigate competing priorities. It also examines how the team aligned political actors, fostered a collaborative atmosphere working across agencies, measured progress and public value, brought innovations to scale, and put structures in place to sustain progress.
In 2011, recently elected Michigan Governor Rick Snyder took office and decided to place a major emphasis on employee engagement, training, and professional development. To that end, the State of Michigan partnered with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to launch an employee engagement survey. This, in turn, led to strategic planning processes in agencies across the state as well as the creation of leadership and management development programs, employee recognition programs, and new surveys (including the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget’s agency Customer Satisfaction Survey). This case study examines these efforts. It studies the new Office of Performance and Transformation, which emerged in part from this initiative and took up the mantle on employee engagement, performance management, LEAN Process improvement, and Regulatory Reinvention across state government.
In 2014, the State of Kansas faced a perfect storm of aging infrastructure, budget constraints and challenges with recruiting and retaining technical resources. This case study examines how Kansas responded and became the first state to host Statewide Oracle/PeopleSoft Human Capital Management and Financial applications in a private managed cloud. It reflects on their approach to upgrading these systems in a timely and cost-efficient manner by creating a cross-departmental team and partnering with a third-party vendor. In addition, it examines how Kansas maintained momentum during gubernatorial change, including the succession by the Lieutenant Governor when Governor Brownback was confirmed as the United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, and preparations for another election in November.
In 2016, the Minnesota Department of Administration’s Office of Continuous Improvement led an initiative to assess and improve how the state manages its internal sustainability reporting and efforts. After some initial fact-finding, the team discovered there were unconnected reporting requirements, a variety of approaches to sustainability activities, and no coordinated effort to understand outcomes or identify opportunities for improvements. This case study examines how Minnesota responded and the Department of Administration’s newly formed Office of Enterprise Sustainability, in collaboration with the Continuous Improvement team, led a statewide project to build a streamlined and effective governance structure with state agencies to use. In particular, participants will examine how the team built a case for change, developed cross-agency relationships, managed initiative fatigue, led culture change components, and established new systems, structures, and processes. The case study also examines the legacy of this program during a gubernatorial transition.
Located in the heart of West Baltimore, Center for Urban Families (CFUF) serves an area that is beset with significant poverty, crime, and racial inequity. Founded in 1999 with a mission to “disrupt poverty,” CFUF has served more than 28,000 members, placed 3,779 members in full-time jobs from 2010 through 2016, and touched nearly 62,000 children whose parents were CFUF members. The organization has received national attention for its work, hosting President Barack Obama in 2013. During the visit, the President spoke about his upbringing without a father and lauded the fathers there for working with CFUF to change their lives. “For your sons to see you taking this path,” the President said, “that’s going to make all the difference in the world.”
Yet, the organization is driven to do more and has grappled with challenging questions as it has grown and evolved: What does the organization’s mission of “disrupting poverty” mean as the community’s extraordinary needs evolve? What form of outcomes does the community and its families need to achieve? How could CFUF redesign its governance model and organizational design to increase capacity? What information does CFUF need to evaluate and refine its programs more effectively? How could the organization leverage and expand on its existing corporate and non-profit partnerships? How could the leadership team build internal capacity and create a culture that maximized impact? In a racially charged climate, how could CFUF serve as a unifying force?
In 2013 as part of an effort to improve facilities management and customer service for tenants in state buildings operated by the Tennessee Department of General Services, and to do so at less cost, the state entered into its first comprehensive managed service contract. This case examines how Tennessee navigated this change, developing a comprehensive contract governance system, establishing contracted key performance indicators, and having the vendor put in place a work order request and a continual customer survey system. During the transition, the state developed strategies to address the existing workforce, track actual cost avoidance and benefits of the new program, and address concerns about existing service levels. At the conclusion of the first three years of its new contract, the vendor had already exceeded its five-year cost avoidance goals with a validated cost avoidance of $25 million (including utilities) and customer satisfaction levels far exceeding industry standards at a three-year average of 92%. As a result of this positive experience, involving only about 10% of Tennessee’s total real estate portfolio, the state began taking the program’s best-in-class performance and lessons learned and pursuing expanding its facilities management outsourcing to the remaining 90% of state facilities, including higher education.
Leadership for a Networked World’s applied research, student innovation challenge, and on-campus summit programs are an initiative of Dr. Antonio M. Oftelie, Innovation Fellow at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard (TECH), part of the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. TECH is a hub for students, faculty, alumni, and government and industry leaders to learn together, collaborate, and innovate. LNW accelerates these efforts by connecting leaders across sectors and developing cutting-edge thought leadership on innovation and organizational transformation.