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  • Writer's pictureRosanne Leung

Navigating Complexity with Ease: Compartmentalization as a Public Sector Leader

As a leader in the public sector, are you experiencing any challenges around entrenched bureaucracy, work being done in siloes, rigid structure and processes, all while the pace of change in your environment is accelerating?  I have good news - these challenges, although often deeply rooted in organizational structures, can be effectively tackled with simple and effective management strategies.  

As we look ahead to this fiscal year, the concept of compartmentalization will be a vital tool for addressing these challenges and transforming potential roadblocks into opportunities to build momentum and power progress! 

High angle view of young asian person working in office using desktop computer
Photo by imtmphoto

Tackling Core Challenges through Compartmentalization 

Borrowed from psychology practices, compartmentalization offers you a strategic method to manage complex tasks by breaking them into smaller, more manageable segments. This approach can be super effective, especially in more structured environments. Let’s go through what can be done with compartmentalization.  

1 - Breaking Down Structured Environments: 

We all know organizations can get caught in being overly structured. Compartmentalization enables you to dissect these larger structures into individual components, or more simply put: bite-sized pieces. For instance, a large project can be divided into distinct phases (spoiler alert: we recommend a 90-day world, but more on that below), each with their own SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely) objectives. This makes the overall task less daunting and more achievable. 

2 - Overcoming Bureaucratic Inertia: 

So-called bureaucracy, leading to slow-moving progress and delays, frequently come up as pain points experienced by employees in the public service sector.  By applying compartmentalization, you and your team can pinpoint specific cumbersome processes and revise them. This targeted approach allows for incremental changes that can lead to reductions in red tape and increased agility. 

3 - Addressing Resistance to Change: 

When things have been done the same way for awhile, there can be hesitancy towards new initiatives, often stemming from a comfort of what is familiar. Change can be difficult, uncomfortable and uncertain. Compartmentalization offers a way to slowly introduce change. Again – bite-sized steps! This gradual approach helps people and teams adjust to new ideas and processes over time, reducing any anxieties. For example, introducing a new technology system can be compartmentalized into phases like training, trial runs, and full implementation, allowing employees to acclimate at a comfortable pace. Keep your team involved in the process to keep them engaged and in the loop!

4 - Implementing Strategic Planning with Compartmentalization 

Break it down while laddering it all up! To see the full benefits of this practice, take compartmentalization a step further by integrating these smaller tasks into a coherent strategic plan. Setting SMART  goals for each compartmentalized segment ensures that each step is clear, achievable, and aligned with the organization's broader objectives.  


Quarterly Reassessment: 

Reassessing goals and strategies every 90 days is a key aspect of this approach. As a leader, you can guide your team to adjust their strategies in response to changing circumstances, learnings from the team, and evolving organizational needs every quarter. At the end of the 90 day period, you get to evaluate results, i.e., what worked and what didn’t work. Then you can use what you’ve learned to set new objectives for the next 90 days. You can forget about the past (other than the lessons you learned) and just move forward. A 90-day rolling basis allows for this compartmentalization to be dynamic and responsive. Again – we want to avoid structures and processes that are too rigid.  

As you move into 2024 as a leader in the public sector, the ability to effectively compartmentalize complex tasks and get your team on board with it will be a game-changer. Your big (and daunting tasks) will be simplified and your working environment will be more agile and responsive to your rapidly changing environment. By breaking down barriers, streamlining processes, and introducing changes in a structured yet flexible manner, you can enhance operational efficiency and cultivate a forward-thinking, adaptable organizational culture. 


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