Magazine article Policy & Practice

Framework for the Future

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Framework for the Future

Article excerpt

I recently began my second year serving as secretary of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services by running the Capitol City Marathon in Olympia. As the miles got longer and I thought the hills would never stop, I so appreciated the department staff who gathered along the route to cheer me on. Their support reminded me that I am blessed to be working with the best people as we lead and navigate our way through the worst economy since the Great Depression.

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We worked hard last year to develop what we call our "Framework for the Future." It is our roadmap for how we are answering Gov. Chris Gregoire's challenge to "reboot" for the 21st century. We are aligning our budget, strategic planning and performance metrics to make ourselves accountable for bringing our "Framework" to life. While we, like most of you, still have to reduce budgets and staff, we recognize that following the path out of this crisis requires us not just to spending, but to have a longer-term view and find sustainable solutions for the future.

I consistently ask my employees and other partners, "Will you join me in leadership?" How we truly engage our employees, communities and key stakeholders will be key for how state human service agencies emerge from this time stronger, not weaker. We believe in the resiliency of people and it is that same resiliency we must model now with abundance. I frequently remind my team that we are learning to walk with sand under our feet and change is here to stay. But there are more opportunities than intractable problems. This is the time for us to think anew, experiment, trust one another, and innovate in ways we never thought possible.

Our "Framework" calls our varied administrations, divisions and programs to function as "one department" and provides clarity for what we need to do and how we need to function as an organization. Actions such as leveraging knowledge and resources, taking performance measurement and transparency to scale, agencywide risk reduction, intentionally engaging our employees and the public and building strategic alliances and partnerships across sectors that build the capacity of our communities are examples of our day-to-day focus. We have adopted a departmentwide impact statement that reminds us that we must do our part to reduce poverty, improve safety and health and increase employment and educational success. This may be a lofty impact statement in this budget environment, but we believe there is no better time for us to be about these ultimate outcomes. …

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