Keeping Pace in the New Transportation Space

Mastering the art of change management at publicly-run transportation agencies.

Government organizations are often seen as being change-resistant and mired in inefficiencies due to ingrained processes and bureaucratic decision making. Federal, state and local public transportation agencies , are not immune to these challenges. However, the world is embracing organizational change faster than ever. During this new era of rapid change, the transportation industry has been thrown recurring curveballs: emerging technologies like drones and self-driving cars add numerous layers of complexity for regulatory entities; and disruptive ridesharing businesses have upended traditional taxi and public transport companies. Moreover, competition for market relevance is forcing transportation-based organizations to face the very real possibility of a workforce shortage as retiring employees can’t be replaced.

In addition to transportation industry-specific challenges, public agencies face a unique set of barriers preventing change. Leaders are often appointed because of deep technical expertise and/or political connections, resulting in skillsets and experience that don’t often lend to swift or effective organizational change. Agency heads typically lead for a short timespan – the average length being 18-24 months – offering limited periods to implement and oversee new programs. Culminating in the change management dilemma are the rules and regulations that are non-existent in private businesses – a factor that restricts flexibility in government organizations.

Public entities are warming up to the idea of updating their methodologies to compete in their rapidly changing industry. A first-adopter, the Florida Department of Transportation created their own division of Organizational Change Management. The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority established an enterprise-wide Change Management Capability Building Program, encouraging change practitioners to inform business transformation initiatives and build change networks across the organization. But, the act of deliberate and managed change is still an outlier in the public sector. Change management isn’t just about developing set-in-stone solutions. Instead, it’s about creating a proactive framework that inspires organizations to adopt change, while also empowering fast-twitch pivots when the unexpected occurs.

In short, the time is now for publicly-run transportation agencies to implement a future-looking change management strategy. Intentional change is imperative to remaining relevant in the dynamic transportation market, where the tide of competition and consumer opinion can shift at a moment’s notice. Government transportation agencies need to adapt with the times, because disruption isn’t coming, it’s already here.

To learn more about organizational change, download our perspective “Mastering the Art of Change.”