To: All DHS Staff & Stakeholders
Message from DHS Director Erinn Kelley-Siel
I was invited to speak last week at one of the “Lunch and Learn” discussions organized by our Aspiring Leaders Program (ALP), attended by about 20 aspiring leaders from DHS and OHA, to talk about adaptive leadership. What struck me the most about that discussion was the progress both agencies are making to change our work culture around how we solve complex problems.
Let me tell you why that’s important.
The business of human services delivery, the work we all do every day, is more complex than ever before. In the past, we could solve problems by simply hiring an extra staffer or adding a new field to a form. Those days are long gone. In a tough economic environment with dynamic changes in our state's demographics, we are being asked to tackle bigger problems – poverty, equity, family stability, long-term supports, and others. The "new normal" we are working in requires a different way of thinking and working together. Our leadership model talks about “leading from every chair,” and that’s what it takes to tackle the big changes we are working on now.
Thinking about adaptive leadership and our leadership model, I asked the ALP group, “Do you see examples of this in practice in DHS and OHA?”
Here are some samples of what I heard back:
- “I’ve seen a lot of change, especially in managers asking a lot more questions, not just telling you what the solution is. You get better decisions because you get to them through collaboration. You know you own part of the decision.”
- “It is a culture change, and I see it in several programs I work with. It’s much more about understanding why than just trying to solve a problem quickly.”
- “I really see a safer environment to raise issues with my work team, and it seems like managers are trying to hear from everyone in making a decision.”
When I hear examples like these, I am encouraged that we are seeing results from our commitment to thinking about our challenges in a bigger way that includes more voices. And that means that even in this new normal, we can make meaningful progress in our work helping Oregonians to be safe, healthy and independent.
Let me hear from you, too. Do you see evidence of new and better decision making in your own office or work unit? Pass along your story, and I’ll include it in a future message. Thank you for your work and your efforts to adapt your thinking to a new way of solving the challenges we face.